Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Season-defining plays: The 2001 Season

2001 was a very interesting year for Cougar fans. Right on the heels of our new uniforms, which we were all still getting used to, we were introduced to a brand new head coach. Enter Gary Crowton.
Crowton was brought to Provo after winning a lengthy battle over George Henshaw, another candidate for the BYU head coaching vacancy. Henshaw went on to be apart of the Super Bowl-bound Tennessee Titans' coaching staff, and today he coaches Reggie Bush as the running backs coach in New Orleans.

Gary Crowton went on to completely lay waste to a proud football legacy at BYU.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. In 2001, we had little to no preconceived notions about Crowton. All we knew was he was not LaVell Edwards, and that (depending on who you talked to) was either a very good thing or a very bad thing.

The season began with the BCA Classic on August 25 against Tulane. Actually, SOME called it the BCA Classic. I call it the Luke Staley Classic. Staley had 10 carries that game for 142 yards and three TDs. Ten carries. (BYU won the game 70-35.)

That whole year quickly became all about Luke. Or as I remember him: Luuuuuuuuuke.

Staley started the season as the #2 RB behind Brian McDonald-Ashford. McDonald was a solid back, no doubt, but as the season progressed it became all too obvious that Staley was our guy. He racked up 1,596 yards on 196 carries (that's an 8.14 yards-per-carry average, for those of you keeping score at home) and 24 TDs. He did this after missing three games: two to injury and one for academic issues. 2001 saw Luke Staley emerge as, sure I'll say it, the best running back in BYU history.

Staley had help, though. He was complemented by a unique quarterback in Brandon Doman. Doman was not the most gifted athlete to ever step under center at BYU, but he had speed and he worked hard. He ran Crowton's new option-style offense with ease, and it gave Staley some very nice, long runs.

One thing was certain in Provo: We were going to score points.

And yet...

2001 was, as the Bible puts it, a "Whited Sepulchre." It was beautiful on the outside--very flashy and entertaining, but once you broke through the stunning offensive facade you found a rotting corpse of a defense.

Sure we were winning games, but games that end with scores like 70-35, 35-31, 54-34, 63-33 etc. don't do much for confidence in the stopping power of the defense.

Sure enough, one team pulled the curtain on our Wizard of Oz puppet show and exposed us for the ragged, pathetic team we really were in 2001. The Rainbow Warriors of Hawai'i rained a beating on us that I still feel when it snows outside. In the first quarter alone the Rainbows scored on a 24-yard pass, a 74-yard punt return and a 100-yard kickoff return.

The final score: 72-45. Ouch.

To add insult to injury, before the game the then 12-0 Cougs were formally told that they would not be invited to participate in the newly formed BCS even if they beat Hawai'i, despite their undefeated record and #9 ranking.

And to add injury to that insult and injury, Luke Staley broke his leg the week before at Mississippi State and was out for the season.

The Cougs went on to lose to Louisville in the Liberty Bowl, and a once-promising season crumbled to the ground and left Cougar nation with a bitter taste in their mouths.

2001 SDP: Facing a three point deficit to the Utes with a shade over one minute left in the game, Luke Staley takes a pitch from Brandon Doman and gallops 30 yards down the sideline for what turned out to be the winning touchdown. Onlookers (myself included) stand dumbfounded after witnessing Staley's speed.

Staley's run was a perfect example of the explosiveness of BYU's offense in 2001. They could strike anywhere, at any time. However, it was also a chilling reminder of the reliance that was placed on the Doak Walker Award winner Staley.

Here are some highlights of BYU/Utah 2001:

Tomorrow: 2002


Mike said...

Adam, I am sorry I haven't been commenting, there has been a lot of stuff going on in my life lately. But I enjoyed this latest post, it brought me back to my freshman year. Did I mention the Staley family was in my home ward?

Russ Nelson said...

I'm going to have to disagree on your SDP for 2001. Sure it was a sweet run to win the game but that wasn't what defined the season. I feel what defined the season is when Miss St. "exposed" us and destroyed the main structural pillar holding up a faux building, and once it was gone we crumbled to the ground.

It was a heck of a run though!

Justin said...

I feel like I was there after reading that. But unfortunately I was still in New Mexico (dirtier then old Mexico). We really don't get a lot of BYU games on tv down that way.

Rock said...

One of the darkest days of my life was after that Hawaii game in '01. I remember leaving my apartment and vowing to never watch another BYU Football game. That held true until the next game, when BYU played in the Liberty Bowl.

I met Staley in Detroit when he kind of played for the Lions. Good guy, just not too bright. After watching those highlights, I was reminded of how fast he was. He could turn on the burners.

Trevor said...

Please see Cougar Crazies blog for my response.

jonathan said...

I believe I was in the 3rd or 4th row on the 45 yard line for that BYU vs. Utah game. One of my favorites in that rivalry.

Jennifer said...

Hey, it's Jennifer again. While I agree that the Staley run to take the lead on Utah for the first time with less than a minute left was stunning, so much so that I couldn't even cheer, I just braced myself against the railing in the endzone and tried not collapse, the defining play for me came on September 28th in Sam Boyd stadium. After UNLV used up the lion share of the fourth quarter running between our feckless tackles only to be stopped and held to a field goal on an heroic stand inside the 10 yard line (poosibly the only heroic stand by the D in 2001) we drove the length of the field inside one minute(including a fourth down conversion pass to Rigell that went for like 45 yards)and Doman scores on a broken play scramble led by a punishing Luke Staley block that allows him to go in upright and unttouched. It also happened right in front of us (we were 6 rows up at about the goal line). At that point I knew that even if our defense kept every game close our offense would at least be able to give us a shot in every game.

Unfortunately that golf/road trip that ended so gloriously inspired the subsequent trip to Colorado Springs in 2002.

Hoping for good things in seasons 2005-2007,