A Season on the Brink
After just three games into their 2011 slate, the BYU Cougars are teetering on the brink of disaster.
After a humiliating 54-10 loss to Utah on national television, BYU now prepares to host defending Conference USA champion Central Florida (2-1) on Friday night.
A loss at home to the Knights could send this team down a path to no return.
In his press conference on Monday, even the tight-lipped Bronco Mendenhall surprisingly expressed the urgency regarding Friday's game.
"If we don't respond, it certainly could set us back," Mendenhall admitted.
The Cougars turned the ball over seven times, including six fumbles in what has to be considered one of worst home losses in the history of LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Worse still is that the debacle happened in front of millions of viewers on ESPN2.
With its new found exposure, flops like the one BYU offered up Saturday night are damaging to the Cougars reputation as a program as they forge a new path as a football independent.
"I bet it is," Mendenhall says. "Because more people saw it, I think a lot of people saw that and it might have destroyed our credibility."
Fixing an offense that spiraled from impotent to inept on Saturday, is of chief concern for coaches as BYU prepares for the Knights on a short week.
Unlike 2010, when BYU started 1-4, there doesn't appear to be any quick fix this time around.
Mendenhall fired defensive coordinator Jamie Hill in the middle of the season last year and took over as the DC. The move energized not only the defense at the time, but the entire BYU team as well. The Cougars would go on to win five of their final seven games and finish with a winning record.
This year, Bronco's doesn't have a similar card to play. After forcing out offensive coordinator Robert Anae, BYU is now forced to sink or swim with first-time coordinator Brandon Doman at helm.
With the younger, more aggressive former BYU quarterback in charge, and with 10 returning starters on offense, Cougar Nation was expecting offensive fireworks this season. Instead, they've gotten a dud.
After three weeks in the books, BYU is 104th in the nation in total offense, 111th in scoring offense, 118th rushing the ball, 104th in turnover margin and 106th in red zone scoring.
By comparison, UCF comes into Friday night's game leading the nation in Red Zone offense. The Knights have converted all 16 of their trips inside their opponent's 20-yard line, with 12 of those being touchdowns.
If the Cougars give them short fields to work with through turnovers and/or a continued inability to move the football, it could be another very long night for fans in LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Offensively, this team seems to have the pieces to the puzzle in terms of talent and ability. However, the Cougars have certainly not been able to fit those pieces together thus far.
Perhaps part of the answer could be a move by Doman into the press box to give him more of a birds-eye view and remove him from the emotion of sidelines.
A big reason Doman has been operating from the sideline is that he has wanted to be present to assist his sophomore quarterback Jake Heaps.
However, Heaps may benefit from a move by Doman upstairs. Heaps appears to be suffering from information overload and thinking too much out on the field of play instead of just playing the game.
With Doman in the box, Jake could also have more of an opportunity to spread his wings a as a leader on the sideline and on the field.
Whatever the answers are, BYU better figure them out in a hurry. The season could be on the line on Friday night.