Monday, November 17, 2014

I worry about the future of BYU football

I was at the game on Saturday night. The game in which BYU beat UNLV 42-23. I had a great time. Thank goodness I've got seats with Ross, Jeris, Lance and Eric. Becky and Megan were there too, and the seven of us (plus Gabe) had lots and lots of fun talking, laughing, freezing our bums off and casually watching BYU play a meaningless game against a terrible opponent.

It was a classic November game in the Independent BYU era. All it was missing was the 8:30 p.m. start time.

The stadium was maybe 2/3 full at its fullest, which was a period of probably 12 minutes in the second quarter. By the time the game ended, I bet there were only 200 people left in the stands. Which had to be a blow to the ego of the nice little man who came to midfield to invite BYU to the Miami Beach Bowl.

It was supposed to be a blackout. You know, the thing where all the fans wear black? To make it more effective, though, the BYU marketing people should have painted the benches black. Because that's all we saw.

Looking around at the empty seats made me sad. I don't blame people for not showing up. If I didn't see this as a fun night out with friends, I probably wouldn't have gone either.

Parenthetically, how depressing is it that BYU home games have been reduced to "night out" status? It's one notch above wandering around the mall for an hour.

Anyway, looking around at all the empty seats made me think. I started to remember my past experiences at BYU home games. When I was a kid I used to go to games with my dad and my older brothers. I remember Notre Dame coming to Provo, UCLA, Virginia, Washington and others. I remember big conference games against Air Force (I hated Air Force as a kid), San Diego State and of course Utah.

When I was a student at BYU, during the John Beck/Max Hall years, I joined the sold-out BYU crowds (66,000 strong every week) to watch BYU destroy Wyoming, Colorado State, New Mexico and the rest. I remember tough games against TCU every year, and epic November finales against Utah. I rushed the field with thousands of other students and fans when we beat New Mexico in 2006 to secure the MWC championship.

Last Saturday the only thing the students were rushing was the exit. In the third quarter.

My BYU fanaticism was born of experiences I had when I was a kid and when I was a student. Today's students and kids aren't as lucky as me; exhilarating experiences like I enjoyed every week are few and far between these days. Today's students and kids are being force-fed meaningless, lackluster, energy-depleted games late at night in the freezing cold against awful teams. It's looking more and more like today's students would rather be in the library than in the crowd at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

That does not bode well for BYU, and it's exactly what I mean when I say independence is killing BYU football. If independence is BYU's long-term plan, then get ready to see even more sparse, quiet crowds and even more fans that sink deeper and deeper into apathy.

Yeah, Saturday's crowd made me sad. It looked to me like a BYU fanbase that has been beaten down by years of mediocre football, meaningless games and an ESPN "partner" who sees us as nothing more than three hours of content on a Saturday night. The fans are tired of it, and they're voting with their cars.

Hopefully Tom Holmoe, Kevin Worthen and the BYU Board of Trustees can figure out an alternative to independence, because if they don't the future of BYU football is going to be very sad.


Friday, November 14, 2014

I'm Back! And I'm not happy.

BYU just scheduled a two-game series with Missouri. The first game will be played next year in Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City (home of the Kansas City Chiefs), and the Missouri will return to Provo sometime in November of 2020.

That’s the news that woke me from my long sleep. The sleep that has kept me away from writing on my blog (a blog which I still pay $10 a year for, btw… Domain name protection probzz, am I right?).

Actually, I’ve been awake for a while. Up till now I’ve just been whining and pussing out (Seth’s words, not mine) to my friends on email. But I think they all got tired of this new version of me, so I’m turning back to my beloved blog. My blog, which doesn’t judge me even when I abandon my blue-goggled optimism in favor of a sour, disgusting (yet chillingly realistic) pessimism. My blog, which has been waiting for me all these years like a loyal Labrador. My blog, which will love me even when all the humans hate me. Well I’m back, boy. I’m back.

Okay then. Now, just a quick note to get you all caught up to where I’m at: I hate independence, my passion has been snuffed out, and I can’t shake the feeling that BYU football is dying a slow, slow death.

Yay! Want to keep reading?

Everyone seems to be really happy with the announcement that we booked Missouri for a two-game series starting next year. Really, really happy. All the Whos down in Whoville are singing and dancing, but I’m not there with them. I, the Grinch, am standing ominously on my lonely mountain drumming my fingers and scowling.

I see this game a little differently. I see this game as a non-conference “catch our breath” kinda game for Missouri. The SEC is notorious for scheduling these games in November. That’s why Presbyterian, Charleston Southern, Southern Alabama, East Kentucky, UT Martin and other lightweights appear on the scoreboards in the late season.

And next year we’ll see BYU there! Yay for us! Go Cougars!

Oh but you’re right, this is different. This game is in a neutral site. A neutral site that happens to be 119 miles away from the University of Missouri. A neutral site, but Missouri is going to keep all the revenue, just exactly as if it was a home game for them, and then pay us a nominal fee for our trouble.

Oh, and this is different because Missouri signed a deal to come back and play us in Provo… in six years. To quote Jeris: “A lot can happen in six years.” Babies will turn into kids, kids will turn into tweens, houses will be bought and sold, careers will change, and the University of Missouri will find a way to back out of their return trip to Provo.

Remember when we signed a six-game deal with Notre Dame? Four in South Bend and two in Provo? We played two in South Bend. And then the Irish said they’re done.

I am absolutely certain we won’t see the Missouri Tigers in LaVell Edwards Stadium. If I’m wrong, I will buy everyone who reads this a nice, refreshing, high fructose corn syrup-free Mexican Coke.

No, I’m afraid BYU is just getting kicked around again. And that’s kind of the way things are going for us right now. ESPN uses and abuses us, no conference wants us, and P5 teams treat us like garbage. We are College Football’s scrappy little hanger-on who just wants to be a part of the team. We are Ollie from Hoosiers (“I only count as half a player… equipment manager’s my trade”).

But on the bright side, we’ve got a GREAT road schedule next year. We’re playing a lot of great teams in their buildings. That’s going to be really fun for us.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The Jake Heaps Timeline

The 2011 football season was one of the most fascinating in recent memory. So fascinated am I, in fact, that I had to write one more blog post about it.

This season was the Rattlesnake Rapids of football seasons. We fans were taken to dizzying heights, devastating lows, and turbulent middles. Our expectations were sky high when the season started, but then by the end we were happy just to scrape out a win over a mediocre Tulsa team in the Armed Forces Bowl.

And in the middle of it all was a baby-faced quarterback from Issaquah, Washington: Jake Heaps. I've been thinking a lot about the course of events that led Jake to transfer, and with your permission I'd like to present them now with just a little tiny bit of commentary.

December 18, 2010: BYU beats UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl, 52-24. Jake Heaps had 264 yards passing, four TDs and 1 INT. He was named the bowl MVP, and definitely ended a rocky 2010 season on a high note. BYU fans like me saw nothing but bright lights for 2011.

January 4, 2011: Bronco Mendenhall names Brandon Doman the new Offensive Coordinator. Doman promises to bring unpredictability and explosiveness back to BYU with his new "pro-style" offense. Jake Heaps, who played in a spread offense since he was a freshman in high school, says he can't wait.

Spring, 2011: Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall admits (finally) that Jake Heaps will be the unquestioned starter in 2011. Heaps, during a very good batch of spring practices, continually refers to the 2011 Cougars as "his team."

Summer, 2011: According to BYU columnist Dick Harmon (and unbeknownst to fans), Jake Heaps misses all but three of the 66 scheduled team practices. Is this where the team started taking Riley's side?

July 13, 2011: BYU Media Day, and this famous quote from Jake Heaps: "There's only championship to play for now and that's the national championship." Expectations continue to soar.

August 6, 2011: BYU opens fall camp. Jake Heaps has an incredible camp in which he completes almost all of his passes without many mistakes. The 2011 Cougars are a mix of youth, experience, raw talent and hard work. USC transfers Uona Kaveinga and Hebron Fangupo are expected to make a big splash on what is assumed will be a stingy defense, and the offense is projected to be among BYU's best, with a returning core of skill players (including the much heralded Heaps and his favorite 2010 target Cody Hoffman). Fans are foaming at the mouth, dreaming of the elusive undefeated season and subsequent BCS bowl.

September 3, 2011: BYU beats Ole Miss 14-13. The offense looked bad. Jake Heaps showed a strange combination of costly hesitation and nervous anxiety. Kyle Van Noy saved the day with an extraordinary defensive touchdown to seal the win. BYU fans brush off the offensive performance with excuses like "BYU always starts slow," "It's a new offense with a new OC," and "Ole Miss needed the win more than BYU."

September 10, 2011: BYU loses to Texas 16-17. Jake Heaps looks great early, but then flatlines in the second half to let Texas come back and win. Brandon Doman shoulders most of the blame. Note: The first half of this game was the highlight of Jake's year.

September 17, 2011: That fateful day. BYU loses to their arch rivals, the Utah Utes (or is it Hawks?), 54-10. Jake finds new and creative ways to turn the ball over, including tossing the ball in our own endzone so the Utes could recover it for a TD on the first play of the game. Jake's follies land him on ESPN's "Not Top Ten," and Cougars everywhere hit an epic low.

September 23, 2011: BYU barely beats what turned out to be a very bad Central Florida team, 24-17. Jake Heaps did very little to help the team win. Rather, it was Cody Hoffman's 93-yard Kickoff return TD that made the difference.

September 30, 2011: Another week, another painful look into the poor play and poorer execution of a once proud quarterback. Jake Heaps is ineffective against an improving but still bad Utah State Aggie squad. Utah State leads for most of the game, and finally Jake Heaps is benched in the third quarter. The crowd goes wild as Riley Nelson enters the game, and they go even wilder when Riley leads his team back from the dead and to the sweet shores of victory. A wild hail mary to McKay Jacobson and a miraculous deflection TD to Marcus Matthews sealed the win for the Cougars, and Jake Heaps' future at BYU started to disintegrate.

November 12, 2011: Heaps, who watched silently on the sidelines for six straight weeks, finally got called into action when the Idaho Vandals knocked Riley Nelson out of the game with a cracked rib and punctured lung. Heaps responds well, throwing for 185 yards and 2 TDs.

November 19, 2011: Heaps gets his first start since the Utah State game, and crushes the Aggies of New Mexico with 238 yards passing and 4 TDs. Despite two solid weeks from the sophomore phenom, Bronco insists that Riley Nelson will start again when he is healthy.

December 3, 2011: Riley Nelson is back. After a speedy recovery, Nelson makes the trip to Hawaii and BYU pounds the Warriors 41-20. Riley Nelson passes for an eye-popping 363 yards and 3 TDs (and not a single interception). Heaps gets some play in mop-up time, and his final pass as a BYU Cougar was a zippy incompletion on a McKay Jacobson out route. Fitting.

Decenber 5, 2011: Jake Heaps announces he will transfer from BYU. Eager for someone to blame, fans point fingers at coaches, players and Heaps himself, but the fact remains: Our golden boy, the QB that was supposed to win us a National Championship, no longer wanted to be a BYU Cougar.

What an incredible year. Clearly getting benched vs. Utah State was the turning point of Jake Heaps' Cougar career. Had Jake stayed in the game, we almost certainly would have lost. Riley showed guts in his comeback win, and he earned a shot to start the next week.

Riley had a lot of success as a starter in 2011, but how much of that success was simply due to bad competition? I could argue, for example, that Jake would have beaten San Jose State, Oregon State and Idaho State just as badly as Riley Nelson did. So was it wise to let Nelson take the credit?

It was a tough position for our coaches, and We'll debate their decisions for years and years, but you can't argue that Jake badly underperformed in his Sophomore season at BYU. He looked uncomfortable and jumpy. He had no touch on his throws, and even though there were glimpses of pure talent, by and large Jake Heaps turned out to be a huge disappointment.

Clearly Jake and Riley could not coexist at BYU. Riley, the tough and gritty no-name who did whatever he could to get on the field and help the team win, and Jake the rocket-armed 5-star recruit who went to all the right camps, said all the right things and built himself into an NFL quarterback. They just didn't get along.

And Jake couldn't take it anymore.

I would have preferred Jake Heaps stay at BYU, redshirt and start his career anew in 2013. Taking his lumps, staying home and redshirting, all in the name of helping his team improve, would have done much to heal the wounds suffered in the locker room as a consequence of having to live with a QB controversy for two straight years.

But for the first time in his life, Jake Heaps was challenged. And instead of fight, he flew the coop. It's sad. And that's why this season will always live on as one of the most fascinating in Cougar history.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I trust BYU

This could have been a huge year for BYU. Unfortunately, we failed every test we were handed on the field, and it looks like we can't do much better off it.

We didn't just lose to TCU, Utah and Texas this year. We lost out on membership in the Big 12 and the Big East conferences. BYU's Athletic Director Tom Holmoe said we never really had an official invitation to the Big 12, but my gut says we could have been a member if BYU was willing to play ball.

Big East negotiations were a little more open. The Big East made it publicly known that they wanted BYU, and even extended an invitation to join the conference as a football-only member. Negotiations stalled, however, because BYU reportedly would not budge in their insistence that they keep the broadcast rights to their home games.

I like independence. But I think I like the idea of being in a BCS conference even more. I, like a lot of fans, was disappointed twice this year as I saw talks with not one but two BCS conferences break down due, seemingly, to BYU's stubbornness.

But you know what? Through all the drama, all the soundbytes, all the unnamed sources and all the heartbreak, one thing remains: The thing I like the most is BYU.

So my official position regarding all future discussion of conference expansion is this: I TRUST BYU.

Furthermore, I trust our AD, our school's president and the Board of Trustees. I truly believe they have BYU's best interest in mind. Do you? So, therefore, when they decide it's not worth it to sell our souls to jump into a BCS conference, guess what? I'm on board.

Because here's the real thing: Despite what articles I read and what Twitter feeds I follow, I have no idea what's happening in these meetings between BYU and conference officials. And you don't either. The only guys who truly know what's going on are the people in that boardroom, or on that conference call. And they're a lot smarter than me and you. So I refuse to spend my energy lashing out at BYU over negotiations and conditions I know nothing about. It's useless, and it's foolish.

I'm in BYU's corner. Loyal, strong and true.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The 600-pound podcast in the room

Hello.

So it's the middle of football season, and as you can see I have been a neglectful blogger. It's embarrassing, I know.

But this time I have an excuse! I haven't just been watching football in my living room covered in the dust of a dozen jelly donuts. I've actually been doing things! I've been discussing the games, breaking down film, talking out victories and defeats.

I just haven't been doing it here.

ASB fans, I'm delighted to announce I've started a podcast with two of my good friends, Jeris and Trevor. It's called Death Star D and you can find it at DeathStarD.wordpress.com.

(I know: Not only am I betraying my blog, I'm betraying the whole blogger platform. Please forgive me, Google.)

Every week Jeris, Trevor and I talk out the games, give our takes, make predictions and crack wise. It's our chance to do what we love, namely talk BYU sports, and present the conversation to an audience of... 10s?

Check us out at DeathStarD.wordpress.com, and give us a listen. You can find every episode on our site, as well as iTunes. Just search for Death Star D (Can you believe no one snatched that name before we did?)

Oh by the way, don't for one second think I'm abandoning my blog like an infant in the snow. I still have a great love of the written word, and I'll be back every time something irks me so badly I just need to write it out.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Sad day for BYU, great day for Twitter

The news hit Provo like a kick to the spine: TCU has been invited to join the Big 12.

Rather than sulk, get angry or overreact, I took the opportunity to sit back and watch the BYU fan meltdown unfold.

You know I'm a Twitter guy, right? Well here's a sampling of the best tweets I saw on this, the day that the Big 12 left BYU behind:

eldermars
EVERYBODY PANIC! Seriously, I'm not making a sarcastic joke- it's time to panic.

LandThieves
This BYU stuff is lmost enough to drive them to drink.... a dr pepper

nicknewman801
If #BYU and Cecil O. Samuelson truly said no to Big 12, I've bought my last ticket in Provo, bought my last shirt. This is heinous.

ecolsen
I just became the mayor of Mini Of Murray Dealership on @foursquare!

[Editor's Note: Gotta love FourSquare...]

gr8justinc
I still believe BYU and ESPN have something up their sleeve. And it may incluude ND somehow.

[Editor's Note: Ah, Notre Dame. The last vestige of hope for BYU fans.]

JustinSchille
FWIW, I still believe we'll end up in the BigXII. And I do not know anything you guys don't.

BYUdeepthrowt
@geoffjBYU sometimes the Guy goes for current hot babe instead of sweet spirit and wholesome reliability. B12 chose hot TCU over us but....its not over. They didn't choose TCU because of anything we did. And, its not over....

[Editor's Note: Another BYU "insider." I love these guys. They make vague, ambiguous statements that are juuuuust hazy enough to make sure their tracks are covered, no matter what actually happens.]

BYUinsider
With #BYU to the Big12 crashing I fear for Saturday, if Bronco makes one wrong move I think fans will storm the field out of pure rage.

[Editor's Note: I can actually see this happening. We BYU fans have been put through the ringer this year. You know all it'll take is one fan to finally pop before an all-out stampede.]

stromanBYU
I am laughing pretty hard at all BYU fans (including myself). I guess the alternative is to put on R.E.M. & lower the blinds. #byu #big12

spaffoo
How many times has BYU been on the cusp of a perfect season 2 piss it away or b on the verge of national recognition 2 misstep @ key moments

Laners14
I trust the BYU admin. They have more knowledge & foresight than any of us. The last thing they want is to slip into irrelevancy. Be patient

[Editor's Note: When all else fails, try faith.]

Monday, October 03, 2011

Jake Heaps: Choose your own adventure

The more I think about it, I'm convinced Saturday's game against San Jose State is the most important football game of Jake Heaps' career.

I'm not kidding.

When the Cougars and Spartans square off late on Saturday night, the fate of Jake Heaps' future will hang in the balance.

If he starts: He'll have a great game, acquire vast amounts of mojo, win over his teammates and go on to be a BYU legend, a Super Bowl Champion and a serviceable analyst on NFL Countdown.

If he sits on the bench: Jake's college career is over. He'll be Riley's back up until his senior year, where he'll lose the starting job to a fiery Taysom Hill, fresh off his mission. Soon he'll be a supervisor at Ancestry.com.

There literally is no middle ground.

I know it's an unpopular position, but I'm on team Heaps. And believe me, after Friday's game and Nelson's heroics, it's a hard position to take. Nelson earned a shot to start, no question. But if Heaps rides the pine, it could seriously ruin his BYU career.

Follow my logic: SJSU is such an awful team, any QB could be successful. The question is, which one, out of Nelson and Heaps, do we want to have a successful game? It's got to be Heaps.

Riley Nelson is a gamer, no question. He's gutty, confident, and he has the respect of his teammates. But his ceiling is so much lower than the physically gifted, golden-armed Jake Heaps. Nelson is a known commodity. We've watched him play, and we've seen that movie. It doesn't end well.

Jake Heaps is still the quarterback of the future, and he can still salvage this season. But he needs some confidence. He needs a trashy team to take behind the woodshed. He needs San Jose State.

And if, if, if Jake still can't find his way against the Spartans, then it'll finally be time to say goodbye to the best offseason quarterback in BYU history. BYU will officially be Riley Nelson's team.

Saturday is the day. The crossroads of the universe for Jake Heaps. Put the ball in his hands one more time. I know he'll make us proud.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

A win doesn't buy much in Provo these days

Do you know what it's like to be in the depths of of a nightmarish pit, hopeless and alone, only to climb out and find yourself basking in the brilliant light of noonday?

I do. I was in the stands on Friday night when BYU came back in the fourth quarter to beat Utah State 27-24.

After the win, I stood in the south end zone and watched our passionate students rush the field, marveling at how this rivalry has taken a turn for the bizarre. But you know what? An ending like that deserves a special celebration. BYU looked like they came back from the dead.

I walked away from LaVell Edwards Stadium a happy man. In fact, I went to bed and woke up a happy man. It wasn't until I logged on to Cougarboard.com that I started to get depressed. Not about the game, but about the fans. 

I love BYU fans. They're fiery, they're intelligent, they're thoughtful and civil. But sometimes I just wanna smack 'em all upside the brain. 

Instead of celebrating a thrilling, dramatic victory over our lower-case rival, the messages were almost totally negative. They focused on how bad our coaches are, how bad our players played, how awful the relish was at the hot dog stand, you name it. 

It really bummed me out. Granted, I am just as frustrated with our coaches and players as anyone, but I'm not going to let that story take top billing. Whatever your opinion of Riley Nelson or Bronco Mendenhall, the bottom line is we won the game. 

Come on Cougs. We're winners. Let's act like it. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Holy cow, it's game day!

Geesh. These Friday games come quick, don't they? Here it is 2.5 hours until kickoff, and I'm just now getting to my prediction.

I'm sure you all are just wringing your hands with nervous anticipation.

I'll spare you the amateur analysis this week. Clearly I don't know what I'm talking about. The fact is, I have no idea how/if BYU is going to play tonight. I do think this is an important game, though. Deceptively important.

In 2007 we started the season 1-2, just like this year. We beat Arizona, and then lost successive games to UCLA and Tulsa. I was feeling just like I do now: Frustrated, upset, cold, nauseous, clammy, sleepy and forsaken. And a little hungry.

Then, in game four, we drubbed Air Force 31-6 and rattled off 10-straight wins.

This game, tonight, is our Air Force game. It's the fork in the road. We've got the UCF Knights at home in our building, we're bouncing back from a bad loss, and we face a crossroads. Will we mope? Will we quit? Will we lose again?

Or will this be our turning point?

Nothing cures the ills of an ailing fanbase like winning, and we could use some of that sweet medicine tonight. I hope our coaches have our players prepared, and I hope our players haven't lost the will to fight. Because this could still be a pretty nice season if we play our cards right.

My prediction: BYU gets a small measure of its groove back. Cougars win 24-13.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

5 potential rivals for BYU

With all of this conference realignment muck that's being raked around like a fresh pile of horse poop, I've given some thought to some pretty wild scenarios. Scenarios that would put BYU in line with some non-traditional rivalries.

And that's the beauty of being a BYU fan. No matter where we end up when the dust settles, we'll always have someone to hate and someone that hates us. Check out these not-now-but-soon-could-be rivalries:

1. BYU vs. Missouri - The Battle of Haun's Mill
The fine people of Missouri drove out the Mormons in 1838 with Governor Lilburn W. Boggs famous "Extermination Order". Well guess what? We're taking back the holy land! We would have to play this game in a neutral site, though. Preferably Independence.

2. BYU vs. Houston/Washington State - The Cougar Bowl
I think some pervs might be disappointed when they read the program description "Cougar on Cougar action" and it ends up being a football game. But this game would finally prove which is the fiercest Cougar of them all. Courtney Cox would be the special guest referee.

3. BYU vs. Wheaton College - The Shirley Temple Bowl
BYU, as we all know, is the country's most "Stone Cold Sober" school, according to the Princeton Review. But who's No. 2? That'd be Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL. The Wheaton Thunder's been living in our shadow for too long, and they're looking for some satisfaction. And if they win? Break out the virgin Rum and Coke!

4. BYU vs. Cal-Berkeley - The Prop 8 Bowl
It's hard to think of two schools as diametrically opposed as BYU and Cal. We're conservative, they're liberal. We're in the mountains, they're on the coast. We believe in a strict honor code that prevents premarital sex, their campus is, for all intents and purposes, one giant freak fest. Let's not let that rich opportunity go to waste! Let's put those hippies in their places!

5. BYU vs. Eastern Washington - The FCS Championship
Face it: Most realignment scenarios do not put the Cougars in a favorable position. So let's think outside the box here. Let's join the Big Sky conference and just lay waste to everyone who opposes us. We'll be like that big kid in fourth grade who got held back three years to be better than everyone else at sports. Actually... check that. The way we've been playing lately, we might be in over our heads in the FCS.

What do you guys think? Any other teams that should be on the list?