This is not the first or even second time that the BYU Cougars have started a season 1-2. In both 2006 and 2007 Coach Mendenhall's Cougars started out 1-2 and in similar fashion. In 2006 BYU lost on the road to an average Arizona Wildcat team beat a decent Tulsa team and then lost on the road to a very good Boston College. In 2007 BYU beat a below average Arizona team, lost on the road to a decent UCLA team and lost on the road to a good Tulsa team. Enter 2010...BYU beats a below average Washington team, loses on the road to a very good Air Force team and lost on the road to a good Florida State Seminole squad. So why is this year different?
You have already read all the comparisons about graduating players and "lack of experience" going into the seasons. What people have failed to write about in those instances is that the 2006 defense was very experienced as was the 2007 defense. This year BYU is trying to replace play makers on both sides of the ball. What has that led to?
In 2006 and 2007 BYU lost two low scoring contests and two high scoring contests (one in each season) but had a chance to win the game late in both cases. This year the losses have been routes. To this point BYU has had either no answers or no fight in the second half. I am having a hard time deciding which one it is.
Is all lost? NO! Come on Cougars...Rise and Shout!...On we go to Vanquish the Foe! Don't give up just yet Cougar Nation. I see some great bright spots that we can build on in the next few weeks, we just have to learn and improve at an increased pace.
Issue #1: Get the ball to your play makers
JJ DiLuigi has been a spark plug for our offense, but not when we become one dimensional. We have to be able to throw the ball more effectively in order to soften up the defense and not allow them to pack the box against JJ. That leads us to MacKay Jacobson. He is by far the best receiver we have, but our QBs can't seem to get him the ball. He is primarily a deep threat, so Riley Nelson will struggle with the strength to attack down field. Jake Heaps' accuracy is a big question mark, but I think it will improve as he settles in more. That being said, he is camping out a little too much in the pocket. Hopefully Coach Doman is working on getting Jake to progress through his reads quicker so he can get rid of the ball. Being able to watch the game live and watch the routes progress, I was able to see a couple times we could have hit MacKay down field. But without another threat, double teams will neutralize MacKay also.
Issue #2: Tackle
Our defense is not tackling. They are falling into the NFL habit of diving at ankles instead of squaring up on a guy and hitting him in the chest. We had FSU in a 3rd and forever and threw a little dump pass to the RB who ran down the sideline stepping over diving cougars on his way to a first down. What was frustrating about that was that a little nudge of a shoulder pad would have forced him out of bounds sort of the line, but everyone decided that diving would help them avoid unnecessary contact.
Issue #3: Intensity/Urgency
I would love to see the BYU defense play as hard and as emotional as they did in the first half of the FSU for four quarters. I would also like to see the offense go back to more hurry up. That is where Heaps seemed to flourish, and I think it is because it forced him to be an athlete and not think. When we are huddling, or taking time to let him analyze things at the line, I think he is just thinking too much and becoming tense, hence throws that are just out of reach. It's a little backwards thinking but I really believe that a hurried Heaps, with no audibles/thinking, is more effective, because he is athletic enough to get it done, and there is a sense of urgency to get rid of the ball.