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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Revenge proves sweet

Last year hurt. No cougar fan can deny it. A 31-16 thumping by their in state rival (not the guys up north), but the guys farther up north humbled the cougars into a turning point of last season.

This season could use something of the same, only for the other squad this year.

BYU is still looking for an offense to show its face. Their defense has provided them plenty of opportunities only to see young quarterback Jake Heaps falter in his moments to shine. Overthrows to wide open receivers, quick reads and check downs, and complete disarray are only a few of the issues present in the young signal caller.

I dont see a problem arising with BYU's defense. Yes, Utah State can run with the best of them. In fact, 316 ypg on the ground is good for 5th best in the country. The cougar defense's strength is against the run. But tomorrow, it is going to have to be for a whole half. The exact opposite of the Texas game, and a good replica of the UCF game is what needs to be put together.

The Aggies defense shouldn't be one a super pestering one. Texas was more athletic. Ole Miss was more Athletic, UCF was a national power. Utah, well the utah game we can just forget. As should these cougars.

When it all comes down, USU has some play makers on both sides of the ball. The thing is though, so does BYU. Heaps has just got to find them, and deliver strikes like we know he is capable. If he does that, I really can say I think this will be another turning point in this season.

Heaps hits a stirde early with quick screens and quick reads. Builds his confidence against a relatively weak USU secondary. He amasses his second career 300 yard game, and the ground game provides another adequate performance with 135 yards on the ground (JJ Di Luigi w/ 73 yards and a score through the air).

BYU proves its offense can finally score and takes home the 'W': 34-17

Friday, September 23, 2011

Game Ball: Special Teams and Defense

For once, the turnover gods smiled upon the Cougars. After a historic night just six days ago when BYU gave up 7 turnovers, Bronco Mendenhall's defense forced two turnovers and the special teams picked up a muffed punt inside the blue zone.

Although the defense gave up a handful of big plays, they came up big when it counted, holding several long drives to field goal attempts, forcing a fumble after a long pass over the middle, and coming up with a timely interception on the three yard line near the end of the game. After his horrible performance, Jake Heaps owes every one of those guys a steak dinner.

But the special teams are who really showed up Friday night. Kickoffs consistently went to the
back of the endzone, punt coverage was great (resulting in the aforementioned muff), the field goal coverage team forced a miss, and, of course, Cody Hoffman ran back BYU's first kickoff return for a touchdown in thirteen years.

Questions, if not emergencies, remain on the offensive side of the ball, but this team can be proud of the defensive and special teams play on Friday night.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Season at stake after Mauling

Lets face it. The BYU cougars are just not that good. In fact, I'm venturing to say they are borderline bad. Now, I wont claim that just yet, but I think next week against UCF will tell us if that is indeed true.

The Utah game analysis is hard to begin. Where do you start? The third snap of ball game, thrown 3 feet to Heaps right which he failed miserably to handle that resulted in a Utah defensive touchdown? The continued first half success's that melt once the 30 minute mark comes? The defense that is so amazingly great, yet hasn't recorded a sack yet this season?

Lets start with them in just that order. After which we will see who is responsible for the embarrassment the guys in blue took this weekend from, yes they are, big brother up north.

That snap from center Terrance Brown to Jake Heaps was bad. Its as simple as that. It wasn't even in the arm stretch vicinity of Heaps. Every single game there has been center/quarterback exchange problems. Bobbled snaps, Heaps mishandling them, snap counts misread. You name it and the "battery" of college football is not been reading the same signs so far this season for the cougars. Whose fault does this one come down to? Brown. He is responsible for getting the play in motion smoothly, and he utterly failed at this on Saturday. It baffled me how on the next possession BYU went back to the shotgun, instead of staying under center where the exchange is much more safe. Or so one would think.

Next up is how BYU continues to show they cannot put a full game together. In fact, they have yet to manage a full game through 3 games combined. Against Ole Miss, the first 3 quarters was a struggle to get anything done. Offense wasnt moving, resulting in not rewarding the defenses efforts of giving up merely field goals. The one time BYU was threatening, Heaps threw w pick-6. They finally responded with about 10 minutes to go with a touchdown from Heaps to Apo, and capped it off with a great defensive effort by Kyle Van Noy to get their sole victory. Total time of good football: 10 minutes (rounded)

Against Texas, they had a dominating first half where they moved the football and confused Garrett Gilbert right out of the game. The defense was hitting hard, and the offense was moving. Now the offense didnt punch it in the endzone, but they went into half time with a 10 point lead, and tons of confidence. The second half was the complete opposite. The offense gained a total of 65 yards through 30 minutes, and only had 3 points to show for it. The defense was on the field too long, giving up more and more yardage to Texas' ground game, and gave away that 10 point lead on their way to a hard to swallow 17-16 defeat at the hands of the longhorns. Total time of good football: 30 minutes (1 half)

Then we come to the massacre known as Saturday September 17, 2011. Setting aside the first mishap 2:14 seconds into the game, the offense moved the ball magnificently. However, the trend continued of stalled drives and fumbled opportunities. The defense gave Utah's offense fits, and were hitting what seemed to be harder than ever. Heaps connected with the only guy to score a touchdown so far this year for the cougars, to take the lead with just under 7 minutes to go in the first half. All BYU had to do was not let Utah get in  the endzone, since they had the ball to start the second half, and BYU looked to be in good shape. But they gave up a score, and had another possession with just a few ticks left in the half. Poor clock management at the end of the half again could have cost the cougars more if weren't for a great punt from Riley Stephenson to end the half. Then the second half snowballed into a fumbling mess, and poor defense, resulting in the result that ended BYU's 4 game home win streak and sent cougar fans home wondering what just hit them. Total time of good football: 23 minutes (roughly)

So all in all, BYU has put together 63 minutes (roughly) of good enough football to win 3 games which totals 180 minutes on the gridiron.  Any questions?

And the final point, our defense is getting over hyped. The cougars are yet to record a sack so far this season, and have a -43 point margin to show for their efforts. Going up against and NFL size offensive line at Ole Miss probably didnt help. And a Big XII powerhouse OL probably just compounds the issue. On top of that, you have a "Pac-12" offensive line that has been opposite of BYU pass rushers. Excuses. This defense has the talent, has the size, and has the speed to get back there. But they haven't. Even Montana State sacked Jordan Wynn twice. Yet Romney Fuga, Van Noy, and Pendleton haven't brought a QB down for a loss yet. This defense has got to find a way to get pressure on the signal callers, or this "great defense" will just be another athletic squad that under achieves.

As for the fumbles... WOW

Friday, September 16, 2011

Who is big brother?

The rivalry game comes early this year, but not without its story lines and questions

The offenses for both squads seems to be squandering and the defenses are the strength. The quarterbacks are both playing at a level that was significantly lower than expected, and yet their teams are performing well enough.

For the Utes, Jordan Wynn continues to reveal he is not as good as Ty Detmer. Against Montana state in their opening game, Wynn threw for 101 yards... Look at that closely and consider the fact that he complete 15 of his 23 passes. For 101 yards? That's an average of 6.7 yards per completion against Montana State.

Looks like the guys up north have more problems on offense than "big brother" down south. However, has BYU maintained its "big brother" status, or has Utah taken that away from them.

There are those that say that Utah is now the elder sibling, considering their entrance into two BCS games, and winning them both. They are in an AQ conference, and seem to be the only team of the two that can conduct a blowout in the usually close rivalry game.

For this years rivalry bash, I believe BYU can re-establish their status, and get their season rolling in the right direction with a win over Utah tomorrow. However, the defense and offense have to do things that they haven't done since last December against UTEP.

First lets start on the defensive side of the ball. BYU's defense is yet to produce a sack against an opposing quarterback. They have a couple of interceptions, and are only allowing a couple of yards per carry. Their strength, the front seven, have got to get pressure on Wynn who has shown in the past to have a quick trigger and not necessarily accurate. Getting under his skin, in the confines of LES would be huge for the offense to get some momentum, and bring in some points.

Also for the defense, I think BYU needs to a turnover later in the game. Utah never seems to go away, and they seem to develop some sort of momentum out of no where when they need it most. BYU has never had a defense with this kind of ability, in my opinion, and this is the year that I think if the defense can disallow Utah momentum, will allow for a big game.

On the offensive side of the ball, BYU has got to take shots down the field. The offensive line has got to give Heaps time to throw the ball down field to play-makers like Apo and Hoffman. Breaking down a secondary will be huge. There are those that say that starting with the run will open up the pass. I tend to agree with that. However, not in this game, I think it needs to be the opposite. I think the passing game, which by BYU standards has been quite anemic, needs to be opened up first to allow the running game to be legitimate.

Heaps has got to get other guys involved. He needs to allow routes to develop, and for that to happen the offensive line has got to hold. I don't see a reason why this couldn't happen. If it does, I really do expect BYU to win tomorrow. I think BYU has more to play for, and Utah is not that good. Jordan Wynn is not what he has been hyped for, and their offense is struggling just like BYU's.

Final score:   BYU 27   Utah 17

Utah seems to get one big play a year, and this year I don't see being any different. The only difference between this year and years passed is how the defense responds to it. I think this years defense responds in a big way with a turnover the next series, allowing for the cougar offense to establish a new lead that won't be relinquished.

Running Game to Blame, not Heaps, Doman

Jake Heaps is having a horrible start to the season. Right? Wrong. Well, at least not in comparison to his first two starts last year.

An objective comparison of Heaps' statistics in his first two starts last season to the first two games of this season shows that he is not the real (or only) reason for the offense's failures. No, it's not Doman, either. Who is it? It's the running game.

Here are the stats: In Heaps' first two starts last year, he went 42/77 for 395 yards. This year, Heaps is 46/76 for 417 yards, an improvement on percentage and yardage.

And for the Doman critics, like Little Bro in his recent post, look at this interesting stat: In Heaps' first start against Utah State Anae called 55 passing plays. Fifty-five. The next week against SDSU he called a mere 22 passing plays. In contrast, Doman called 38 passing plays in both of the first two games this year. Doman didn't call a perfect game, but at least he was consistent. Additionally, Doman came within 2 points of beating Texas defenses while Anae lost in a blowout to Utah State.

The real culprit is the running game. In the first two games last year, the Cougars ran for a whopping 336 yards on 86 attempts. This year BYU has rushed for a dismal 143 yards (almost half the total for last year's SDSU game alone) on 54 attempts. That's a difference of almost 130 yards in those two games.

This comparison is compelling because the Cougars went 1-1 in both stretches. It is especially interesting because this year's first two opposing defenses (Ole Miss and Texas) were much more athletic and physical than the first two defenses of last year (Utah State and SDSU). Yet, Heaps managed a few more yards this year than he did last year against inferior opponents. It appears that the SEC and Big XII defenses had a much larger impact on the rushing game than the passing game.

Some of you are reading this saying, "Yeah, but BYU had 271 rushing yards in that SDSU game. It's not fair to compare statistics to an anomaly like that." Fair enough. But last year the Cougars averaged 168 rushing yards per game with essentially the same running backs and offensive line. The Cougars haven't even rushed for 168 total yards in two games. In other words, even if BYU rushed for its average against SDSU, then it still would have reached 233 yards in Heaps' first two games, and that's 90 more yards than this year's total.

Look. Doman made some bad calls and Heaps made some bad decisions. But to blame the offense's ineptitude solely on them is unfair and empirically inaccurate. Give the rookie coach and sophomore quarterback a break. The running game is going to have to step up at home against Utah if they are going to win that game and avoid a repeat of Heaps' third start: a 31-3 loss to TCU.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Anemic offense lacks DOMANation

I love Brandon Doman. Loved him as a player, loved him as a QB coach. But boy oh boy the guy has got to figure out how to call a football game.

He has way too many skilled players around him, and way to good of a quarterback to be throwing dump off passes and draw plays. He has got to figure it out quick, or I'm jumping off his bandwagon very very quickly. 

His play calling in the second half against Texas was; abysmal, horrific, terrible, horrendous, pathetic, predictable, among others. He did not make in game adjustments, as Texas did and refused to divert from his gameplan.

Now, most of you are probably thinking that it is "too early" to grade Doman effectively or even fairly. Others of you might be saying that the competition was really just that good. Then there are those of you that say I am just to pesemistic and not being realistic. Lets take a look at the facts shall we.

Through 2 games, Domans offense has averaged 11.5 points (the team thanks to a defensive touchdown is a measly 15). Jake Heaps has thrown for a total of 412 yards in the first two games, averaging 206 ypg. Along with that, he has thrown 3 interceptions to only 2 touchdowns. Now those two touchdowns thrown by Heaps, both to Ross Apo, are the only offensive touchdowns the cougars have to show for the 2011 campaign to date. No receiver has a 100 yard game yet. In fact, no receiver through 2 games has even accumulated a total over 90 yards receiving (Apo leads the team with 86 yards). On top of that, no single receiver has had more than 4 catches in a game. Apo had 4 against Ole Miss, and led the team. Hoffman on the season has 3 catches for 20 yards. If your jaw didnt drop after reading those last two lines, then you dont understand the talent those two guys have.

Heaps is completing only 60% of his passes, with 3 more completions to the other team (3 INT's). With that, his composure in the pocket is rattled and unsure. He checks down to his bail outs way to quickly, and hasnt been accurate on intermediate routes so far this season. Heaps has yet to have a 300 yard game in his young hyped career. He needs one soon to get his team rolling.

The running game has produced a grand total of 134 yards through two games, and no scores. Di Luigi has a total of 95 yards rushing through the first two contests with a respectable 3.7 yard average. The next leading rusher is Bryan Kariya has 35 yards on 11 carries (3.2 avg). This running attack was one of the best rushing attacks in BYU history last year racking up over 2000 yards on the ground between the three primary backs. This year, they can't hit their holes and they try and dance around quicker LBs and DBs to get outside, and it just isnt working.

I am officially retracting my statement made earlier about how this offense could be the best offense in BYU history. The talent is there, but the discipline and execution most certainly is not.

BYU has an offensive line that could match anyone's in the entire country, I have all the confidence in the world saying that. Their line has held up decently against fast SEC and Big XII opponents, with Heaps getting sacked just 3 or 4 times. However, their lack of opening holes for our running backs has depleted an offense that relies on a balanced attack that has yet to be recognized.

The only reason BYU was even in the game on Saturday at Texas was because of their defense. This BYU defense has proven to be stellar and will keep BYU in games all season, as has been noticed through 2 weeks.

My message to Doman: Cody Hoffman still exsists and still can make plays. Your tight ends have shown they can catch the ball, and get open. Di Luigi is too slow around the edge against SEC/Big XII teams, Juice Quezada needs more touches, and Jake Heaps needs to have the ball in his hands to make throws down field. These weapons need to be utilized in space, not 3 yards off the line of scrimmage where linebackers await their prey. Hoffman was a star last year that has been basically all but forgotten. Jake Heaps has a cannon that on 5 yard button hooks is not be utilized and is therefore destroying his confidence in his throwing ability. Di Luigi needs to get the ball 10 yards away from the line, in space behind the linebackers to be truly effective. Apo needs to be used in more than just long routes and touchdowns. Get him involved in slants and outs to make the defense respect his all around abilities.

Another thing, the tempo of the offense stepped up slightly from last week. However, it is still too slow. The slow tempo allows the defense to settle in, substitute necessary personal and make adjustments from play to play. The cougars can't seem to make adjustments from quarter to quarter, so what makes them think that they are going to get better inside a 30 second huddle. This team needs to get to the line and force a tempo down the defenses throat to control the game. They have the line, they have the QB and they have the talent at the skill positions, its just be contained way to much.

BYU has too much talent that is being totally wasted and ignored by an offensive coordinator that is struggling mightily to grasp all the talent he has around him. He seems to be showing more signs of being a rookie than I expected. However, that does not give him a total pardon from his performance through 2 weeks. He has not shown any sign of learning from mistakes or opportunities, and I am yet to see how and or when he will.

I hope next week, against Utah, he figures out how to bring a sense of urgency and enthusiasm to LES, otherwise this could be last year all over again.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Deep ball could hurt BYU

Heaps has to respond with the best game of his young BYU career. There is no question about it.

After an opening day win, Heaps admits it was a disappointing performance by himself as well as the rest of the offense.

The cougars will face probably one of their better opponents in week 2, a Big XII powerhouse in the longhorns. Now, they had a down year last year, posting just a 5-7 record and missed a bowl game for the first time in 12 years. But that was last year. Cougars fans are fast to forget that just last year they were a lowly 1-4 before turning the season around half way through the campaign.

Make no mistake, Texas won't be down for long, and this could be a perfect springboard game for either side. Both teams are coming off less than desirable week 1 victories over Ole Miss and Rice, respectively. Now in Texas' 34-9 win over the owls, they did manage to post over 500 yards of offense, to BYU's respectable 316 yards from scrimmage.

BYU corners will play a vital role
against Texas's receivers.
The way for BYU to keep this game in their grasp is something they have struggled throughout their history, defend the deep ball. It has been well documented and seems to be the general consensus that Texas QB Garrett Gilbert struggles with the short to intermediate routes. They need to force those kinds of throws on the young signal caller. That also allows the defensive playmakers for the cougars to step up, the linebackers. Forcing the longhorn defense into the teeth of the BYU defense will be key for a cougar victory.

The corners for the cougars were relatively untested against Ole Miss. However, when they were they got beat, but just got lucky the ball wasn't hauled in. Texas has young play makers in Jaxon Shipley (Jordan Shipley's younger brother) and new recruit Malcom Brown. Brown is someone that could give the cougars a fit. Brown will be utilized in a very similar fasion that BYU uses JJ Di Luigi. Look for that key matchup, the cougars LBs and the longhorn backfield.

However, in order for that matchup to really have a true effect on the game, the coverage will decide the outcome.

The one thing the cougars DBs did a great job of in week one was tackling. Bronco mentioned numerous times his delight in that arena, however also expressed his displeasure in their overall coverage.That will have to be better, in order for the cougars to disappoint 101,000 burnt orange faithful.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Heaps Wasn't THAT Bad

After three quarters of scoreless football on Saturday night, anxious cougar fans started having flashbacks of quarterback Jake Heaps at the beginning of the 2010 season. A sophomore, he looked his age, making bad decisions and missing his targets. Cougar fans' frustration peaked when Heaps threw an interception in the blue zone that was returned 96 yards for a touchdown (the only touchdown scored by the Rebels).

But it wasn't that bad, and here's why:

First of all, BYU came away with the win. Although the win is mostly credited to the defense that did not allow an offensive touchdown, you can't undervalue a W on the road against an SEC opponent.

Second, Heaps was able to gather himself after throwing the interception and come back with a touchdown throw to the correct team; a 19-yard completion to redshirt freshman Ross Apo.

Finally, and most importantly, Heaps' performance was not abysmal as most fans probably think. His 63% completion percentage was certainly sub-par, but nothing to panic over. He showed an ability to make throws on the run on roll-out plays. His touchdown and 25-yard completions to Apo showed that when he calms down he can make big throws.

Now don't take this the wrong way. I am not excusing the many mistakes Heaps committed tonight. He would be the first to tell you that he has a lot of work to do in the film room and that this win belongs to the defense.

But if last year was any kind of indication of what to expect, Heaps will continue to improve and his team will be just fine. He didn't play that great, but don't blame him too much for the team's struggles tonight.

Friday, September 2, 2011

BYU wins Saturday IF...

Saturday cannot come fast enough for cougar fans and college football fans alike. This Saturday marks a historic game for the BYU faithful, as the path of Independence starts in Oxford Mississippi against Ole Miss. Being a season opener, anything can happen (and probably will). So here are the keys to how both teams can come out on top and start their season on the right foot.

3 Keys to BYU win: 

Execute. Bronco's favorite verb to use when talking about what they need to do to be successful. It has never been more true. BYU won't have better athletes on the field against Ole Miss, but they will have experience and fundamentals. If BYU limits turnovers and runs their revamped offense like they can, they will come out on top.

Stop the Run. The Rebels are going to be a run heavy offense, riding the back of senior running back Brandon Bolden (pre-season all SEC running back). Having a new quarterback to break in, makes the play book a little smaller, thus making it a little more predictable. This also plays into the cougars defensive prowess, the front 7. Look for the LB's the be active and to make some noise early.

Get to Brunetti. A young quarterback, is  a vulnerable quarterback. The pass rush of BYU has never really been their calling card. However, if BYU can put pressure on the young signal caller and force him to make mistakes, the Rebels could be in for a long long day.

3 Keys to Ole Miss win:

Roll with Bolden. Ride your senior running back as much as BYU will let you. He is the most proven form of offense returning from a rough 2010. If he gets behind the massive offensive line and finds the holes, the BYU defense will get tired really fast in the humid environment of the deep south.

Create turnovers on Defense. BYU's offense is good. In fact, they are really good. Weapons are anywhere and everywhere for Jake Heaps to get the pigskin too. If Ole Miss can find a way to snag a pass, or cause a fumble and thus create some home town momentum, that could be a huge thing for an offense that I just dont see as one that can march down the field 80 yards and score.

Clock Management. If they are able to succeed with the first key, then this one should come right along with it. Running the ball successfully will help keep the BYU offense off the field and create more opportunities for a lower scoring game.  If this gets into a shootout, I believe BYU is better equipped for such a game and would come out on top. Keeping the cougar offense off the field is how you keep points of the board.

WHO WINS: I just dont see Ole Miss having an offense that can outshoot BYU's. The cougars have too many returning weapons on the wings and up the gut. Ole miss is returning one of the worst defenses in the SEC last year, and still missing the piece necessary to be successful on that side of the ball. Jake Heaps ended 2010 hot and has even more weapons at his disposal, not to mention a full spring and summer with all the reps with the first team. The only offensive weapon Ole Miss has (proven anyways), plays right into BYU's defensive strength, the front seven. I see a couple mistakes early for both teams, usual for season openers, but BYU's being of less impact. 

PREDICTION: BYU 30   Ole Miss  17