BYU Football: They are who we THOUGHT they were!

J.D. Falslev doin' what he do

It happens every year. We fans develop overblown expectations about the BYU football team throughout the spring and summer and then we are brought crashing back to earth in the opener when that game reveals the painful reality that the team isn't as spectacular as we convinced ourselves it would be.

But a funny thing happened Thursday night Lavell Edwards Stadium -- BYU football lived up to expectations.

Sure, there were Cougar fans who were brought back to earth Thursday, but they were the WSU Cougar fans. Fans of the BYU Cougars had every reason to be thrilled with the 2012 team after the opener. Here are some thoughts on the performance:

Overall Defense

  • Three cheers for unsportsmanlike penalties on the defense! I know it was popular on Twitter to claim that the unsportsmanlike calls against the BYU defense were a problem, but I disagree. The flags were simply symptoms of the fact that this defense is full of bad, bad men who won't be trifled with.
  • Several of those calls against the defense were bogus anyway. Jordan Johnson didn't back down from some cocky WSU receiver and got a flag. Lame. Joe Sampson slapped some fool's paw away in a pileup and got a flag. Lame.
  • Of course in the end, what did the flags against the defense cost? Answer: Nada. WSU scored no touchdowns. WSU was completely shut out in the second half. And by the second half WSU's offensive players were completely defeated mentally. BYU showed them who the Alpha Cougars were. Getting those penalties was part of that. The BYU defensive players are who we thought they were.

Defensive Line

  • I've seen lots of BYU fans on Twitter saying that the pressure on the WSU QB was a problem. I disagree. BYU only used two defensive linemen much of the game and generally rushed them and one linebacker on pass plays. With five linemen blocking three BYU rushers that left eight BYU defenders back to cover five WSU receivers. This strategy worked marvelously (see the scoreboard). What impresses me is that BYU managed to get all those sacks using this strategy.
  • Ziggy Ansah showed off some of that natural talent we've been hearing about. The kid is an athletic rarity for sure. Looks like he is who we thought he was. He is already good at getting to the QB -- now he just needs to get better and taking the QB down.

Linebackers

  • It takes an extraordinary player to meet or exceed massive expectations. Kyle Van Noy did just that. He is who we thought he was. With two sacks Van Noy is off to a great start. At this rate he's on pace for 26 sacks this season...
  • Spencer Hadley is a tremendous player as well. If Van Noy weren't such a freakishly good player Hadley would get more attention. Fua acquitted himself well too.
  • Middle linebackers Kaveinga and Ogletree are excellent run stoppers. They are average pass defenders. With that in mind both played very well against this pass-happy WSU offense.

Defensive backs

  • I saw some WSU fans online scoffing at Jordan Johnson's comments that if he had to be on an island he had confidence he could get the job done. Who's laughing now? Johnson is who we thought he was.
  • Remember how lots of us fans came to believe that this was the fastest, most athletic BYU defensive backfield in recent memory? Turns out they are who we thought they were.

Overall Offense

  • We expected the BYU offense to be somewhat better than the late 2011 version of the offense. That's what we got. Faster, stronger running backs overall. Better tight end play. Better passing and decision-making from Riley Nelson. Better depth at receiver.

Offensive line

  • Coming into the season there was some concern about the offensive line. The concern was mostly that they were nothing special. Based on the first game it appears they are who we thought they were. Serviceable, adequate, generally competent, but not particularly noteworthy. They did an average job of protecting Nelson on passing plays. They were mediocre at opening holes in the middle. But it appeared the problems running up the gut had a lot to do with WSU's choice to clog up the middle all game. The offensive line did better than average on several run plays outside of the tackles though. Hopefully that is a byproduct of them getting into better shape for this season.

Quarterback

  • Riley is who we thought he was. Nelson is a tough, intense, winning quarterback. He put up solid passing numbers and led BYU to a blowout win -- not much more we could hope for. I will say that Nelson has had tremendous luck in his last several games with defenders dropping potential interceptions. Hopefully he will be even more accurate going forward so he won't have to count on that lucky streak continuing...
  • I was thrilled to see Taysom Hill come in and throw a TD in his first college play. He's the QB of the future for BYU so it is hard to imagine a better way to start his career. It appears Hill is who we thought he was.

Running backs

  • Alisa looks faster and more confident this year. Foote continues his incredible string of breaking off long runs. And true freshman Jamaal Williams showed some terrific toughness in gaining yards after getting hit. The future looks very bright at the RB position. They are who we thought they were.

Tight ends

  • How about that Keneakua Friel? Rises from 5th string tight end and puts on a Pitta-like performance in the 2012 opener. In this case he is better than we thought he would be.
  • Speaking of not being who we thought... what happened to Marcus Matthews? Goes from expected tight end starter to not even playing? Odd. Maybe he was dropping too many passes in practice or something...

Receivers

  • Hoffman is still a beast out there. He is who we thought he was. And of course Skyler Ridley proved all that massive hype he has been given is justified... Ok, I kid. Ridley is not who we thought he was because most of us fans didn't ever even think anything about him at all. Kid made a real name for himself Thursday though.
  • JD Falslev is a real talent. He gets open and make LaDainian-Tomlinson-esque juke moves when he gets the ball in the open field. I love this kid more every time I see him. He has proven to be better than I thought he was.
  • Ross Apo was serviceable but not particularly noteworthy. That matches most reviews he was getting in fall camp.
One down, twelve to go

WSU was not expected to be one of the hard games on the schedule but still BYU fans have to feel pretty good about the potential of this team. Things are clicking for BYU already. Sure, BYU needs to convert in the "blue zone" better. But other than that there is not a lot to legitimately gripe about after game one. The reality is that there is no team on the 2012 schedule that is clearly superior to this BYU team. This BYU offense is good and likely to get better. And this BYU defense is fast, strong, surly, and deep. The 2012 BYU defense has potential to be truly great.

If this 2012 BYU football team does become truly exceptional they will prove to be who I think they are.


Now here's a little Dennis Green for y'all:

Dennis Green Goes Nuts (via asstdictator)


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