07 September 2008

BYU at Washington

So BYU beat Washington today.

I'm not sure if you'd heard yet, seeing as to how ESPN's coverage of the game has unexplainably focused on an excessive celebration penalty assessed against Washington QB Jake Locker with two seconds left in the game. 

I'll cover that quickly before moving on to the more important stuff.

The college football rulebook states that after a touchdown, the player who scored must either a.) hand the ball to the ref or b.) place the ball on the ground where he was down. 

The rule goes on to explain that an example of how to break this rule is "throwing the ball high in the air." 

Note the rule is not about throwing the ball high (or how high, if you're a senile Lou Holtz). The rule is about giving the ball to the ref or placing it on the ground.

Locker scored a touchdown on third down with two seconds left by scampering past four BYU defenders who were apparently wearing shoes made of concrete (I'll rant more about this later). 

As he entered the endzone, he underhand threw the ball about 20 feet into the air and jumped around as his teammates surrounded him. 

Now, going back to the rule, did Locker either a.) hand the ball to the ref or b.) place the ball on the ground where he was down? 


As a result, the refs called an unsportsmanlike penalty against Washington, pushing their game-tying extra point attempt to a 35-yard field goal. 

This was apparently the biggest travesty in the history of western civilization. 

I'm going to make three points and be done with the whole thing.

  1. This was a call made by PAC-10 refs in a PAC-10 stadium. There is no way on earth they wanted BYU to win the game. What happened is the refs realized they had only called two penalties on Washington all game, despite obviously missing several egregious holds by Washington lineman. The needed to make the final box score look like they'd called a fair game, so an official threw the flag on the excessive celebration, figuring it wouldn't hurt the Huskies. 
  2. It shouldn't have. You're a PAC-10, BCS team playing an MWC team at home. A 35-yard, straightaway field goal is a chip shot. For your line to get absolutely destroyed and the kick easily blocked is embarassing. This is the play that won the game for BYU. Not the penalty. To say the unsportsmanlike call removed Washington's chance to go into overtime is simply incorrect.
  3. Those arguing that the call was "inexcusable," "pathetic" and "horrendous," (thanks, Mark May and Kirk Herbstreit) are way off base. The crux of the matter is that everyone is used to the old version of the unsportsmanlike rule, where factors such as "premeditated," "prolonged," and "taunting" come into play. The problem is that TODAY, not handing the ball to the ref or placing the ball on the ground is a penalty. Period. Completely independent of whether or not the celebration was premeditated or taunting or anything else. Those who have a problem with the play have a problem with the rulebook. Take it up with the NCAA and get it changed; don't take the credit away from BYU for a game they won.

On to game thoughts:

I still worry about Hall's long ball. His touchdown pass to Collie in the first quarter was visibly underthrown, and the only reason it was complete is because Collie had so thoroughly beaten the Huskies' secondary. 

Unga looked great. It's amazing what you can do when you're not hit in the backfield every down. Harvey isn't especially fast, or especially quick, but he's pretty darn good at both. It's a fun combination to watch. That said, his fumble on the .02-yard line early in the fourth quarter really hurt. I know he likes to run people over, but sometimes it's okay to step around them, too.

Pitta is outstanding. NFL scouts are watching this guy. 10 receptions, 148 yards and a touchdown is as much as you can ever ask from a tight end. He had some great, tough catches that kept drives alive. 

BYU's defense was embarrassing. I blame both the coaches and the players for this. Coaches: how can you not put a linebacker or two on Locker? The number of times the seas parted for him and he scrambled straight down the field for 10 or 15 yards drove me crazy. Several times the ref was in better position to stop Locker than anyone wearing a BYU uniform. 

Secondly for the coaches, if you're going to rush four and drop eight, check to make sure your secondary coverage is actually doing something. During the Huskies' last touchdown drive, apparently Bronco felt like going soft prevent would be a good idea. Sadly, no. Despite BYU having eight guys is coverage, Locker was able to find receiver after receiver running wiiiiide open down the field. Luckily, Locker either made a poor throw or the receiver dropped the ball on most of these ocassions, but BYU's defense was so consistently bad, Washington was able to score anyway.

Bronco, BRING THE HEAT. If your linebackers are doing jack squat for your pass coverage, bring them to pressure Locker. He eventually did so, but far too late, in my opinion.

As for the players, BYU's linebackers and corners overestimated their own speed and underestimated Locker's all game. Several times Locker or another Washington player took off running and Cougar defenders were in decent position to make the tackle. However, they chose terrible pursuit angles and ended up behind the play. A better angle might not have sacked Locker or taken the running back down for a loss, but often would have stopped them from gaining more than one or two yards. Play smart, guys.

The other problem with the defense is that they are just slow. Washington had better team speed overall, and it burned BYU more than once. Sweeps, end-arounds, crossing routes in man coverage, etc. BYU won because they outexecuted the Huskies; it certainly wasn't because the Cougars were more talented.

And to revisit an earlier whine: I cannot believe the severity of the missed holding calls by the PAC-10 refs. Prior to the unsportsmanlike penalty and an offsides call on a meaningless onsides kick, the Huskies were assessed two total penalties. Two. One for intentional grounding and one for an illegal substitution on a PAT for five yards. Somehow Washington managed to make that kick.

There were at least three egregious holds by Washington offensive lineman during big plays by Locker. At least. Now, I understand that refs have a lot of things to watch for on any given play. I understand that if there is a large group of players around the quarterback they can't catch holds that may or may not occur.

But these holds took place as an offensive lineman clearly held a BYU player (and in some cases tackled him from behind), and these two players were the only ones near Locker. If the ref was watching the play, he saw the hold. And chose to do nothing about it. 

It's no wonder every team in the country hates playing PAC-10 teams at home. Just ask Oklahoma. 

That's all for tonight. I may rant more tomorrow. For now, let's just say UCLA scares me to death. 


Filbert Karo said...

Whatever I bet BYU will beat the Bruins.

Josh said...

WAY TOO MANY DANG HOLDING CALLS RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE REF, THE FSN crew How can you miss that? Unga's fumble cost us, and I agree. The defense looked awful.
Bronco should've blitzed. We still got 4 sacks, but should've had more. Locker is so hard to tackle. There were times when he got away from our tacklers. Washington's O-line just sucks. We almost blocked all of their other extra points. They hold a ton.

Steve-O said...


Seth said...

Worst part of it all, BYU dropped 3 spots in the top 25 poll. 'Nuff said.