Monday, November 24, 2008

Pick 'em: The final post

Congratulations to Andy, who won my inaugural BYU football pick 'em game. I would love to be a little more enthusiastic, but clearly the wind has been taken out of my sails.

Here are this week's scores. I'm proud of you all for not picking Utah, but the scores suffered as a result.

Boyle - 10
Cindy - 10
Ali - 7
JonathanD - 7
Katie - 7
Travis - 7
Becky - 6
Gus - 6
KO - 6
Rock - 4
Seth - 4
Aaron, Cousin of Trevor - 3
Buffalo - 3
Jeremy - 3
Justin - 3
Andy - 0
BUS - 0
Dave - 0
J-Snow - 0
Mars - 0
Trizz - 0
Ty - 0

Good work everyone, and thanks for playing.

By the way, I probably won't be blogging much for the next few days. I never did cope well with loss...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Keys to the game

Sometimes I don’t think I’ve given enough respect to the Utah football team. Before the season began I thought they’d lose four, maybe five games this year. Even when they continued to win, I still didn’t think they were as good as advertised.

The truth is, and it's hard for me to admit this, they’re a very good team. The fans are all low-class losers, but the Utah football team is very good. As evidenced by their undefeated season.

The Utes have speed and toughness on defense, and while their offense hasn’t been overly impressive, they always seem to make the big plays when they need to.

BYU is a 7-point underdog to the Utes. I think that’s about right. Vegas has every reason to make Utah the favorites and BYU the underdogs.

If we’re going to win this game, BYU needs to make sure to play their best game of the season on both sides of the ball. Here are my keys to the game.

1. A fast start. If there’s one thing I remember from Rice-Eccles in 2006, it’s the crazy loudness that comes with the rivalry game. Utah fan is going to be bouncing off the walls, and the sea of red will be pulsing with fury. BYU desperately needs to take the crowd out of the game early with two quick scores in the first quarter. If we take a 14-0 lead into the second quarter I like BYU’s chances a lot.

2. A long field. For Utah, that is. BYU’s defense is designed to give up yards—not points. The more distance we can put between Utah and the goal line, the better. Utah won’t be able to sustain long 80-yard drives all game, and I would rather trade field goals for touchdowns. BYU needs to kick the ball out of the endzone, pin the Utes behind their 20 on punts and cover kickoffs with the precision of a KGB marksman.

3. A prime-time blitz package. Air Force taught us a valuable lesson on Saturday, I thought. They, like BYU, run a 3-4 defense and when they rushed the Falcons either brought only three, or six or seven. BYU can’t rush four guys and expect to get pressure on Brian Johnson. We need to blitz with six or seven guys, or drop everyone into coverage. Rushing four is not only ineffective, but it gives us one less defender in the middle of the field. Getting pressure on BJ is key.

4. A protective offense. Want to know the real reason we lost to TCU? Turnovers. Turnovers killed our momentum and gave TCU short fields. We simply cannot give Utah any turnovers this year. Be smart, Max Hall. Hold on to the ball, everyone else.

5. An opportunistic defense. Brian Johnson is going to make mistakes. Our defense needs to capitalize and take the ball away wherever they can.

6. A new scheme and attitude. If I know Utah, they’ll be fired up more for this game than any other. BYU needs to exceed that intensity. They need to play like this is the most important game of their lives. BYU needs extra emotion inside their execution. BYU also needs to employ some new schemes and plays to keep Utah guessing. I’m expecting BYU to throw things at the Utes that we’ve never seen before this season.

If BYU plays the game I’ve described above, we’ll be partying in Provo tomorrow night.

My official prediction? Dreams comes true: BYU 26, Utah 24.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Doing a good turn daily

I really hate to interrupt the rivalry week festivities, but I just have to say this: Tony Romo is turning out to be one impressive guy.

Check out this story from ESPN.com: Romo reportedly makes homeless man's day with trip to movies

I am most decidedly not a Cowboy fan, but it's hard not to like a guy like Romo.

After all, you wouldn't see that prima donna pretty boy Tom Brady doing something like this...

Dreams

The other night I had a crystal clear dream about the end of the BYU/Utah game.

I was sitting in the BYU section with the other die hard Cougars, and we watched as Utah took the field for the final play of the game.

The Utes were bringing on the kicking unit for what would be the game-winning field goal. Utah's all-universe kicker, Louie Sakoda, lined up his kick and everyone wearing BYU blue held their collective breath.

The ball was snapped, the hold was good and Sakoda... badly missed the kick. The ball squirted off his foot and fell harmlessly to the ground well short of the goal post.

We screamed. BYU won 26-24.

I can't decide if I'm being clairvoyant or if I'm just remembering 1998.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The hate that fuels this rivalry: An essay

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about why I hate the Utes, or if I even hate them at all. I mean, hate, as Lesley Winn so eloquently put it, is such a strong word.

Not only is it a strong sentiment, but hate to me connotes envy. Hate, to some degree, comes from the bottom up. You hate your older brother because he picks on you and he’s better than you. You hate the Lakers because they win championships. You don’t hate lesser organisms. That’s just wrong.

It’s kind of like Utah State. Even when I desperately want to, there’s no way I could hate Utah State. It’s unnecessary cruelty.

Granted, Utah is no Utah State. Utah is much more competitive, and has earned their fair share of envy. They are, after all, the ones with a BCS Bowl under their belt. But still, they are the lesser organism.

And therein lies the enigma. I am most certainly not short of hate on the Utes, in fact I’m just now stockpiling an extra bundle for the long winter, but envy is definitely not the reason.

So why do I hate the Utes? Why do you hate the Utes?

It’s not the players, I’ll tell you that much. While there are a handful of dirty, low-class Ute players that run their fat mouths and whom I dislike intensely (Steve Tate, Kyle Gunther, Braden Godfrey, etc.), the majority are good and respectable (Paul Kruger, Eric Weddle and to a lesser degree Brian Johnson).

For me, the hate begins and ends with the fans.

Living in the same state with Ute fans is enough to make me want to join a suicide cult. Every time I cross into Salt Lake County a wave of putrid disgust hits my face. The smell, the appearances, the sounds—everything about the heart of Ute country is offensive. Including, by the way, the hack-job U they have on the side of the mountain. Hey Utes: BYU called, they want their traditions back.

My heart goes out to you BYU fans that live in that cesspool.

Ute fans are so detestable. They claim BYU is a self-righteous, judgmental and hypocritical school, yet when BYU students or players fall short of perfection the Utes are the first ones to pounce.

Ute fans are also bitter and angry all the time. I have honestly never seen a Ute smile. And if they ever do have a semblance of a happy expression, it’s only because something bad happened to BYU. They revel in the failures of others. They mock, they laugh, they deride.

They flaunt their lack of moral boundaries, and love to make light of BYU’s religious component. Some Ute fans are Mormons frustrated with BYU’s perceived “Self-righteousness.” Some, and you can’t tell me these people don’t exist, use BYU as an outlet to outright hate the LDS church.

And they look so stupid doing it. My personal favorite are the guys that pop up on the internet message boards with names like “Gadianton” and “Alma the Wiser.” Do these guys know how silly they look?

Plus the smell. Holy crap the smell. Have you ever stood next to a Ute fan for more than 5 consecutive seconds? 10 bucks the stank knocks you flat on your backparts.

Oh, Utah fan. I hate you so much. I hate your crooked little half-smile under your wispy goatee. I hate your gold tooth that you still think is cool. I hate your pirate flags and your santa costume. I hate your nasty old wives that bleach their hair and wear sleeveless shirts even though their arms look like giant Spanish sausages. I hate your Oakleys that you bought in 1995. I hate your boat shoes that you wear with denim shorts and no socks. I hate your one button up shirt you wear when you take your lady out to Market Street Grill to celebrate your latest sale.

And I hate, hate, HATE your team.

Please, BYU, strike these heathens down.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A quick rivalry encyclopedia

Rivalry week is one of the best weeks of the year. The nervous anticipation coursing through my veins is just another reminder of the deep devotion I have for the Cougs, and the unending desire I have for them to beat our stumpy little brothers to the north.

Rivalry week is also a time to relive the classic BYU/Utah games that have taken place through the ages. Some are deliriously exciting, some are devastating, and others are totally satisfying. Here is a quick guide to all the rivalry n00bs out there.

1990: Heisman trophy winner Ty Detmer led BYU to a 45-22 victory with 451 yards and 5 TDs on 28-50 passing. Utah was still emerging as a football school.

1991: Detmer again picked apart the Utes, who led 17-14 after the first quarter, but never scored again in the game. BYU won 48-17.

1992: BYU rode Jamal Willis to their third straight win over Utah, 31-22. Willis rushed 28 times for 157 yards and 1 TD. Utah scored all 22 of their points in the fourth quarter.

1993: Future NFL bust John Walsh couldn't get it done on BYU's home field against the Utes, as Utah and coach Ron McBride scored a 34-31 win over the Cougars.

1994: Walsh got his second chance at the Utes, but a 20-yard Utah TD pass with 50 seconds left in the game broke the Cougars hearts once again and locked up another 34-31 win for the Utes.

1995: BYU never got on track in this game, and Utah bruiser Chris Fuamatu Ma'afala ran all over the Cougs. Utah grabs their third straight win over BYU, 34-17.

1996: *My favorite year ever* BYU was 12-1 heading into a highly anticipated showdown with the Utes, and was expected to tear Utah apart with their potent offense. BYU did most of their damage on the ground, racking up 366 rushing yards between tailbacks Brian McKenzie and Ronnie Jenkins. I still remember watching this game as a 12-year old, screaming at the TV in my BYU shirt and PJs.

1997: BYU's latest QB to face the Utes, Kevin Feterik, had a solid game through three quarters, but BYU couldn't hold on to the lead in the fourth quarter when Utah scored 10 unanswered points to beat BYU 20-14.

1998: The Doink. Utah Kicker Ryan Kaneshiro had a chance to put the Cougs away with a game-winning field goal, but bounced the ball off the uprights to give BYU a 26-24 win. The final play perpetuated a rumor that Kaneshiro committed suicide after the game because of his grief.

1999: BYU's brand new colors and uniforms weren't enough to push the Cougs past the Utes in '99. The scoring was even, but an extra field goal in the second quarter by the Utes turned out to be the difference: Utah 20, BYU 17.

2000: Last Miracle for LaVell. Trying to salvage a once-promising season, third string QB Brandon Doman faced a grim 4th down and 13. He threw up a prayer and connected with WR Jonathan Pittman, and then ran in for the winning score a few plays later.

2001: The undefeated and nationally ranked Cougars welcomed Utah into the newly christened LaVell Edwards Stadium, where the Utes quickly took control of the game. It took a 14-point fourth quarter, including Luke Staley's famous gallop down the sideline, and a clutch interception from Jernaro Gilford to ice the Utes for good, 24-21. And yes, I was there.

2002: I remember this game vividly. Not because I was there, but only because I could hear the crowd from the MTC. I didn't find out until weeks later that Utah won 13-6.

2003: What's worse than Utah beating BYU? Utah shutting out BYU on BYU's home field while you're companions with a dirty Ute fan on your mission. I still remember the high-pitched cheers...

2004: How was I welcomed home for my two years of selflessly serving the Lord? By watching BYU, which was suffering a huge identity crisis at the time, get thumped by Utah 52-21. I didn't even recognize my team. Utah went on to win the Fiesta Bowl; BYU went on to fire its coach.

2005: Back in its traditional uniforms, and trying to shake off a nasty habit of losing, BYU and Utah met for a classic rivalry game. Utah was all over BYU early, taking a 24-3 lead into halftime, but BYU came back strong in the second half to force the game into overtime. In OT, backup Ute QB Brett Ratliff connected with some Ute jerk, and Cougar QB John Beck couldn't answer. Beck threw up a prayer (that was almost caught by Michael Reed), but it fell harmlessly to the ground. I still say BYU would have won that game if Harline would have made a key catch in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter to put BYU in FG range.

2006: The answered prayer. BYU controlled the game early, but Utah stormed back to take the lead. The teams battled until Utah scored a go-ahead TD with 1:19 left in the game. John Beck, as cool as a Canadian fisherman, led BYU down the field with ease. With 3 seconds left and BYU on Utah's ten yard line, John Beck shuffled, shuffled, shuffled, ran and heaved the ball across his body to a wide open Jonny Harline. Harline caught the ball, humbly, on his knees and BYU snapped a four-game Utah rivalry winning streak. "Caught for the Touchdown!! Caught for the Touchdown!!"

2007: Collie 4: 18. Two evenly matched teams, along with some key BYU miscues, produced a very low-scoring affair. BYU held on to a 9-3 lead in the fourth quarter before Utah QB Brian Johnson led a slow, methodical, unstoppable Utah drive which ended in a Darrell Mack Touchdown. With BYU down 10-9 and facing 4th and 18 with about 1:30 left in the game, a Utah win looked inevitable. That's when Max Hall sidestepped a tackle, hurled the ball into space and found a wide open Austin Collie on the sideline for a 40 yard gain on 4th and 18. A few plays later Harvey Unga barrelled into the end zone and Collie grabbed the two point conversion to give BYU a 17-10 win.

(A quick side note, from 1980 to 1989, BYU won 9 out of 10 games.)

Writing about these games brings back a lot of memories. There have been some pretty amazing outcomes at the ends of these rivalry weeks--upsets, drama, thrillers, blowouts, doinks, miracles and the like.

I am physically sick with anticipation to see how the latest chapter of this saga unfolds.

Information gathered from CougarStats.com

Monday, November 17, 2008

Quick Bites

Ah rivalry week. The week of cold sweats, uncontrollable vomiting, night terrors and self-mutilation.

...or something less gruesome.

I don't know about you guys, but as soon as the clock hit 00:00 in Colorado Springs on Saturday (maybe even before), my mind raced forward to this week. This is one of the most highly anticipated weeks of the year, and now that it's upon us I think I'm going to have a stroke.

This blog is going to be busy this week, and to start it off I want to jump around the world of sports like a 12-year-old with a new pair of galoshes.

*First of all, I just want to say that I predicted the BYU/Air Force game exactly. Yeah, I know I've mentioned it twice now. Wanna fight about it?

*Pop quiz: how do you beat the Utah Jazz? Play them anywhere other than Salt Lake City.

*Is anyone else wondering what Bumbling Jim Boylen had to say to the crowd at the Huntsman Center when Utah lost to (Div II) SW Baptist on Saturday night? "We came out a little tight..."

*Real Salt Lake was inches away from earning their first-ever berth to the MLS Cup before falling short to the NY Red Bulls. In related news, I ordered the spaghetti and meatballs at La Vigna on Saturday night. It wasn't bad. Also, apparently they're starting to play soccer professionally here in the states. More on that soon.

*My NFL team of choice? The New York Giants. BYU alum Bryan Kehl could get his first Super Bowl ring as a rookie. Eat that, Eric Weddle! Meanwhile John Beck is checking the classifieds...

*This one's for Justin: Kudos to Jimmie Johnson for picking up his third consecutive trophy... thingy... in NASCAR. The man drives a mean stick.

*Boise State is BYU's half-retarded cousin.

*Dennis Pitta suffered a sprained MCL on Saturday and is a game-time decision for this week's matchup at Utah. Call me crazy, but even if Pitta doesn't play (I think he will, but even if he doesn't) I think BYU will still find some great production at the TE spot from Andrew George. The blessing of having a full stable of incredibly talented tight ends.

*Would you rather... A. BYU blow out Utah by 20+ points, B. BYU beat Utah on a miracle play, thus inspiring more "righteous living" smack for another year, or C. win $68,000 on Deal or No Deal?

*Two things I want BYU to work on this week: Play with emotion, and don't jump when the Utes do that silly defensive shift on the line. Freaking cheaters.

That's all I can think of now. Like I said, check back often, as ASB will be humming like a Mohican Tomahawk during this rivalry week.

Pick 'em update: Air Force

Good news: Everyone picked BYU to win this week.

Bad news: It looks like my mom just isn't going to play anymore.

Good news: I guessed the perfect score!

Bad news: No one's going to send me any mystery prize.

Good news: ...but then again, maybe...

Bad news: No. No they won't.

Good news (for Trizz): Trizz won this week with 37 points!

Bad news (for Trizz): My brother Andy is still in the lead.

Good news: The coveted T-shirt will come down to the final game of the season. Anyone could make a big move this week if they make the right pick.

Bad news: I will personally spit on the said shirt if the winner only gets it by picking a BYU loss this week.

Here are this week's scores (Total scores can be found on the right-hand sidebar):

Trizz - 37
Travis - 36
KO - 34
Andy - 33
Buffalo - 33
BUS - 33
Jeremy - 33
J-Snow - 33
Rock - 30
Seth - 30
Aaron, Cousin of Trevor - 28
Ali - 27
Boyle - 27
Knipps - 27
Lesley - 27
Mars - 27
Gus - 26
Becky - 23
Cindy - 23
Dave - 23
JonathanD - 23
Justin - 20
Katie - 20
Ty - 20

Get your picks in today for BYU's final game of the season: U t a h.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

MWC Picks: Week whatever week this is

It pains me to write this, because I am truly loving all the play I'm getting from Boise State fans--spanning the great counties of southwestern Idaho--in the post directly below this one.

I think I must have upset somebody's cousin, because the Broncos are crawling out of the woodworks with guns blazing. I just hope they keep reading ASB. I promise I'll jab at BSU any chance I get.

Anyway, I must move on. I must now discuss big boy football, not your little sissy WAC brand.

Here are my picks for the MWC this week:

Wyoming at UNLV: I'll be watching this game because I hear the losing coach will actually be fired on live television right after the game. Wyoming 17, UNLV 13.

New Mexico @ Colorado State: Word is the Lobos have already started looking ahead to mutton-busting season. CSU 24, UNM 14.

BYU @ Air Force: This game will come down to one thing: What will we see first, a BYU defensive stop or a "No on Prop 8" sign in the Cadet section? BYU 38, AFA 24.

Utah @ San Diego State: Bold prediction of the week! The Utes will get caught looking ahead to BYU. Utah 49, SDSU 9.

**Non-MWC upset special of the week** Houston over No. 23 Tulsa, 35-28 because I don't like Tulsa.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Thompson brings Broncos back to reality

I don't like the Boise State Broncos. I know a lot of BYU fans do, but I don't. I don't sympathize with them, I don't like them and I think they need to be humbled in a big way.

Well, MWC commissioner Craig Thompson did his part yesterday during the MWC's weekly conference call.

Here's the story from ESPN's Graham Watson:

"Boise talk radio show host Paul J. Schneider reported on his show earlier this week that Boise State president Bob Kustra received an invitation from the Mountain West to join the league.

The Mountain West office denied this claim and Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson addressed it during the MWC's Tuesday teleconference stating that no expansion talks were in the works. Thompson also said that he wasn't sure that if Boise State moved to the Mountain West that it would still be undefeated.

'My personal opinion is that they probably wouldn't be 12-0,' Thompson said. 'Take nothing away from Boise State, but I don't know that they would go undefeated against the top four teams that are vying for the conference championship.'"


Thank you, Mr. Thompson, for speaking words of truth. If Boise State ever played any real football teams, my inkling is that they wouldn't be enjoying these little fairy tale seasons anymore.

Stop playing Louisiana Tech on your pansy little blue field and come play BYU, Utah or TCU. Then we'll see if you can stay undefeated.

Oh and by the way, to all of you Bronco Fans that are lurking on the internets between potato harvests, I am fully aware that BYU hasn't beaten Boise State yet. So stop before you even start. Conveniently enough, you played BYU in two of its worst years EVER (and you needed a miracle to win on your home turf). We'll see how the cookie crumbles when we start our four-year series in 2010.

Anyway, do us civilized folk a favor and stay away from our conference.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Goodbye to LES for another year

It just hit me.

Unless I somehow step in a whole pile of crazy and decide to go to Stadium of Fire 2009, I won't be walking the hallowed concourses of LaVell Edwards Stadium again until next football season.

I didn't even realize it when I was watching BYU fly all over San Diego State, but I'm coping with it now and I can see I'm going through the classic stages of grief.

Shock and Denial: "Are you kidding me? There's no way football season is almost over."

Pain and Guilt: "Why didn't I tailgate more? Why didn't I offend more of my fellow fans? Why won't the hurting stop?"

Anger and Bargaining: "It doesn't have to end... Anyone want to road trip to the Air Force game?"

Depression, reflection, lonliness: "Football season ended so fast. What am I going to do now? I can't bear another offseason."

The upward turn: "Then again, I've had a lot of fun this year. Remember that time Russ ate a whole fist full of ketchup at that tailgate?"

Reconstruction: "Basketball season is coming up..."

Acceptance and hope: "Another great year at LES. A record-breaking home winning streak, beautiful weather for every home game, great friends... I can't wait till next year."

Thanks for another stellar home season, LaVell Edwards Stadium. 2008 brought with it the third-straight undefeated season at home, and broke the record of consecutive home wins.

Hopefully the LES magic will continue through 2009 and beyond.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The confidence of KO

I probably shouldn't make a habit of sharing my personal correspondance, but I thought Cougar fans everywhere would benefit from reading this email I received today from my dad.

He was writing to my brother and me, discussing the current situation BYU faces. Here it is, straight from the bull's mouth:

Ok you guys. I’m going all out on this and putting it in the record.

BYU will beat AF, not a blowout, but a convincing win: 35-21.
Afterward, BYU will be ranked 12 or 13 in each poll and 14 in the BCS.

Utah will beat SDSU handily and be ranked 6th.

The game on the 22nd will have national attention. #12 playing #6 with BCS ramifications.

BYU will then beat Utah 28-17.

Utah will fall to #12 and BYU will be #10 in all polls and #12 in the BCS.

At this point, regardless what Boise State does, BYU will go to a BCS bowl.

Bronco will coach one more year and begin to host his own talk show on MTV.

Take it to the Bank.

By the way, [those scores] represent my official predictions.
Dad


I'm putting this out there to the masses. What do you think of dear old dad's predictions? Almost Nostrademus-like, isn't it? I can't wait to re-visit this post on November 23.

Pick 'em update: SDSU

Big points this week. A lot of pick 'em players were spot on when they picked 40-ish to 10-ish. Andy, particularly, was feeling it. He was two measly points away from a perfect prediction.

I was happy to see so much success among our participants.

Unfortunately a lot of players seem to have given up on the game alltogether. I won't point out any names (Jeris Hobbs), but some people have just given up, it seems. I get fewer and fewer picks every week, and every week I'm surprised by the names absent from my list.

Knipps? Seriously? I really didn't think you were that kind of guy.

All I have to say to those who have dropped out of the game, and you know who you are, is this: I'm very disappointed in you.

Also, and you know I hate to do this, I have to call out my sister Ali for predicting a BYU LOSS to San Diego State. Ouch, Ali. That hurts.

Here are this week's scores:

Andy - 38
Rock - 37
J-Snow - 35
Buffalo - 34
Cindy - 34
Justin - 34
Travis - 32
Eliot - 31
Jeremy - 31
Aaron, Cousin of Trevor - 29
Rod-Dawg - 29
Seth - 29
Katie - 28
Ty - 28
Mars - 27
JonathanD - 23
KO - 23
Becky - 22
Trizz - 22
Boyle - 21
Gus - 20
Ali - 0

We have two weeks left, so there's still time to make a run at the T-shirt! Next week's game: BYU @ Air Force

Friday, November 07, 2008

Utah-ball


Allow me to introduce you, my adoring readers, to Utah-ball.

Utah-ball is the brand of football they play up in Rice Eccles Stadium. It involves sucking for a straight 55 minutes, and then playing out of their heads for the last five.

Utah-ball is not scoring a touchdown the whole game until their very last drive (which happens to be a game-winner).

Utah-ball also means game-winning field goals, and the supreme king of Utah-ball is Louie Sakoda.

Utah-ball also has an effect on the opposing team--causing them to call outrageous, mind-bottling plays and miss easy field goals.

Utah-ball is the luckiest football you'll ever see played, and might include some voodoo black magic. I'm still trying to find that out for sure.

Whatever the case, Utah has beaten just about every team on its schedule by playing its patented Utah-ball. Including TCU last night.

I mean, you saw the game, right? What other explanation is there? TCU gets deep into Utah territory only to get sacked for 20 yards, putting them out of FG range. TWICE!

Then TCU missed two easy, peasy field goals. TWO!

Not only that, but TCU's defense had Utah by the throat the whole game only to completely break down in the last two minutes. And what happened? Utah drove down the field like they were the best team in the universe and scored an easy go-ahead touchdown with like 40 seconds left.

Unbelievable.

And of course, TCU looked completely inept in that last drive. They looked half-retarded. Asking a non-BYU MWC team to march down the field in under a minute is like asking Rosie O'Donnell to start shaving her back. It ain't gonna happen.

Anyway, it was a good game last night. Utah pulled another one out of its hat, and give them credit for it. Now there is only one team that can stop them. November 22 can't come soon enough.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Why our defense is bad part two: Coaching

What does every opponent of BYU have in common?

They all hate BYU. At least the MWC ones.

BYU has been beating up on these MWC schools for years and years. We’ve run up the score, we’ve broken records at their expense, we’ve ruined magical seasons, and the list goes on.

The most recent inductee into the “I hate BYU” Hall of Fame is TCU, which reportedly has been practicing with BYU helmets on their tackling dummies since spring time.

Apparently our last two wins in 2006 and 2007 didn’t sit well with the froggies.

Whatever they did worked, because they hit us in 2008 like a Mack truck. They punched is in the kidneys, took our juice money and made out with our girlfriend right in front of us. They ruined our season, in fact, and you could tell they just loved every minute of it.

The players were fired up, the fans were fired up and TCU coach Gary Patterson wore the smirk of a satisfied man who had just accomplished a very big goal.

I’ve accepted the loss, but there’s one thing I still can’t figure out: Why weren’t we prepared for that game?

And why weren’t we prepared for UNLV? Or CSU?

I’ve gotta be honest, I’m a little disappointed in our defensive coaching staff. And yes, that includes Bronco Mendenhall. Our staff has simply been out-coached in the past three games; there’s no other way to say it. The opposing coaching staff has been outworking their BYU counterparts, and it’s showing on the field and on the scoreboard.

How many weeks in a row now have we seen an offensive package tailor-made for BYU? TCU comes out running a direct snap to their speedy wide receiver, New Mexico comes out passing the ball when everyone thought they would run it, UNLV makes sharp, quick throws to take advantage of our cushion defense, and CSU runs gadget plays that completely catch us off guard.

The result? Less than stellar wins (and one huge loss) for the Cougs.

I just don’t understand how BYU can be caught so consistently off guard. It’s like every week we are surprised that the other team isn’t doing exactly what we thought they would do. Our defense is surprised far too often.

The bottom line, like I’ve said before, is that BYU needs to realize that they are on everyone’s radar. Teams are going to do things against BYU that they’ve never done before. We saw it in the Tulsa game last year, and we’ve seen it in just about every game we’ve played this year. The coaches need to realize that every team in the MWC hates us, and wants to beat us badly.

Get some emotion back on the sidelines, play aggressively and stomp on the throats of the CSUs and UNLVs of the world. Come on, coaches, get it together.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Why our defense is bad part one: Linebackers

I mentioned in an earlier post that, despite some apparent weaknesses in our game, I was happy after our win over Colorado State. To go on the road and put up big points, including a game-winning drive in under a minute and a half, is something worth relishing.

However, I also said I’d write later in the week about our horrible defense.

Well Tuesday is late enough, I guess, because here I am.

I’ve thought a lot about our defense over the past few games. It’s not hard to see we are being exploited. It’s clear that BYU has some problems when bad teams like UNLV and Colorado State are putting up big numbers and big points against us and no one else.

The question is… what are the problems?

I know there are a lot of problems, but today I want to talk about linebackers.

BYU’s defense begins and ends with linebackers. In a 3-4 scheme, linebackers are responsible for filling holes to stop the run, rushing the passer, covering the short diagonals and taking away the flats. Bryan Kehl and David Nixon, our outside linebackers in ’06 and ‘07, were great. They both had the speed to play sideline to sideline.

Additionally, we’ve had incredible middle linebackers. Guys like Cameron Jensen, Markell Staffieri, Aaron Wagner and Kelly Poppinga have been great at not only playing their assignments, but also leading the rest of the defense. Solid linebacker play meant less reliance on defensive backs, and more opportunities to pressure the quarterback for the defensive line.

The result has been a tough BYU defense that rarely let opponents score over 24 points.

This year the story is a little different. Our linebackers consist of three new starters (one of which is a JuCo transfer) who in my opinion haven’t quite figured things out. David Nixon is a solid anchor, but his weakside counterpart, Coleby Clawson (who is a fantastic pass rusher) is still learning the position. In the middle we have Matt Bauman and Shawn Doman, who splits reps with Matt Ah You. I like all three players a lot—especially Ah You. But they are all very young. They haven’t really mastered the responsibilities of the inside linebackers, and no one has emerged as a clear leader—the likes of Kelly Poppinga and Cam Jensen.

I said earlier in the year that our linebacker unit would be thin and weak, and unfortunately I was right. I was encouraged to learn about the return of Terrance Hooks and Grant Nelson, inside and outside linebackers, respectively, who both have playing experience. But their progress returning from injuries has been slow.

I guess the biggest disappointment is that our linebackers can’t seem to make stops when they need to. That was one thing I loved about Cameron Jensen—when it was third and one you could count on him to bust through the line to make a drive-stopping tackle.

I remember specifically when BYU played Wyoming in 2006. It was third or fourth down and inches. The Cowboys ran a QB sneak to pick up the first down. Easy, right? The QB just needed to lean forward and he would have gotten it. Well Jensen flew over the line of scrimmage at the snap, caught Cowboy QB Karsten Sween by the shoulders and threw him down before he even started pushing. Badda bing, badda boom, BYU ball. Jensen anticipated plays. He sniffed out the offense, and as a result gave the ball back to BYU.

I wish our current crop of LBs were a little more like Jensen. I wish they knew how to hit holes and break through to get to the opposing running back/quarterback. I don’t know who else noticed this, but when we blitzed Colorado State we had absolutely no effectiveness. We brought a blitz 12 times and didn’t pressure the QB once. Part of that has to do with a good offensive line, I guess, but part of it stems from the fact that linebackers and other blitzers are simply having a hard time finding holes and gaps.

A blitz should be a surprise. Blitzes should be directed toward unsuspecting areas. Time after time I saw BYU linebackers just simply run into the offensive line thinking a hole would automatically be there. A word of advice: Just because you call a blitz play doesn’t mean you’ll have a free road to the QB. You still need to make good decisions.

Anyway, this is turning out to be a little longer than I wanted it to be. I’m just a little upset about our linebacker situation right now. Linebackers, like I said, are the heart and soul of our defense. Good linebacker play will take pressure off every other defensive player. Poor play, on the other hand, will put more pressure on our guys.

I just wish we had the players, and I’m not sure how we became so thin at the position suddenly. We could sure use a certain LDS linebacker that lives in Hawaii, has cousins on the team and happens to be the No. 1 linebacker recruit in the nation…

Tomorrow I want to talk about another reason why our defense is lacking: Coaching.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Is it time to hope again?

Blame the BCS. They have given me more hope in what I thought was a hopeless season.

I don't understand the numbers, the formulas, the rankings or the rules, but however the BCS computers work their black magic, they put the BYU Cougars at No. 15 this week.

No doubt it was due in large part to several teams ahead of us losing on Saturday. Including Tulsa, thank goodness.

BYU, now, is very much in the BCS hunt... again. At No. 15, BYU would qualify for a BCS bowl game if they stay ahead of the conference champion from a BCS conference. Right now BYU is ahead of two BCS conference leaders: (19)North Carolina (ACC), and (25)West Virginia (Big East).

There are only three things standing in our way: Boise State, TCU and Utah. These three non-BCS teams are currently ahead of us in the standings, and would each be chosen before BYU if they don't lose.

If they do lose, however, they would most likely fall below BYU in the BCS standings.

So, as one who wants to see BYU fulfill its BCS destiny, I am anxious to see these three things happen:

1. Utah needs to beat TCU on Thursday night. I know it's painful, but it's time to just admit it: we need Utah to win. It does nothing but help BYU, people. Put away your debilitating pride.

2. Boise State needs to lose. They have upcoming games against Utah State, at Idaho, at Nevada and at home against Fresno State. In other words, I am now a huge Nevada Wolfpack/Fresno State Bulldog fan.

3. BYU needs to beat Utah. Utah, if they continue winning, will be a top five team when BYU rides thick into SLC. Beating Utah would not only give us a huge boost, but it would knock off the one remaining non-BCS team ahead of us (providing both No. 1 and No. 2 above happen).

I will say, though, that none of those conditions matter if BYU loses. BYU needs to win every single game left on their schedule without hiccups--convincingly, if possible. If ever there is a time for BYU to start playing defense, it's now.

But... I think there's definitely a reason to hope again for us BYU fans. Do you believe?

Pick 'em update: CSU

We all underestimated CSU's offense this week. And some of you underestimated BYU's. All I know is, 87 total points and almost 1,000 combined yards later, the scores for the ASB Pick 'em players are a little low this week.

Add that to the fact that I was too busy to send out reminder emails, so a few of you out there never sent me your picks.

Clearly, there are some out there that are playing for keeps, and those that have just given up.

That being said, here are this week's high rollers:

Knips - 27
Rod-Dawg - 27
Seth - 27
Eliot - 23
Gus - 23
Travis - 23
Aaron, Cousin of Trevor - 20
Ali - 20
Andy - 20
Becky - 20
Boyle - 20
BUS - 20
Cindy - 20
Jeremy - 20
JonathanD - 20
Justin - 20
Katie - 20
KO - 20
Mars - 20
Rock - 20
Trizz - 20
Ty - 20

Next week: BYU's final home game against SDSU. You have until game time to send me your picks. Ready... GO!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Happy about the win

I hope everyone had a good and decent Halloween, attending your various parties and werewolf bar mitzvahs.

I had a great weekend, thanks in large part to the events of Saturday afternoon.

I’m talking specifically, now, about BYU’s dramatic come-from-behind, last-minute, this-win-shouldn’t-be-this-close win over Colorado State.

I know there were a lot of negatives about that game on Saturday—our entire defense, for example—but I’d like to focus today on the positives of yesterday’s win. Why? Because as I was driving home after the game, that’s all I could think about. While I was watching, sure, I was pulling my chest hair out yelling at the defense for doing everything wrong. And yes, I was silently preparing to make a J.J. DiLuigi voodoo doll after his fumble, but after the game I was just happy we won.

Look for some posts later this week detailing my immense heartache concerning BYU’s defense, but today is a happy day.

Specifically, I was all smiles about Max Hall and his game-winning drive.

That was a great drive, and I didn’t fully realize it until after the game.

What we witnessed on Saturday was a very special thing. We saw a tough-as-nails quarterback lead his team the length of the field in a handful of plays, completely dissecting the defense, taking his time, cool and composed and ending the drive with a game-winning touchdown.

Hall was as cool as the tile in your bathroom in the middle of the night.

He bulleted passes to Unga, Collie and Pitta without even blinking. He knew he was winning that game. That last drive brought out the Max Hall we all know and love. It was that drive that reminded me how much I like that guy.

(What did you think of the tile simile? Did it work for you?)

Hall ended the day with 389 yards, 5 TDs and 1 INT. Whose fault was that INT, by the way? Hall’s or Kariya’s for turning around when Hall let the pass go? Please discuss.

Anyway, I know these nailbiters are going to give some of us some premature heart complications, and I know the fact that we are just barely beating teams like CSU and UNLV is worrisome, but I very much enjoyed that game yesterday. I enjoyed our win, and I’m looking forward to a much-needed break next Saturday when BYU hosts 1-8 San Diego State in our final home game.