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October 22, 2012The ball just didn't bounce BYU's way. Except for when it bounced off the Notre Dame wide receiver's helmet and into the arms of Kyle Van Noy. Or when it bounced off of the Notre Dame field goal kicker's foot wrong two out of three times. Or the two times that the Notre Dame secondary bounced the wrong way on the balls of their feet to leave one of the best receivers in the country wide open.
In the post game comments BYU players and coaches lamented that they never get the breaks, and if only the ball would just bounce their way for once. It bounced their way plenty of times, Fighting Irish15 yard penalties, easy catches dropped by the Notre Dame receivers, it even bounced BYU's way all the way back to last week when Notre Dame's starting quarterback was concussed and didn't get the reps in practice to be ready for this game. Along those same lines, Rees didn't even get all of those practice reps, Rees and Hendrix split reps, so the backup quarterback faced BYU's defense with half the reps that any starter should have gotten leading up to game day. The ball can bounce your way all day long, but if you don't have talent at the most important position in sports then you're going to have a hard time winning games against good programs.
Added to my list of great mysteries of the Lord to ask Peter at the front of the pearly gates is "How would have BYU's 2012 season been if James Lark were the starter?" I know I'm not supposed to speculate on doctrine that has yet to be revealed, but my guess would be 12-1. I'm not sure that Lark wouldn't have been able to beat Oregon State either, the Cougars could very well have gone 12-0 in the regular season and busted the BCS this year with Lark under center if Bronco wasn't dead set on promoting Riley Nelson for President in 2020. It may not look like it's working, but right now Riley has won the favor of the entire Utah, Boise State, Oregon State and Notre Dame fan bases.
Riley certainly has the excuse making part of presidency down, he explained away how Friel usually runs that route slower in practice so that's why Riley threw it behind him for the interception. And how Hoffman's route was designed to settle in the zone there, so it was a miscommunication. Hoffman had already broken his route up-field before Riley threw it and his throw was just way off. The explanation is that Riley just isn't very accurate, and he was way off target all day long. Not even his 4th quarter comeback gene could overcome his inaccuracy. Although Bronco says that play didn't dictate the outcome of the game, that play single-handedly lost the game for BYU.
I will say that I was very impressed at how good of decisions Riley made with the ball as far as ball security and making his reads, he just couldn't hit the receiver. I wouldn't be surprised if his back is hurting him again, last week he was much more accurate than he was against Notre Dame. For the first time in his career he made good decisions and reads against a talented defense, but he was back to throwing the ball like he did against Utah and Boise State. He struggled throwing the ball in warm ups and he was certainly way off target throwing the ball during the game. Fractured vertebrae don't heal that fast, I suppose that's why I was so surprised that he showed so well throwing the ball against OSU. If he is hurt, it gives him a good excuse as to why he's playing so poorly, but there's no good excuse as to why he's out on the field. Especially when the backup quarterback is one of his best friends and has a better arm than he does when healthy, Riley's selfishness has really cost this BYU team this season.
BYU really shouldn't have even been in the game in the first place, they were beaten so soundly at the line of scrimmage. The only reason that BYU only lost by three was because of the bounces that did go their way. Games are won and lost in the trenches, and the Notre Dame linemen deserved this win. The BYU offensive line did play their best game of the year run blocking until Braden Hansen got hurt, but they were just totally out-matched by Notre Dame's fantastic front 7. And the Cougar's fantastic front 7 got worked over by Notre Dame's excellent run blocking offensive line as Notre Dame rushed for 270 yards. Which is why I couldn't believe that Bronco punted the ball instead of trying for the game tying 51 yard field goal with six minutes left in the 4th quarter.
I know that BYU's field goal kicking has been terrible, and I understand Bronco's reasoning that if he punts the ball then his offense could get the ball back with better field position than if they miss the field goal (which was unlikely to go in to say the least). This was the same line of thinking that led to Bronco kicking off to Boise State instead of kicking an onside kick. But up to that point Notre Dame had rushed for more than 220 yards, only 23 yards fewer than BYU had gained both passing and throwing the ball combined. And most of BYU's yards had come in the first half with a healthy Braden Hansen anchoring the offensive line. The chances of BYU stopping Notre Dame's running game, then putting another drive together to get closer than the 34 yard line was far smaller than BYU's chances of hitting a 51 yard field goal.
The BYU secondary really struggled to tackle, although they did a good job in coverage once they figured out that Eifert was Rees primary receiver on every pass play. Jordan Johnson was the only one that had a good game. Preston Hadley had a bad first series, Daniel Sorenson had a bad game, and Joe Sampson had a bad game. I don't like Joe Sampson returning kickoffs either, he's so hungry to go hit somebody he forgets that the primary goal is to gain yards. I understand why Hoffman isn't back there, the Cougars can ill afford to lose him to injury, but I would either put Williams (drop off from Williams to Foote at RB is very small) back there or Jordan Johnson as I'm sure Johnson now understands the importance of holding onto the football.
Hoffman and Williams both had great games, and Riley did a pretty darn good job converting so many 3rd and longs against such a talented defense. Doman called an excellent game, I have really enjoyed BYU's play calling the last two games. I think that Doman is already a better offensive coordinator than Anae was, now all he needs is a talented quarterback who can take advantage of all of the balls that bounce BYU's way. He probably does have that quarterback already, but he might not have the permission to put him in the game. Don't worry Cougar fans, he'll have permission to play his best quarterback next year, only five more games till Riley runs out of eligibility.
Follow me on Twitter: @lancewarchibald