Sunday, September 30, 2007

It's Official: Someone Has Beef With BYU

Satisfied, terrified, relieved. That's pretty much how I felt as yesterday's game progressed into a 31-24 BYU win. When Bryan Kehl picked off a Lobo pass and returned it for a touchdown, I thought this game was in the bag. When New Mexico tied it up 21-21 in the second half, I was fearing the worst. Then, finally, when the game clock hit 0:00 and BYU won, I felt like we dodged a bullet.

But a win, as they say, is a win. It was an important one, too. It's a conference win, and it's a win over one of the better teams in the conference in their home stadium. Kudos to you, Cougars.

Rather than talk at length about the game, though, I wanted to talk about one specific play. Specifically, I want to talk about a leaping TD catch on third down by Andrew George. For those who didn't see, George made an incredible grab in the back of the end zone, and it was promptly signalled a touchdown by the referee standing 5 feet from the action.

Replay officials, however, took the catch away after almost 7 minutes of deliberation.

I was outraged, and listening to Greg Wrubell talk about it on the Cougar post-game show only made my mood worse. I remembered some other key calls where the Cougars were screwed:
  • September 24, 2005: TCU running back Cory Rodgers fumbles the ball over the BYU end zone, but replay officials call it a touchdown. TCU wins 51-50.
  • November 25, 2006: David Nixon hits Utah QB Brett Ratliff's arm and forces a fumble, which is recovered by Bryan Kehl and returned for a called touchdown. Replay officials overturn the call, and Utah goes on to score. (Fortunately, we won the game.)
  • September 8, 2007: BYU tight end Vic So'oto catches a pass from Max Hall for a first down, and is dragged down by a UCLA defender and the ball pops loose. UCLA recovers, and despite obvious video and photographic evidence to the contrary, the call stands and UCLA wins the game.
  • September 8, 2007: Max Hall leads the Cougars to the UCLA 20 yard line where he is poised to lead the Cougars to a go-ahead touchdown. He is hit from behind during a throw, however, and the call on the field is a fumble. UCLA recovers, and wins the game.
  • And of course, September 29, 2007: Andrew George catches a beautiful touchdown pass, but after a 7-minute review the pass is ruled incomplete.

Before anyone lectures me on the rules of instant-replay review, let me first state that I know it takes absolute evidence to overturn a call. While I don't argue that fact for some of the cases mentioned above (the Max Hall fumble for instance), I do have to raise an eyebrow when calls are so consistently overturned in favor of BYU's opponents. Brett Ratliff's fumble, for example, could have been called either way. The call on the field, though, was a fumble and should have stayed that way unless there was INDISPUTABLE evidence to the contrary. Was there? Apparently there was, according to replay officials.

George's catch last night is just the latest in a line of iffy calls by NCAA officials against BYU. The call on the field was a touchdown, but the officials were so intent on taking it away that they had to analyze and dissect until they could find a way to negate the touchdown. A message to MWC officials: IF THERE IS A QUESTION, OR ANY DOUBT AT ALL, ABOUT A CALL, THE CALL ON THE FIELD STANDS!

Maybe this isn't just incompetence, though. Maybe this is something else all together- something dark and sinister. Mistakes are one thing, consistent mistakes are another. What do you think, readers? Is BYU the subject of a massive football official conspiracy? Are NCAA officials intent on bringing down BYU, and, in turn, the LDS church? Is the BCS system merely a puppet establishment brought on by high-ranking members of the Christian Coalition who seek to destroy the BYU institution? If so, did they create the mtn. television network?

Intriguing questions, all. Only Pete Carroll and Charlie Weis know for sure...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

BYU vs. AFA highlights

I was watching these highlights, and I thought of my brother Andy. Andy couldn't possibly have seen this game, as he is a hard-working medical intern in Michigan and well outside the mtn. TV station's footprint. This video is for you, Andy. Pay special attention to Dennis "The new Jonny Harline" Pitta, and our first kickoff touchback of the year (I found it strange they would include a kickoff on the highlight reel, but with our special teams we'll take any accolade we can get).

Also, my oldest brother Aaron wouldn't have been able to see this game while he is living in Italy either. Something tells me he's okay with that, though. But, just in case you get a swell of pride for your alma mater, this one's for you too, Aaron.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dissed by UNLV

I don't know if anyone caught this in the Salt Lake Tribune, but I found these quotes from UNLV players and coaches to be quite entertaining:

"Last week Utah coach Kyle Whittingham talked about how much he and his team enjoyed watching the film of their win over UCLA. This week UNLV is enjoying similar entertainment. [UNLV Running Back Frank] Summers told the Las Vegas Review Journal: "We watched the film today, and we just kind of laughed at all the people that dived at my ankles after a while. People were just throwing themselves in front of me."

Coach Mike Sanford said it was evident from watching the film Utah was afraid to tackle Summers. "They were avoiding trying to tackle him, no question in my mind," he told the paper.

(Story can be found in full at http://www.sltrib.com/sports/ci_6999114)

Wow. Avoiding the tackle? Those are fighting words, Mr. Sanford. I am no Ute apologist by any means, but I would keep the smack talk in check until you prove you're not the league's red-headed stepchild. UNLV is going to be lucky to escape this season with more than three wins.
You better be careful, Rebels, because karma is calling and my guess is soon enough you're going to be the butt of the jokes told in other teams' film rooms.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Fantasy Update: Week 3


Many of you will be surprised to know that, in addititon to my school load of 15 credits and successfully running my own blog, I am the owner, manager, president and coach of a fantasy football team. Check that, an undefeated fantasy football team. In my first year as a sojourner into the land of fantasy sports, I am happy to report that I have seen, and I have conquered. And who would have guessed that picking up Kevin Curtis (pictured above) would be the best move of the off-season?

(Funny story: I was watching Sportscenter on Sunday night and they were talking about how awesome Kevin Curtis played. I thought to myself "Man, whoever has him on his fantasy team must be cleaning up." As it turns out, I do and I did.)

So for those who laughed at me when I drafted Terrell Owens, Randy Moss and Ronnie Brown I have one chant for you: Scoooooreboard, Scoooooreboard!

Bench Alert: Sorry Marc Bulger, but Brett Favre has officially received the nod to start at QB on team Sloths! for week 4. Hit the showers!

Everything Wrong is Right Again

BYU 31, Air Force 6.

UNLV 27, Utah 0.

It was a wild ride in week three, but I'm happy to see that everything has returned to normal. BYU dominates, Utah sucks.

I must apologize to my loyal readers about the lack of a proper post-game analysis; it appears my non-blogging duties got the best of me this weekend. However, I would still like to talk about my favorite plays, on offense and on defense, of the BYU/Air Force game on Saturday.

Favorite offensive play: On a drive when he was hit hard and taken out of the game for one play, Max Hall bounces back into the game and floats a perfect 25-yard pass to Harvey Unga for a touchdown. That pass was a thing of beauty. It's good to see Max put some touch on the ball.

Favorite defensive play: Air Force QB Shaun Carney drops back, looks down field, winds up... and is popped by David Nixon. Carney gets spinned completely around, and the ball ends up sailing ten rows into the east stands. Nixon put a hurt on Carney, and that was one of the best hits I've seen in a while.

And, as an added bonus, my favorite Ute moment: Facing another fourth down on their opponent's goal line, Utah blows a chance to put points on the board. Brian Johnson smacked into Darrell Mack in the backfield and UNLV tackled the BJ for a loss. Good work, Rebels.

As a sidenote, I want to give credit to Ross Mitchell for the funniest moment of the day- namely, zigging, zagging and running routes through the BYU marching band before the game. It's good to have you back, Samuel.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A battle of the Cellar-Dwellers

I was sitting at home eating a fresh tomato sandwich for lunch when I decided to flip on ESPN to see what the prima donna sports writers had to say about the sports world today. Not surprisingly, they were talking about Notre Dame and how horrible the football team looks this season. One of the talking heads went so far as to say Notre Dame is one of the worst D-1 teams this season. I was surprised at this comment. I mean, statisically speaking he's dead right, but with Notre Dame's resources and talent pool that can't be true, can it? The great Notre Dame??

I decided to delve further into this man's claim and compare Notre Dame with the worst football team I know: Utah State University. Last week was a great week to do so, too, since both teams played powerhouse teams on the road in week 3 (Notre Dame played @ Michigan; USU played @ Oklahoma). Keep in mind, also, that Michigan is not the "powerhouse" team they were projected to be. That makes this comparison even more interesting. So, let's do it!


Here are each team's stats in their losing efforts.

Utah State:
Passing Yards-87
Interceptions thrown-2
Fumbles lost-2
Rushing Yards-44
Interceptions-1
Fumbles Recoverd-0
Kick/Punt Return Yards-174
FG-1/1; 30 yards

Notre Dame:
Passing Yards-85
Interceptions thrown-2
Fumbles Lost-2
Rushing Yards- -6 (That's negative six)
Interceptions-0
Fumbles Recovered-2
Kick/Punt Return Yards-159
FG-0

Wow. I knew it would be shocking, but this is horrible. Notre Dame has some real problems. I've got to be honest, if these two teams ever play each other in the near future, I like the Aggies to win 3-0.

PS- In 2006, Utah State went its first 4 games without scoring an offensive touchdown. Similarly, Notre Dame has yet to score an offensive touchdown in its first three games. I smell a rivalry brewing!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Breaking News! BSU to the MWC?

For those who haven't yet heard, Boise State University has big dreams of joining the MWC, according to its president, Bob Kustra.

Not only does this validate claims that the MWC is a better conference than the WAC, it also begs the question: Is this the right move?

Personally, I think this makes our conference stronger in football, but somewhat weaker in every other sport out there. If I'm not mistaken, BSU has a great football team, a bad basketball team, and a giant FFA organization. Other than that, I think the whole University is made up of livestock and corn-shoots. It certainly doesn't add academic prestige to our conference, and heaven knows it doesn't add a glamorous road trip for our athletic teams (I've been to Boise. Other than the Chicago Pizzaria in downtown, it's the armpit of America.).

I will say, though, it will be nice to tap the vast pipeline of Idaho-farmboy talent for our football team (I'm only half-joking here). Idaho's sons have had much success in the big city of Provo in the past, with a rich heritage full of the likes of Nate Meikle, Rob Morris and Hans Olsen. Additionally, anyone who served with an Idahoan on their mission knows they're full of spit and vinegar.

Maybe BSU joining the MWC won't be such a bad thing after all. What say you, loyal bloggers?

Call Me Mr. Optimism

I'm in my third day of mourning BYU's 47-55 loss to Tulsa.

That was a horrible game to watch, friends. BYU never had control of the game's tempo. It reminded me of the Jazz/Warriors playoff series when the Jazz were sucked into the run-and-gun style of play suited to Baron Davis and his crew. The only difference is the Jazz won the series; BYU gambled with Tulsa's gameplan, and ultimately suffered a tragic defeat.

Additionally, Utah destroyed UCLA, and anyone who watched that game knows how bad it was too. UCLA didn't even score a touchdown! They looked like a carnival side-show, and Utah looked like a national powerhouse.

The college football world is crashing down all around me, but I remain optimistic.

First of all, we need to admit that Tulsa is a good team, and they played almost flawlessly on Saturday night (their offense did, anyway). Tulsa's QB, Paul Smith, was incredible, and I dare say he was the best QB we'll face all season. Not everyone is going to be able to make the throws he did.

Second, I feel better knowing that there are elements to Saturday's loss that are easily curable. Penalties, for example, won't always be a huge problem. The team will become more disciplined, and games like Saturday's, when the team was penalized 14 times for 150 yards or so, are the exception, not the rule. Turnovers aren't 100% curable, but that area will improve as well.

Finally, when BYU lost to UCLA their BCS hopes were dashed. You and I both know it. And, as B.D. (Brian Dalton) so accurately put it, a successful BYU team can really only accomplish one of two things every season: 1. Go to a BCS bowl, or 2. Win the MWC championship and go to the Vegas Bowl. So even though the Tulsa loss was a painful one, BYU's conference season is still ahead of them and perhaps now they've received a wakeup call.

The bottom line is I'm not about to jump ship. BYU is a great program win or lose, and Bronco Mendenhall is a great coach. I am still behind the team 100%, and I'll be in my seat 75 minutes early on Saturday fully expecting a huge win.

By the way, did I call the Iowa/Iowa St. game or what?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Credible Ute-smack

I love hearing things from objective third-parties. It adds credibility, don't you think? Here's what Chris Foster, a sportswriter for the LA Times, wrote about UCLA's upcoming game against Utah:

"First look: Utah lost Brian Johnson, its starting quarterback, against Oregon State in the season opener. The Utes' offense is now in the hands of Tom Grady, not to be confused with Tom Brady. Also lost in the opener was Matt Asiata, Utah's top running back. It is believed to be the most help Oregon State has given the Bruins since it upset USC in 1967.

This should be BYU lite . . . all the two-year missions, minus the threat."

BYU lite. Priceless!

http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/california/la-sp-uclarep10sep10,1,6038880.story?coll=la-headlines-pe-california

Fake Betters of the World Unite

My friend Trevor and I started fake-betting on college games last year. Trevor, as you may know is the editor-in-chief of BYU Cougar Crazies: a sister blog to Adam's Sports Blog. Anyway, we fake-bet on games, and then we dazzle ourselves with our amazing spreadsheet skills to keep a running summary of our progress. Suffice it to say, last year I didn't do so well. This year, however, looks promising. I'm already up $17.50, and I can already tell the fake-money is going to be rolling in over the next few weeks.

Here are the ground rules: we get all our lines from Betus.com, then we pick five games on which we put $27.50 (The way it works is you pay an additional $2.50 for every $25 bet. It's some scheme the website uses to make money [if this money were real, but it's not], I don't fully understand it, but Trevor does. Anyway, you put down $27.50 for a $25 bet, and if you win you win $25). Anyway, we keep track of our winnings and losings on a spreadsheet, and then dream of what we would do with our wads of extra cash if it actually existed.

But now, without further adieu, let me present to you my week three picks (Note: I have two standing bets - for BYU, and against Utah, no matter who the two teams are playing):

Iowa @ Iowa St.
Favorite: Iowa by 17.5
My pick: Iowa St.
I don't know anything about these two teams, other than this is a rivalry game, and I find it hard to believe Iowa will go into Iowa State and win by more than 17 points.

Ohio State @ Washington
Favorite: Ohio State by 4
My Pick: Ohio State
Okay, when you pick a winner they have to "cover the spread," meaning, they have to beat the team by more than what they are projected. For example, I think Ohio State will win by more than 4 points, therefore I pick them. If they win, but fail to win by more than 4 points, I lose the bet. But they will. Go Buckeyes! (Can I still root for the Buckeyes now that my brother graduated?)

UCLA @ Utah
Favorite: UCLA by 16.5
My Pick: UCLA
At first I was worried that UCLA might not be able to cover such a big spread, but then I remembered Utah sucks and Tommy Grady is still their quarterback. Consider this my lock of the week.

Wyoming @ Boise State
Favorite: Boise State by 13
My Pick: Wyoming
UPSET SPECIAL! Watch a gritty Wyoming team hand the Broncos their second straight loss. I feel good about this one.

BYU @ Tulsa
Favorite: BYU by 7.5
My Pick: BYU
Right around the middle of the game, BYU will say to themselves, "Wait a second... this is Tulsa!" And then they'll blow them away. My guess is 35-14.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The NFL is the new MLB

The image to the left that I found on Google Images represents what the modern-day NFL is all about: The punter. These days punters in the NFL are more overworked than Cambodian children after Nike announces a new line of sneakers. I noticed this as I tried my hardest to watch the Green Bay Packers take on the Philadelphia Eagles earlier today. It occured to me that offense no longer exists in the NFL. The cool plays you see in college football are non-existant, and every drive ends the same way: "Bring on the punt team!" NFL games these days are looking more and more like baseball games. Games ending with scores like 7-3, 6-2, etc. Heck, with the Texas Rangers putting up 30 points a few weeks ago, maybe there are more similarities than I thought. One thing is for sure, though: I could go my whole life without ever watching an NFL game again and be happy. That is, unless John Beck gets to play anytime soon.

Down, But Not Out

BYU's loss yesterday was frustrating on many levels, but I'm happy to report that I'm sitting here on a Sunday afternoon and I haven't sunk into total despair.

See, it's been a long time since I've had to experience a BYU loss - last season at Boston College, to be exact - and I thought I'd be a little more upset than I am. And while I'm upset we lost, I can't say I'm even the least bit hopeless (if you want hopelessness, check this out).

Sure, it does seem we are doomed to forever lose the close games. I mean, why can't we just pull it off once? (Utah last year doesn't count). Why couldn't we hit the game winning field goal last year against BC? Why couldn't we score the go-ahead touchdown yesterday in the Rose Bowl instead of fumble the ball away? The answers to these quesitons I may never know. But I do know that BYU, in a "rebuilding year" looked awfully good (most of the time) against a pretty darn good Pac-10 team yesterday.

The most impressive part of BYU's play yesterday was that of Max Hall. He was poised, efficient, powerful and accurate. He made reads, he was patient, he took some hits, but he always popped right back up. He ended up with 391 yards and 2 TDs, and one unfortunate interception. UCLA will most definitely be the best defense BYU will face this year, and Hall did an excellent job of reading it, adjusting to it, and picking it apart.

Unfortunately, turnovers and penalties were too much for the Cougars to overcome.

BYU had 11 penalties for 84 yards, and most of the penalties came at exactly the wrong times. Chris Bolden's pass interferance in the fourth quarter, for example, kept UCLA on the field when otherwise they would have been forced to punt. After that penalty, the Bruins held on to the ball, scoring their final touchdown, and BYU had no time left to complete a comeback.

As far as turnovers go, two first-half turnovers led to 10 UCLA points, and one fumble in the third quarter erased a potential go-ahead touchdown. Take away the turnovers, and BYU wins 24-10. But you have to give UCLA credit, because those turnovers were arguably due to a very stingy defense (well, two of the three, anyway. Vic So'oto's fumble was just an unfortunate call by the referees).

All in all, though, this dark cloud has a silver lining. BYU hung in there with one of the better Pac-10 teams, and now I am left to ask this question: Who in the MWC can compete with BYU? Utah? Utah will be lucky to even have a team by the time we play them. TCU? Not in Provo, and not without Tommy Blake. New Mexico? Maybe they can hang with New Mexico State, but not BYU. UNLV? Do they still have a football program?

Anyway, I guess the point I'm trying to make is this: We can all be upset that BYU seemingly can't bring home the big game, but this is a good team and we're going to have a good year. What's more, BYU once again has a fine football program in place, and will breed success for years to come. Soon enough the UCLAs and Boston Colleges of the world will be wondering why they can't beat the mighty Cougars. May that day come quickly.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Don't Be Too Mean!

"Don't be too mean, you guys," was what the little orange-clad event staff guy said to us at Saturday's game. Granted, we were yelling some stuff at the Arizona players (we were in our seats 75 minutes early; what would you have done?), but don't be too mean? Man- I love this school, but seriously something like this would only happen at BYU. The little event staff guy is lucky he doesn't work at Ohio State or Auburn or something, otherwise he might (gulp) hear a swear word!

Also, I love Bronco Mendenhall, but I will boo whomever I want, whenever I want. He got on the fans' case for booing punter C.J. Santiago for his poor performance on Saturday, but you know what? He deserved a good booing to get his motor going. A 23 yard punt? Get outta here! He's lucky the defense played as well as it did, because field position is huge in a low-scoring game like that. Plus the booing inspired him to get out there and get it done. He redeemed himself later in the game and received a hearty (if a bit sarcastic) cheer from the crowd as a reward.

The only thing worse than Bronco telling me how to cheer is the way the media are making this the next big controversy. Every local sports show is making a huge deal about how BYU fans booed their punter. I'm serious- there are news stories, radio features and I hear a made-for-TV movie is in the works. But I can't say I'm surprised. What is the Salt Lake Tribune and 1280 the Zone supposed to do when a game is played mistake-free, and there are no injuries or controversies? Exactly- make something up.

But when all is said and done, I hope we'll all try to live life from this day forward without being "too mean."

Sunday, September 02, 2007

1-0!


Yesterday evening around 6:30, a figure stood quietly in the midst of a frenzied BYU student section at LaVell Edwards Stadium. His hat was wet with sweat that had been collected over the course of a burning hot day. His voice was cracked and squeaky, his neck was beet red with sunburn and his fist was raised triumphantly in the air.

That lone figure, if you haven't guessed by now, was me. And let me tell you, my friends, at that moment I felt pure joy. Why? The BYU Cougars beat up on the Arizona Wildcats - and they looked good doing it - and now they stand firmly at 1-0. After witnessing two heartbreaking opening-day losses the last two years (Boston College in '05 and Arizona in '06), it did my heart much good to see the Cougars come away victorious yesterday.

First of all, the win established what Coach Mendenhall has been saying for weeks: that a system is in place. The one question on everyone's mind going into this game was "Will BYU be able to replace John Beck, Jonny Harline, Curtis Brown, et. al.?" Surely, critics adjured, the loss of such talent will equate with poor production (especially offensively) as BYU replaces them with new players. Bronco Mendenhall's answer to such critics is his system. He contends that any player will be able to produce success - in varying degrees - in a superior system. Fortunately, and not surprisingly, Bronco turned out to be right. Max Hall came into the game and looked sharp. He passed for 288 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs. That's pretty dang impressive for a guy who, as was so often pointed out, had not played in a meaningful game since 2004 in high school (incidentally, I'm so glad I won't have to hear that argument ever again). Dennis Pitta proved he can be a tight end with good hands, a la Jonny Harline. And Harvey Unga blew everyone away with not only his footwork, but his pass-catching abilities. Additionally, Austin Collie adds a deep threat that BYU didn't have last year. I found myself no longer worrying about the loss of my favorite playmakers from '06. There's a fresh crop of talent this year, and I'm looking forward to seeing their progress.

Secondly, this game proved to me that BYU's defense is for real. It was supposed during much of the offseason that BYU's defense would be its strength this year. At least after one game, those predictions seemed to be true. I was amazed at how good BYU looked. I knew they would be good, don't get me wrong, but this was the best defensive game I believe I've ever seen at BYU (maybe since Wyoming last year. 55-7. Remember that game?). Anyway, Bryan Kehl lived up to his hype and backed up everything he said going into this game. He is a player. He exploded off the line, he was in on ever tackle, and he ran down Arizona's running backs with ease. Also, DE Jan Jorgensen had a great day yesterday. The most impressive thing about BYU's defense yesterday was how the D-line, not the linebackers, put pressure on AZ's QB, and leading that group was Jorgensen. He was credited with one sack, but was constantly putting pressure on Willie Tuitama. Jorgensen is going to be good - all-conference good. You heard it hear first.

Finally, it feels so good knowing that we beat the pants off a Pac-10 team. BYU out-played, out-coached and out-classed Arizona, even with all their supposed speed and athleticism. BYU football is back, and they are quickly picking up where they left off in '06.

Oh and by the way - how bad does it suck to be a Michigan fan right now?