29 December 2010

Jazz at Clippers, second half

(See first half commentary here.)

1. I think Jefferson heard me in my last post. Immediately comes out and hits a nice jumper. Now has 14 points on 6-10 shooting.

2. Griffin passes well, too. Drove baseline, drew a defender and zipped it to a cutting Jordan, who was fouled. I think Blake is a better rookie than Karl Malone was. Complete package and just terrifying.

3. Hayward just hit a nice 3-pointer after missing his previous four shots. I dunno... still don't see him sticking in the league.

4. Griffin with another fantastic pass in the paint. If he's going to be an elite passer in addition to what he already is? He's going to destroy the league.

5. Hayward hits another 3. Nice, high, arcing shot. I am motivating Jazz players left and right.

6. Just had a discussion with my in-laws about when Griffin will start getting superstar calls. I say soon, as in this season.

7. Jefferson hits another pretty turnaround one-hander from the baseline. I'm going to badmouth him more often.

8. Eric Gordon hits from long range from the corner. Only shooting 33% from there on the season, but he's definitely a shooter. Clippers have nice pieces. Did I already say that?

9. Jazz just had about four shots in a row blocked inside. Interior defense is another good piece.

10. Deron for three from a foot or so behind the line. Need more of that from him. 36% from there on the season. Gotta pick it up a bit.

11. Another block, this time on Memo's shot. That's two the Turk has had sent back already. I like it when he drives, but too often that leads to him getting embarrassed. No hops.

12. Hayward hits another jumper to give the Jazz a 76-70 lead. Boy, is he terrible.

13. Clipper offense looking disorganized. Jazz took the lead and L.A. seemed to fall apart. Coaching? Vinny Del Negro doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

14. For as well as Fes played in the first half, he's yet to make an appearance in the second, and there's only 44 seconds left in the third quarter. Jefferson hits what is basically a set shot to give the Jazz a 79-70 lead.

15. Memo misses a three from the corner, hustles to get his own board and banks it off the glass with three seconds left in the quarter. Jazz up 11.

16. Blake with only three points in the third quarter, all from the free throw line.

17. Eric Bledoe for three. Another shooter for the Clippers. Jazz only up four, 81-77.

18. Ronnie Price sneaks in for an offensive board amongst the trees, and puts a missed Memo shot back in. Dang.

19. Blake with a nice block on an attempted Price layup, Hayward cleans it up for two more. The rookie with another three two plays later. Coming out party for Gordon? 15 points on 5-10 shooting so far.

20. Clippers settling for a lot of long-range shots right now. Jazz pulling away as Jefferson hits another shot. Utah up 13. Jefferson scores another, with harm, next time down the court. 26 points for Al to go with nine rebounds. Jazz 93-79.

21. Griffin trying to bring the Clippers back on his own. Don't think it's going to happen.

22. Baron for three, cuts the lead to nine with 5:22 left. Enough time?

23. Nope. Jefferson with another shot.

24. Griffin with a jaw-dropping spin move into a pretty push shot. Cannot guard him one-on-one.

25. Millsap and Griffin get tangled up on a rebound and earn a double technical. I think that was a bit of a hasty call from the ref. They were about to get up and run back down the court after exchanging a couple shots. Let it go.

26. Gordon feeling it, hits another jumper off a pass from Jefferson. Can he do this consistently? Or is this a Clippers thing?

27. Millsap with a fadeaway jumper on the baseline over Griffin to give him 12 points and 9 boards. Amazing when that kind of performance is kind of an afterthought. Jazz looking good.

28. Griffin almost gets his head stuck in the rim on an alley-oop from Baron. What more can you say?

29. Jazz up 99-90 with 2:00 to play. Since young T-Mac is not in the arena, I'd say the lead is safe.

30. Jefferson swallows up a Griffin inside shot, sends Blake to the ground. Ballgame.

31. Jefferson with the dagger. Hits a fadeaway in the paint for his 31st point to push the lead to 11, 103-92.

32. Griffin hits a three with 12 seconds left. Nice wrist flick, nothing ugly about that. Meaningless shot, but still.

Ho hum, yet another come-from-behind win for the Jazz. They love doing this, and it worries me. If the habit continues into the playoffs, watch for an early exit.

Deron finished with a fairly pedestrian 16 and 7 with five turnovers.

Jefferson with 31 and 10, 59% from the field and perfect from the line.

Fesenko never got back on the floor after halftime. Kind of a disappointment.

A good road win against a recently surging Clippers team. Nice way to come back from a disappointing loss to the Blazers in Salt Lake earlier this week.

Are these running commentary posts any fun? Let me know if you want to see more.

Jazz at Clippers, first half

Watching the Jazz play the Other L.A. team right now. Boy, I miss watching Jazz games. When I decided to go without cable a few months ago, I knew not having sports would be rough, but I figured I could get by with the NBA League Pass and random websites of questionable legality. Turns out the situation has been great except that I can't get Jazz games on the League Pass and finding games on the internets has been a lot harder than I thought it'd be.

Anyway, here are my thoughts on the game as I watch at my in-laws'.

1. Fesenko! I have loved his potential since I saw him in the Rocky Mountain Revue a couple years ago. His quickness is nuts for how big he is, but he's struggled a lot learning the game and harnessing his abilities. This season hasn't really been any different from most of his career (translation: he sits on the bench), but for some reason, Sloan decided to give him some play tonight and he's been awesome.

Perfect from the field on three shots, a super impressive block on Blake Griffin (we'll get to him in a bit) and he's adjusted a few other shots. I hope he can pull it together. He's been the key to beating the Lakers for the last few seasons, in my opinion.

2. Jefferson is a disappointment. I've been following box scores, and his 47% shooting is definitely a concern, but I hadn't been able to see how tentative he is until tonight. He takes too long in the post and relies too heavily on his little jump hook. I thought coming to Utah and playing with an actual point guard would help his game, but he's recessed. And as I typed that, he hit his third shot in a row. Hmm.

3. Blake Griffin in a beast. I know, he's the worst-kept secret in the NBA right now, but holy moley. Big, strong, quick, fearless and can jump out of the gym. He reminds me of Dwight Howard with much better footwork and understanding of how to score. He's a special, special player. Scoring 21 and pulling down 12 a game in what is essentially his rookie season? He'll be a great one for years to come.

4. And then there's DeAndre Jordan. Another guy on the Clips who can sky and throw it down. He just caught a lob from Baron Davis about a foot above the rim, two feet out and jammed it home with two hands.

5. Al-Farouq Aminu hit three shots in a row from deep at one point. Maybe after the first one, Jazz defenders, you should cover him a little more closely, eh? But not, the next two shots were completely uncontested. Shooting 46% from 3 in his first season. Do some homework, Utah.

6. Memo looked good in limited minutes in the first half. Wish he could play halfway decent defense, but it is not to be. I'm reading Bill Simmons' Book of Basketball right now, and he makes it a big point to discuss a player's impact on the defensive end when evaluating their impact on the league. Okur needs to be a 25+ points per game scorer to really make me feel like he's making up for his complete lack of effort on the other side of the floor.

7. Deron didn't seem very involved in the first half. But after checking the box score, he's got 10 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds. Maybe my expectations are too high.

8 The Clippers have some good pieces. If old man Baron Davis can play well, this is a potentially scary team down the road, if not this season.

Other random thoughts as I wait for the second half to begin.

-Watching the Lakers self-destruct against the Spurs last night was very fun to watch. Call me a hater, but every time Kobe goes into "I am awesome" mode, shoots 30 times, misses 22 of them and the Lakers lose badly it makes me happy.

-Boozer playing well for the Bulls. Paired with a good-to-great defensive center in Noah, that's a fantastic situation for him.

Second half comments next.

17 December 2010

Multi-topic post for the week

This week has been insane. And the craziness is not over yet. Long story short, my family has two weddings and a funeral, as well as Christmas, over the next two weeks.

So here are my thoughts on a variety of topics.

1. I care very, very little about BYU's bowl game tomorrow. I can't even tell you the name of it off the top of my head, though I do know they're playing UTEP and the game will be held in Albuquerque. How will Heaps look? That's pretty much all I care about.

2. The Obama Tax Compromise Bill (or whatever it's called) passed. Far as I can tell, lots of conservatives are mad, and lots of liberals are mad. In my opinion, that means it must be fairly good.

3. Seems those interested in running for president from the right wing in 2012 are starting to poke around. If the Republicans nominate Palin, I am done with them forever. In all honesty, no one I've seen interests me much at all. Maybe someone will come out of nowhere like Obama did in 2006.

4. The Heat are starting to figure things out. I knew their less-than-stellar start was no indication they'd fail all season. Mike Miller's return will be huge.

5. I was feeling great about the Jazz until tonight, when they got blitzed by 30 points in New Orleans. Outside shooting is definitely a concern, as CJ Miles is inconsistent, Raja is consistently mediocre (36% from downtown this season) and Hayward is not an NBA player. Another area of concern is that Al Jefferson is shooting 46% on the season when his career FG% is 50%. I hope he figures out what's wrong soon.

6. BYU basketball is fun to watch. I've caught a few games already this season, and their defense is absolutely stifling. I'd hate playing against these guys... there's just no room to do anything. Against Hawaii, the Warriors resorted to driving wildly into the lane and throwing the ball at the hoop as soon as any contact was made. That was their entire offense for minutes at a time. Jimmer is a stud.

No promises I'll be able to blog any more this week, or next week, for that matter. This might have to be a "see you after New Year's" kinda thing. I'll keep you updated.

11 December 2010

Ugly choke job followed by more choking

I know this is late, but gack the loss two weeks ago got to me.

Could BYU have done any more to give away that game?

At the start of the fourth quarter, the Cougars led 13-0, Utah's offense couldn't do anything and while the lead felt tenuous, it would take a lot of work for the Utes to come out ahead in the end.

Which they did.

The reasons why have been hashed out by many writers by now, and I can't shake the feeling that the Cougars put a bow on this game and gifted it to the Utes. A shanked punt goes off a BYU special teams player. As a BYU corner is being tackled after an interception, then having the ball ripped out somewhere in there and turning it over.

And then topping it all off by completely failing to block a Ute coming off the edge on the potentially game-winning field goal.

Just overall a gross way to lose.

The silver lining is that Jake Heaps' performance was better than any of Max Hall's three career games against Utah. The final drive where he was left with third and long more than once and made a play anyway was very encouraging.

A lot has been said for Anae's play calling, and while I'm not entirely convinced he's terrible, he does have some pretty predictable tendencies. Running it up the gut when you're down one with time running out and deep in your own territory is never smart.

Regardless, we put another chapter in the amazing story of BYU vs. Utah in the books. Here's hoping it can continue even with Utah in the PAC-Whatever and BYU independent in football.

Our winner for the 2010 Guess the Holy War Score 2010 Extravaganza was Steven, who submitted a score of 24-17, BYU. He got Utah's score exactly correct, and was just a touchdown and a two-point conversion away from getting BYU's. His guess that Heaps would pass for 200 yards was also darn close to Jake's actual stat of 228 yards.

So the Amazon.com gift card is his, and has been sent. Congrats!

I'll get back onto the blogging horse pretty soon. Expect a few rants on the NBA, politics and the weather over the next week or so.

26 November 2010

The Holy War, 2010 edition

Photo courtesy the Deseret News

It's been an interesting year for both BYU and Utah fans. While each team feels like they're at roughly the same spot, talent-wise, Utah got here by falling fast from a #5 national ranking, and BYU arrived where they are after firing defensive coordinator Jaime Hill and winning five of their next six games.

To simplify, neither team is outstanding this season. Utah's #20 ranking in the BCS standings seems a little inflated, and I believe BYU's improved defense puts them near the top 25.

Both teams have a young quarterback who has struggled mightily at times. Both teams have put up tons of points on lesser opponents and gotten blown out by the likes of TCU. Neither team has a 100-yard-per-game rusher, and neither team has a 100-yard-per-game receiver.

This makes it interesting for both defenses. There's no one to focus on... no Austin Collie to worry about or Alex Smith to try and gameplan for.

I believe this means that this year, maybe more than any in recent history, there's a great chance a relatively unknown player can be the hero for the winning team tomorrow.

And speaking of history, the last 15 years of this rivalry indicate that when both teams are relatively equal in terms of talent, it's a dogfight. So if 2009's overtime victory for BYU didn't give you a heart attack, this year's matchup might.

I've thought long and hard about who should win on Saturday, and for the longest time I just couldn't come up with an answer. If I thought Jordan Wynn was a better quarterback, I'd be afraid of him throwing every down and giving BYU's (typically) underwhelming secondary fits. As it is, I think he can be rushed and confused just enough to negate the fact that I have been afraid every time an opposing quarterback dropped back to throw deep against the Cougars this season.

Jake Heaps has looked pretty good these last few weeks, but Utah did a great job of destroying Max Hall the last three years, and Hall also looked great against middling teams. I am willing to bet Utah's defense will focus on confusing Heaps and making the game too fast for the true freshman, while living with the results from J.J. DiLuigi, Josh Quezada and Bryan Kariya.

I'd like to see BYU play ball control, pound the football. In 2008, Harvey Unga had his way with the Ute defense, but Hall's five interceptions were enough to give Utah a convincing win. If Bronco and his staff realize that Heaps is not going to win this game on his own, and put the game on the backs of their... uh... backs, I like BYU's chances.

On defense, watch for a swarming defense against Utah's running game. Since Hill's firing, BYU's opponents have rushed for an average of 77 yards per game. I think the Cougar defense can handle a straight-ahead running attack, but we all know Utah loves using reverses and other trickeration to take advantage of that fact. BYU's defenders need to be aggressive, but stay home on their assignments to account for the trick play.

My prediction: BYU 24, Utah 21.

As is tradition, I'm running the Guess the Score contest again. Leave your prediction for the final score in the comments, along with how many total yards passing yards for Heaps.

The winner gets $10, in cash or as a gift certificate to Amazon.com.

Good luck all, and go Cougars!

13 November 2010

Inspirational story

This feature was published in the 2010 Fall issue of Pontoon & Deck Boat magazine.

Access for the Disabled

Ex-firefighter seeks take boating to everyone

By Brandon Barrus

Tom Smurthwaite was once a firefighter in Rochester, New York. A backdraft explosion blew him down a set of stairs and crushed his back, giving him spinal nerve damage, and leaving him in constant pain. He’s unable to sit, and such an injury has limited many people to a life staring at the ceiling from bed.

However, Smurthwaite is not like most people. He decided that his injuries would not keep him from doing the things he loved, and with the help of friends, he designed and his friends modified two garden tractors, for doing yard chores. He also modified a station wagon so he could drive while in a prone position.

Smurthwaite lives almost directly on Lake Ontario in New York, and became interested in what it would take for him to start boating. His research led him to Custom Pontoon Boats and owner Jeff Collier. Collier had just completed a pontoon boat for a customer in a wheelchair, and had displayed the results on the company website (www.custompontoonboatkitsetc.com).

“It was a great size, and the twin Lenco electric DC motors were perfect,” Smurthwaite said.

Tragically, the original owner of the boat passed away just a short while after Custom Pontoon Boats delivered the finished product. The late owner’s sister contacted Collier to see if anyone might be interested in buying the boat, and Collier immediately thought of Smurthwaite.

“Jeff asked if I wanted to buy it and have him make the changes I needed,” Smurthwaite said. “It was a little odd at first, but the sister had heard of my modified tractors and car and was hoping I’d buy the boat.”

Smurthwaite decided to purchase the boat, and Collier went to work on the modifications required for the former firefighter to get out on the lake.

A bridge on the waterway from his home to Lake Ontario requires that the whole boat be no higher than the top of the 25hp Mercury engine in the down position.

The in-deck area was already designed to accommodate someone who is disabled, so Collier added a platform for Smurthwaite to lie on while driving the boat.

The finished product is quite a sight. The low profile allows Smurthwaite access to Lake Ontario, while the twin Lenco electric DC motors are controlled by a joystick at the helm; the motors can propel the boat at 3.5 miles per hour and allow him to maneuver the boat at the dock like he’s in a car.

“You can turn on a dime,” Smurthwaite said.

The 25hp four-stroke Mercury gas engine can reach a top speed of 13 miles per hour. It is steered with a stick steer controller, so there is not wheel at all on the boat.

Today, Smurthwaite enjoys motoring along Lake Ontario on calm sunny days, or just taking the pontoon out to the third-mile-long pond in his backyard.

Smurthwaite’s vision extends beyond himself; he hopes he can inspire others to follow his example.

“I’m just trying to get the idea of driving in the prone position out there, so if there’s anyone out there who doesn’t know this is possible, they can design it and run with it,” he said.

For more information on Custom Pontoon Boats, visit their website or call 937-323-2770.

Brief thoughts on BYU @ CSU

As happy as I was with the outcome of the UNLV game last week, that feeling is tempered quite a bit by the knowledge that the Rebels are a bad football team. Really bad. Heaps found open guys on a consistent basis? UNLV corners and safeties. DiLuigi, Kariya and Quezada ran all day? UNLV defensive line and linebackers. Defense shut the Rebels down for almost the entire game? The UNLV quarterback couldn't hit the broad side of a barn.

So today's game is a bit more interesting; while CSU isn't a world-beater, the Rams are better than what the Cougars faced last Saturday. Okay, 3-7 isn't exactly scary, but Utah State's 3-6 isn't either, and look what happened last month.

CSU's quarterback, Pete Thomas, has completed 66% of his passes for 2200 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season. He's also thrown 10 picks, so he's not Heisman material, but it worries me he's good enough to take advantage of a shaky Cougar pass defense today.

The Rams have two running backs averaging over 4.5 yards a carry, but BYU's rush defense has been amazing since Hill was fired, so giving up huge chunks of yards on the ground is not a concern, in my opinion.

In short, this is a true test of where the Cougars are as a team. If they struggle against the Rams, I expect losses against Utah and Clemson to end the season, making BYU barely bowl eligible. Or, heaven forbid, they lose to CSU today, we'll see five wins at the end of the season, and BYU won't go to a bowl for the first time since 2004.

02 November 2010

Election Day

You may have noticed it's been a while since I have commented on politics. In fact, my last purely political post was back in March, when President Obama's healthcare bill was passed.

I expressed dissatisfaction with both the Democrat and Republican parties in our nation at the time, a feeling that has only deepened since.

Despite my lack of posting on the topic, I have continued to read and watch views from all angles of the political spectrum. And I find my cynicism only deepening. There are very few politicians I feel I can truly support, and to be honest, I won't be able to vote for any of them today, which doesn't speak well for Idaho.

That said, I am not so naive that I think the current state of politics in America is something new. My friend Stu linked me to an informative video on the topic.

Crack open a history book, indeed. Politics is a dirty business where the only thing that matters is getting votes. If you can run an underhanded campaign without looking bad to your electorate, you'll probably win. This environment doesn't tend to attract the best and brightest; instead, those with the power to manipulate and tell people what they want to hear tend to move into this world.

That said, I will be voting today, even if I go straight third party.

Get out there and do your duty. Do some research into the candidates you will be voting on, and make an informed decision.

You'll probably get a sticker.

19 October 2010

The day approaches

As you can probably guess, I'm anxiously awaiting the NBA's regular season opening night next week. This summer has been filled with trades and signings and draft picks that promise big things, but nothing has been proven yet.

Will Blake Griffin tear it up in the regular season like he has in the preseason?

Will the Heat win 70 games?

Can John Wall effectively run an NBA offense?

Is Al Jefferson enough of a defensive upgrade for Utah to actually hang with L.A. this year?

Will Amare be a classic 20-10-50 guy in New York?

Is Dwight ready to unleash a devastating post game on the rest of the league?

No one knows yet. And that's what is awesome. I can't wait to find out.

In other sports news, my lack of commentary both before and after the BYU/TCU game reflects my complete lack of interest in the Frogs manhandling the Cougars once again (also I was out of town last week). I saw the outcome in advance, and nothing that happened on Saturday surprised me in the least.

Okay, in all honesty, BYU's run defense was immensely impressive. That TCU scored only three points until there were two minutes left in the half was due to the run-stuffing domination of BYU's defense and TCU's determination to keep running it up the middle despite having great success through the air. Once the Frogs remembered that BYU's secondary is consistently pathetic, they cruised to an easy victory.

The latest focus of discussion regarding why BYU is so utterly mediocre this season is Jake Heaps. He definitely struggled against TCU and didn't much of anything against San Diego State, so fans are rightfully questioning whether or not he has what it takes to be an elite Cougar quarterback when all is said and done.

I'm still on the fence. I notice that Max Hall was absolutely dominated by TCU in 2008 and 2009, and he is BYU's winningest QB ever, and is now starting in the NFL. Struggling mightily against the Horned Frogs (as a true freshman, no less) is no indication you are a scrub.

That said, the true test begins now. BYU plays Wyoming and UNLV over these next three weeks. If Heaps consistently overthrows receivers and takes bad sacks against these two programs, I'll start to believe all the hype surrounding this kid was unwarranted.

However, if Heaps does well in these games, I see a bright future ahead of him.

It's that clear for me.

10 October 2010

False alarm, everything is normal

My "Mass hysteria!" post from Friday appears to have been incorrect. BYU still owns the Aztecs, having beat them even when BYU was at its lowest point in six years and SDSU was at its highest point in six years.

I'm also definitely happy to be completely wrong in my prediction. And along those same lines, it was kind of nice going into a game where watching BYU go up 14-0 in the first quarter was exciting, rather than expected. The crowd was pumped and it got very loud more than once.

I loved BYU's gameplan of "We're playing ball control and smashmouth football, and if you want to beat us, meet us in the trenches." Considering the poor play of BYU's receivers and the explosiveness of the Aztec offense, it was a genius strategy and it paid off, to the point that BYU would have won by two or three touchdowns except for a couple big turnovers and penalties at important moments.

If I had any questions about Hill's firing before yesterday, I don't anymore. The defense that play last night was completely different from the one that faced Utah State, both in results and just plain attitude. The guys last night were fired up, sprinting to the ball, stringing out sweeps and smashing dives. Sure, the secondary gave up some big plays, but considering how good a quarterback SDSU's Ryan Lindley is and how big and talented his receivers are, it could have been much, much worse.

Bronco imposed his will on this group and they played like their lives depended on this win.

Even if this game had turned into a BYU loss, I would have come away happy about the improved effort and desire this Cougar team exhibited Saturday. Not so happy that I expect a win at TCU Saturday, but happy nonetheless.

08 October 2010

Cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria!

When I first decided to go to this home game against San Diego State, I thought to myself, "Hmm a boring game to attend, but that's okay." I fully expected BYU to stomp the Aztecs into the ground.

Then Air Force happened. And Florida State. And Nevada. And Utah State.

Let's just say I'm now pretty much expecting a loss. Against San Diego State. Black is white, white is black, up is down. It's disconcerting.

After taking a closer look at the Aztecs, this squad is scary, especially compared to last season's team. Last year they recorded four total wins, one of which came against Southern Utah University, a 1AA team. The 2010 Aztecs can get their fourth win tomorrow, five games into the season.

Sure, their three wins have come against some less-than-impressive programs, like New Mexico State, but they did dominate Utah State, who you may remember rolled the Cougars in Logan last week.

San Diego did take a three-point less at Missouri two weeks ago, but considering it was a road game and the Tigers are 4-0, that's not anything to be ashamed of.

The Aztec offense is frankly scary. They're ranked in the top 15, nationwide, in points scored and passing yards, and they're 23rd in rushing yards, at 213 yards a game. The offense features two rushers averaging over five yards per carry, and six receivers averaging over 15 yards a catch.

So if the defense wants to go bend-not-break, prepare for a long afternoon. However, I have to imagine Bronco realizes the strategy of hoping the opposing quarterback makes a mistake doesn't work if your offense is anemic. I hope to see many, many blitzes, from all angles and all yardage situations.

But in the end, I don't expect BYU to win. I expect to see improvement over last week, but the defense just doesn't have the talent to stop San Diego.

Offensively, I'm not sure what we'll see from Heaps and company. If the receivers are interested in catching passes, and Heaps makes better reads than he has at times, we might see BYU break the 20-point mark for the second time this season.

But I'm doubtful. Regardless, I'll be there cheering the Cougars loudly the whole game.

Prediction: SDSU 42, BYU 17

07 October 2010

It's NBA time!

I haven't blogged about the NBA since July, and for good reason: very little has been happening. But now that the preseason has begun, and Dwyane Wade has injured himself, it's time to get things underway.

Remember my rantings about the shortcomings in Dwight Howard's game a couple years ago? Well, it appears Dwight is taking another step towards trying to develop a post up game, and that step is working with Hakeem Olajuwan.

Back in 2009 I wrote
Can you imagine Howard's body with Hakeem Olajuwan's game? I don't think I exaggerate when I say an individual with that pairing would average 40 points and 15 boards a game over and entire season. Easily.
What took them so long to adopt my idea? Whoever made this happen either deserves a big raise or a knock on the head for not doing it in 2004, when Dwight was drafted.

Here's some video of Howard working out with The Dream. It's pretty impressive.

If Dwight's post game develops to even half of Hakeem's this season, I will be very excited.

However, if he can't get it done this year, I don't think he ever will, and he'll go down as one of the biggest wastes of talent in NBA history.

In other news, Hakeem looks like he could still school a lot of centers in the NBA today.

Go Dwight.

06 October 2010


Video Courtesy of KSL.com

The creator of this "highlight" reel counted 13 dropped passes versus Utah State. These passes would have counted for 200 yards and three touchdowns.

Let's be generous and say half of those balls were uncatchable; that's still seven catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns, which would have made Heaps' stat line:

34 of 55 for 380 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Not bad for a true freshman quarterback being forced to sling the ball the entire second half.

Anyone who says BYU's woes are due to Heaps underperforming is way off base here. Defense and receiver ineptitude are killing the Cougars.

05 October 2010


In highlighting the DOS game Terminal Velocity back in July, I have now realized I was in error. While Terminal Velocity is a good game, the truly great action flight sim of that era was Descent.

Not only was Descent released before Terminal Velocity, it has higher quality graphics, better AI and better gameplay, in my opinion.

In Descent you play a mercenary something guy in the future, when the planets of our solar system are being mined for precious ore. Unfortunately, the robots doing the mining turn evil and the capitalist pigs who own this operation hire you to get rid of the infestation.

Each level involves you flying around the inside of a mine getting lost and shot at by robots. To win, you find the central reactor (which also shoots at you), destroy it, and escape the mine before it completely explodes.

That last element is probably the most entertaining part of the game. Desperately scrambling to get to the exit as the computerized voice (female, obviously) counts down to your demise... only to have to fight through a wave of enemies before finally escaping with your life with two seconds left on the clock = awesome.

The three-dimensional element was also amazing. Doom was a very popular first-person shooter back then, and for Descent to improve on the concept by introducing tunnels and enemies above and below you as well knocked my socks off.

The game just looks and sounds amazing. The music is great and the sounds work with a surround setup so you know what direction from which you're being shot at.

Descent was also one of the first titles to introduce a multiplayer experience over a network. Blasting robots is fun, but blasting your friends is even better.

And finally, Descent had a recording feature which allowed you to save videos of your gameplay to analyze later or show to others. That was very revolutionary for the time.

All of this adds up to a game that has fantastic replay value, even 15 years later. I found this online and fired it up on DOSBox; it is still as fun and addictive as it was when I was 13.

Descent is another shareware title, with the first few levels available at no cost, which means it found its way to my family's collection pretty quickly.

I award Parallax Software 20 points for developing this game. Sure, all you ever did was Descent and its many sequels, but that's enough to put you into my Gaming Hall of Fame.

04 October 2010

A defining loss

Utah State's complete domination of the BYU Cougars on Friday stripped away all the rationalizations. Brigham Young does not have a good football team this year. Not even close.

The research I did before this game calmed some of my fears that the Aggies might win. No team in the WAC, that had been absolutely obliterated by SDSU, could beat the BYU Cougars, down year or not.

As the clock was running out in the second quarter and the score read 17-3, I posted this as my Facebook status:

"An historic beatdown is brewing."

A few minutes later, Utah State returned a kickoff 67 yards to the BYU 33 yard line and the Aggies scored another touchdown with 49 seconds left in the half.

The rout was on.

Okay, so BYU's defense only gave up seven points in the second half, but that's because there was no need to move the ball in large chunks; all Utah State had to do was run run run, get first downs, chew up the clock and win.

The Aggies rushed for 242 yards on 59 carries, good for a 4.1 ypc average.

Quarterback Diondre Borel only had to throw it 13 times, and he completed 10 of those 192 yards and a touchdown.

It was as perfect an offensive showing as you can have against a team with an ineffectual offense. Ball control, pass when you need to, collect tally in the win column.

Focusing on that ineffectual offense, combine a true freshman quarterback with receivers who look worse at catching the ball than I do at my family Turkey Bowl every November, add a dash of "down by double digits" and that's it.

I believe Jake Heaps will be a great quarterback, and soon. He showed a lot of confidence on Friday, while at times in his previous playing time he appeared shaky and uncertain. He has the tools to make every throw on the field, it's just a matter of putting it all together and giving him some receivers who can catch balls that bounce off both hands.

I also liked what I saw from freshman Josh Quezada. He's fairly quick, pretty strong and falls forward when he gets tackled. If BYU hadn't been down by three touchdowns in the second half, I think we would have seen more carries from him.

So the future looks bright. Kind of. I'd feel better if a tight end would step up and take the starting spot. I'd also appreciate a wide receiver or two deciding they are catching everything thrown their way, and if Luke Ashworth gets benched for the rest of eternity.

In a related story, BYU defensive coordinator, Jaime Hill, was fired on Saturday. While the offense is clearly in big, big trouble, the defense is only a bit behind it in terms of depressing fans.

I'm not sure what to expect with Bronco calling the defensive plays, but if there's no visible improvement, I will be very, very worried.

So go Cougars! Next game at home, against the usually hapless Aztecs. It will be a much different game than I anticipated when I first saw it on the schedule.

30 September 2010

BYU at Utah State preview

This is an odd one. For the vast majority of my life, Utah State has been a blip on BYU's radar. It's nice of them to schedule the Cougars on the Friday before General Conference every year so as to avoid conflicts with meeting times, but I can't recall ever being even remotely worried the Aggies would win that game.

In looking back at the overall series, I do see the 2002 score was BYU 35, Utah State 34, but as I've mentioned before, I was out of the country during that season. The only wins the Aggies have had against BYU in my lifetime were 1.) 11 days after I was born and 2.) October 30, 1993. That was a long time ago.

So it's weird to come at this game feeling like it needs actual analysis. Like there's a real chance Utah State can win this game. And after a week one narrow loss to Oklahoma, the Aggies looked like a real threat.

And after a 38-17 thumping of the Idaho State Bengals (the closest college football team to me), they looked slightly more legit.

However, Fresno State beat them 41-24 and the San Diego State Aztecs ripped them 41-7.

So never mind.

The Aggies do have two running backs averaging over 4 yards per carry; Derrvin Speight and Michael Smith are not terrible, and anyone not terrible is going to move the sticks against this BYU defense.

Senior Diondre Borel is something of a running quarterback, and we know how well the Cougar linebackers can deal with that kind of talent (hint: not all that well).

I don't expect Utah State to go nuts tomorrow, but if they score less than 21 points I'll be stunned. And considering BYU is averaging 15 points per game this season, that means the offense needs to step it up if the Cougars want a win.

No dropped passes. No overthrown balls. Fewer fade routes and more stuff over the middle. Run the hurry up more often; Heaps has looked best when he's snapping the ball in under 10 seconds, for whatever reason. And more Quezada.

If these things happen, I see BYU breaking out and scoring 34 or more Friday.

If these things don't happen, look for another embarrassingly low point total and the Aggies' third win in 30 years against their rivals to the south. If you can call it a rivalry.

27 September 2010

Nevada at BYU analysis

BYU running back Josh Quezada (photo courtesy the Deseret News)

While my prediction of a fairly big Nevada win was correct, the way the Wolf Pack earned this W was a bit different than I expected.

The first half was all Nevada. They racked up huge yards on the ground and did well through the air. Halftime score: BYU 10, Nevada 24. While the score doesn't look unsurmountable, I admit I had no faith the Cougars could get a win.

In the second half, the Wolf Pack put it into grind-it-out mode and had two drives longer than eight minutes. Sure, some fans will point out Nevada only scored three points in the second half, but when you're giving up third-and-17 type plays with consistency, you are not playing well.

BYU's "bend but don't break" scheme kills me. A good, patient quarterback will hit those short passes on the sideline, and a decent running back can pick up yards when they need them. It's unsustainable.

And that was it. Jake Heaps missed on some big throws, certain receivers dropped some passes, and BYU's offense was unable to get into the endzone when it needed to.

Heaps will improve. He will look better against Utah State and SDSU than he did last Saturday.

Preview of the Aggies' best chance to beat the Cougars since 1993 will be posted Thursday.

24 September 2010

Looking back, looking forward

BYU football took a bigger step backward in 2010 than I anticipated. I knew the team was replacing Dennis Pitta, Harvey Unga and Max Hall. I knew they were replacing Scott Johnson and Jan Jorgenson. I just didn't know the players replacing these guys would be so woefully unprepared to take over.

1. The quarterback position has been mostly terrible. Junior Riley Nelson failed to produce and true freshman Jake Heaps has failed to produce much so far. I figured the reason for the shared time at quarterback was due to the fact that both players were great, but instead, apparently both players are bad. That's disappointing.

2. The wide receivers and tight ends have been consistently terrible. I can't find any official stats on this, but it feels like there have been more dropped passes in three games so far this season than there were for the entirety of 2009. What happened to the concept that BYU receivers might not be burners, but they catch everything thrown their way? These guys not only can't beat guys downfield, but they can't catch balls that hit them square in the hands. Tight ends and wide receivers both are failing spectacularly both in catching and getting open.

But that's not all! Oh no, we also have to account for blocking. You may have noticed BYU likes to run a play where they immediately get the ball to a wide receiver on the outside and let him run with it. This play is almost entirely dependent on other receivers blocking for the guy with the ball, and it's worked fairly well in the past. This season? Fail fail fail. The receiver catches the ball and he's tackled. The end. Replays sometimes show blocking receivers half-heartedly leaning towards a defender, but that's about it. It's somewhat infuriating. I'm just about ready to write off the entirety of the wide receiver and tight end corps.

3. The defense has been just embarrassing. Against Florida State, I lost count at 18 missed tackles by BYU linebackers and linemen. Failing to wrap up, failing to take good angles, failing to get good pressure on the quarterback. The only saving grace of the defense has been the play of cornerbacks Brandon Bradley and Brian Logan. While they haven't been spectacular, they've made some great plays in spots. How weird is it that the corners are the strength of BYU's defense? What is this, Bizzaro World?

4. The running back situation is not bad. DiLuigi has been playing extremely well, averaging 7 yards on 38 carries so far on the season. That's Luke Staley-esque. The problem is, he's definitely a "get to the edge" type runner, and not a "between the tackles" runner. I think maybe Quezada can be that guy, but so far he's gotten one carry on the year. Here's hoping he can grow into the role to complement J.J.

In college, more responsibility falls on the head coach than in any other sport at any other level. The head coach recruits his players, unlike in the NFL where players are drafted. So if a year comes along where the team takes a huge step backward, it's either the coach failed to draft the talent needed or the coach failed to adequately prepare his team for the upcoming season. Either way, bad news for him.

I like Bronco, I really do. I love that he rescued BYU from the depths of 2002-2004, but 2010 is more than just a hiccup, in my opinion. It shows a real lack of something... whether it's recruiting acumen or coaching ability, I don't know. But this team could definitely end the season under .500, and I don't think that's acceptable for a program like BYU.

Tomorrow's game is at home against Nevada. When I first saw the Wolf Pack on the schedule for this year, I mentally marked it as a win. I mean, shoot, Nevada is a WAC team. Now, I'm not so sure.

The Wolf Pack are 3-o on the season. Their three games so far: 49-24 win over Eastern Washington at home (not all that impressive), 51-6 win at home over Colorado State (getting my attention) and 52-31 win at home over Cal (okay now I'm scared). Sure, all three of their wins are at home, but they're putting up big point totals while holding up pretty well defensively.

The big worry? On the season, Nevada is ranked 5th nationally in rushing yards, at 302 per game. Considering how easily Air Force and Florida State racked up the yards on the ground against BYU, this will be a nightmare.

Will Heaps have any easier time passing against Nevada than he did Florida State? Most likely. Will he find it so easy that he passes for 400 yards and 4 touchdowns? Probably not.

I expect the score to be around 42-27 for the Wolf Pack. Another big loss and hopefully, another big step towards getting back to respectability for this BYU team.

23 September 2010

Man down!

Apparently Bronco's quarterback carousel problem has been solved for him. From the Deseret News:
Mendenhall said Nelson hurt his non-throwing shoulder during fall camp, but that injury wasn't discussed publicly. Early in the Florida State game, the injury worsened after Nelson absorbed a hard hit.

Team trainer Kevin Morris described it as "a severe injury to the shoulder" and that Nelson will undergo surgery as soon as possible. "We felt like it was necessary right now to get it done," he said.
Part of me feels bad for Riley. The kid plays hard at Utah State, loses a ton of games, and gets the chance to play for BYU. He comes in at what was probably the worst time possible for him; Heaps is breathing down his neck, the offense as a whole is worse than it's been since 2003 and the early schedule is brutal. Despite all of this, he went out there and played his best, giving everything he had to this team.

And now it's all over.

But the other part of me doesn't feel that bad. It's not as if Riley is a true Div-I FBS starting quarterback. He can't pass that well, he's not especially fast and his reads are subpar. He got more of a shot at glory than he should have, in my opinion, and he failed to make the most of it.

So now we enter the Jake Heaps years. Against Florida State he showed flashes of brilliance while making a ton of mistakes. This is to be expected from an 18-year-old true freshman playing against an ACC defense that is pretty good. He'll learn to step up in the pocket. He'll develop a sense for when a blindside hit is coming and protect the ball. And his timing on crossing routes will improve.

Now, I don't know how high he'll actually go. Is his ceiling Ty Detmer? John Beck? Max Hall? Brandon Doman? There have been far more talented players who have failed in college; for him to be unable to adjust to the speed of the game wouldn't be surprising.

But from that hurry-up touchdown drive he led near the end of the first half, I saw a lot of good things. His touchdown throw to Cody Hoffman with 14 seconds left in the second quarter was beautiful; anytime the quarterback looks off the safety and drills a pass to a crossing receiver I'm impressed.

So I expect a lot of bumps over the next few games, and I expect Heaps to improve every week. Will BYU win? Probably not a lot. BYU's defense is too poor to keep the Cougars in games. But the offense will score more points than they have recently and I'll be happy.

Go Cougars. Tomorrow I'll preview the Nevada game and discuss my many concerns with this team as a whole.

04 September 2010

Washington at BYU prediction

It's tough to predict what will happen in the first game of the season. There are new starters at many positions, and even if you return your quarterback, running back and tight ends (as BYU did last year), things can be very different than you expected.

And this year? When BYU has not one, but two new starting quarterbacks? New tight ends? New running backs and linebackers? Good grief; I have no idea what this team will look like today.

The one thing I'm reasonably sure of is that if BYU's defense can contain Locker and force him to be a pocket passer, I like the Cougars' chances. In last year's game, the final drive for Washington was essentially Locker running all over BYU's defense and making one or two passes. It reminded me of Vince Young against USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl... Vince Young would beat every Trojan defender and pick up 10-15 yards whenever he wanted.

From my untrained eye, it didn't appear either BYU or USC devoted a linebacker to spy on Locker or Young, but maybe they did and the running quarterbacks were just that good.

Regardless, I'd like to see BYU's Jordan Pendleton or freshman Kyle Van Noy waiting for Locker every time he tries to scramble.

Do that, and I predict BYU wins 24-17.

If Locker runs at will, I predict Washington wins 31-21.

Go Cougars!

03 September 2010

What better game to get BYU fans excited?

Exactly one hour until BYU faces off against Washington in Provo in the 2010 season opener. It's almost time.

2006: a year that began as a disappointment for Cougar fans and turned into one of the most memorable seasons ever.

After close losses at Arizona and at Boston College, BYU was 1-2 and looking shaken. Thankfully, the fourth game of the season was a nice and easy 38-0 win over the hapless Aggies of Utah State, and quarterback John Beck and company were able to be fully rested and ready to play TCU in Forth Worth in game 5. A 31-17 win over the Horned Frogs thanks to one of the all-time great performances by a BYU quarterback gave the Cougars a lot of national attention.

They continued their season, steamrolling everyone who got in their way. SDSD: 47-17. UNLV: 52-7. Air Force: 33-14. Colorado State: 24-3. Wyoming 55-7. New Mexico: 42-17.

Going into Rivalry Week, BYU was 9-2 and poised to win a MWC championship for the first time since 2001.

Standing in the way, however, was Utah. Utah, a team that had beaten BYU four years straight, including a 52-21 beatdown in 2004 and frustrating 41-34 overtime loss in Provo in 2005.

Utah wasn't exactly spectacular in 2006, but the team was 7-4 coming into the Holy War. And regardless of how bad the Utes look in any given season, they always give BYU a fight. While the Utes weren't competing for the conference championship themselves, playing spoiler for BYU is always fine with them.

The stage was set, and the result was nothing less than epic.

Here's the highlight:

That radio call from Greg Wrubell gives me the chills every single time.

With one pass, John Beck cemented himself as one of the greats in BYU quarterbacking history and the Cougars were back on top as conference champions. A 38-8 win over Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl gave the team 11 wins and put it in the same company with the 1996 and 2001 squads.

All thanks to one play.

02 September 2010

Game of the day - UCLA at BYU 2008

An unexciting GotD for Thursday. September 13, 2008, and the UCLA Bruins are coming to town. Interestingly enough, BYU had played UCLA twice in 2007, the first time being a 27-17 win for the Bruins in Pasadena. BYU had gotten its revenge in the Las Vegas Bowl later that year, in what I dubbed the "Ugly choke job salvaged by a miracle" game.

I was definitely worried for the third game against UCLA in a little more than one year. After a loss and a less-than-impressive bowl win, I could only really hope BYU didn't embarrass itself at home.

Let's just say I was way off.

Hall threw for 271 yards on 27-of-35 passing and seven touchdowns.

Austin Collie caught 10 balls for 110 yards and two touchdowns.

Dennis Pitta had five receptions for 47 yards and two touchdowns.

And as incredibly on-target as the offense was, the defense might have been better.

Besides pitching a complete shutout, the defense forced four fumbles and recovered three. They also recorded one interception.

It was utter domination.

Here's the highlight, from FuriousMonkey.

Sometimes blowouts can get boring, but when it comes to beating down a team from a BCS conference, I can watch all day.

Could we see a similar result on Saturday? After the controversial way in which BYU won at Washington last season, I'm worried about a loss. But maybe the team will surprise me with one of its all-time great performances.

01 September 2010

More details and game of the day

We've been getting more and more information on BYU's decision to become an independent in football and move its other sports to the West Coast Conference. One of the more important bits is ESPN's new relationship with the Y. From the Seattle Times:
BYU and ESPN have reached an eight-year deal for the network or one of its affiliates broadcast the Cougars' home games, which at the moment are a lot of open dates.

(BYU athletic director Tom) Holmoe said scheduling as one of just four independents in major college football was an obvious risk that BYU considered, but felt the Cougars still have enough name recognition and a large fan base that should make building a schedule without eight conference games at least a little easier.
As scheduling is the biggest concern of any BYU fan when it comes to independence, it's good to see ESPN is assisting in this effort. Teams that may have been reluctant to play the Cougars in the past may be more open to the idea if the game will be broadcast on ESPN.
One of the future opponents will likely be Notre Dame, which Holmoe said is working with BYU to iron out the details on a six-game deal through 2020. Another is archrival Utah, which is also leaving the Mountain West after getting an invitation to join the Pac-10 next year.

Holmoe said he has been talking with Utah athletic director Chris Hill about ways to keep the annual clash going while no longer in the same conference.

"We both are in agreement in that it's an important game to continue," Holmoe said.
A series with Notre Dame is always good, and I am definitely in favor of continuing the rivalry with Utah. Good news all around. And it gets better.

Salt Lake Tribune writer Michael C. Lewis reports:
Not only will [the deal] vastly expand the potential audience for Cougar games — every home game will be televised nationally, on either an ESPN channel or the school’s BYU-TV network — but it also will help the Cougs fill their annual 12-game schedule by enlisting ESPN as a partner to help arrange match-ups.
Every home game televised nationally and distribution over BYUTV? Great news for fans who can't get the mtn thanks to HOA arrangements or other circumstances, and in addition, it exposes BYU football to NCAAF fans everywhere who might not have ventured into the 600's.

On to the game of the day!

It's August 25, 2001. LaVell Edwards' era at BYU is over, and new hire at head coach Gary Crowton's first game is against Tulane in Provo. I watched this game at my uncle's house a few blocks from the stadium, and the anticipation of seeing a brand-new coach and what he could do was palpable.

Tulane struck first on a 75-yard touchdown run from running back Mewelde Moore, and three rushing touchdowns from Cougar back Luke Staley in the first quarter later, the score was 21-21.

BYU scored 49 more points to Tulane's 14 over the next three quarters, and if there's one thing fans knew, it was that Crowton's offense was going to be pretty good. We also knew Luke Staley was special, and 21 more touchdowns later, he won the Doak Walker award.

Here's the highlight. Thanks to Cougarboard.com member Garn.

BYU averaged 46.8 points per game that season, the highest a Cougar team has averaged in school history. Of course, after Staley broke his ankle against Mississippi State later that season, the team was never the same under Crowton.

But for one hot day in August, it seemed the sky was the limit.

31 August 2010

Feeling like football

Photo courtesy of cougarstats.com

During my lunch break today, I drove to the store to pick up some cilantro and Worcestershire sauce for my wife. I rolled down my window and noticed a distinct chill in the air; it was closer to 70 degrees than 30, sure, but it definitely felt more like fall than summer. In addition, I was listening to ESPN radio and for the first time in a while I heard two guys talking college football. They were debating the merits of scheduling cupcakes or powerhouses for a team's out of conference schedule, and they each made some great points. It was such a welcome change from the endless talk about NASCAR and baseball and golf that I couldn't help but smile.

We're ramping up towards the best sports time of the year, November 1 through January 4. During that time we have the World Series, the start of the NBA season, college football, NFL and college basketball.

And today, for the first time, I feel like that blessed time is actually approaching.

On to today's video. The year is 2004. After going 5-7 in 2002 and 4-8 in 2003, the collective BYU fanbase was feeling pretty low. I was spared from the psychological trauma of losing to Nevada and getting shut out by Utah thanks to my time spent in Madagascar as a proselyting missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The two years I was out of the country coincided perfectly with the worst two years of BYU football during my lifetime. In a way, it couldn't have worked out any better for me.

I returned home to Utah in December of 2003, and as BYU obviously did not play in a bowl that year, I had a full nine months to wait for the return of Cougar football.

The last time I had checked, BYU had gone 12-2 in 2001 and the offense was a high-scoring powerhouse. Despite my family's best attempts to acclimate me to the new reality that the Y was no longer any good, I could never bring myself to believe it.

September finally rolled around, and the first game on the schedule was at home versus Notre Dame. The last game I had seen BYU play against Notre Dame was in 1994, when the Cougars went to South Bend and beat the Fighting Irish 21-14. Yeah, there had been a 33-14 road loss to the guys in green in 2003, but as far as I was concerned, that had never happened.

BYU was going to win this game.

I remember it being abnormally cold for September 4, I remember John Beck's arm strength being impressive and I remember an absolutely fantastic throw and catch from Matt Berry and freshman Austin Collie to give BYU a 20-3 lead in the third quarter. BYU's defense, a strength of the team from 2002-2003, appeared to be as good as I'd heard.

Sure, Notre Dame scored on a 54-yard pass from sophomore Brady Quinn and then Berry threw a pick-six to make the finally tally closer than it should have been, but in the end, BYU came out with a victory, just as I had expected.

Thanks to Jennerstein for the video.

And for that day, BYU fans had hope that maybe the program was back on its feet after its long nightmare. Unfortunately, that season also gave us ugly losses to Syracuse, USC, UNLV and Utah, but at that moment, everyone was happy.

It's funny what a season-opening win can do.

The Deseret News layoffs

From the Associated Press:
Utah's longest publishing daily newspaper said Tuesday it will cut nearly half of its staff and consolidate breaking news operations with affiliated television and radio operations.

The Deseret News announced that 85 newsroom positions are being eliminated, although some staffers will be enlisted for a transition period. The layoffs include 57 full-time and 28 part-time employees.
This is sad news for anyone in the business of writing. The paper was founded in 1850, more than 150 years ago. For such a longstanding institution to be forced into this position is pretty amazing.

Though considering the recent fates of Newsweek magazine and the Washington Times newspaper, maybe this shouldn't be such a shock.

This is a sticky issue, and I know after newspapers put their product on the internet for free back in the late 90's it's been hard to put a lid back on that box, but you have to remember someone produces the news. Someone gathers it. Someone edits it. Someone creates the layout, whether print or digital. This stuff doesn't come out of thin air, and those who are responsible for informing us about the goings on in our cities and states and countries and world will be compensated for it.

This is the case unless the demand for news sinks so low there just isn't any financial incentive to do it anymore, but I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Maybe we'll see it once we reach the point of Idiocracy, but that's a while off yet.

BYU goes independent

Image courtesy byucougars.com

The talk has been going on for weeks now, but it appears the news is official: BYU football is going independent and the other sports at the university will join the West Coast Conference.
The move, which takes effect for the 2011-12 season, changes the face of major college sports in the western third of the country — at once weakening the Mountain West (BYU’s current home) and strengthening the WCC, whose members include three Bay Area schools: Santa Clara, St. Mary’s and USF.
This is huge for BYU, though in what direction is still unclear. There has been talk that ESPN wants to give BYU its own TV deal, and I imagine that was a big part of BYU's decision to try and make it on its own.

My initial reaction? I think this will work. I think BYU's exposure playing on ESPN instead of the mtn is huge, and the flexibility of scheduling different teams every year instead of playing the same old San Diego State and UNLV in football will also make the school more visible across the country.

I'll post more details as they come, but for now, I'm excited.

30 August 2010

Happy Football Week!

I'm amazed at how quickly the football season has arrived this year. Though considering all of the sports news we've had this summer: the World Cup, LeBron-O-Mania, Jefferson to the Jazz, BYU's independence rumors and quarterback controversy... I haven't had a lot of time to get bored and wish for September to hurry up and arrive already.

Because my time spent thinking about the upcoming season was so short, I'm not quite in the mood for football yet, and I get the feeling a lot of other people are in the same boat.

To remedy that, I'll be posting one BYU highlight every day this week, until gameday.

Today we have BYU at New Mexico in 2005. Prior to this game, BYU football was in a bad place. After a great 2001 season, head coach Gary Crowton pretty much ran the program into the ground from 2002-2004. He was fired before the 2005 season, and defensive coordinator Bronco Mendenhall took over.

The first few games of the 2005 season weren't much to get excited about. The year started with a 20-3 loss to Boston College at home. After shellacking Div-II Eastern Illinois in game two, the Cougars lost to TCU and San Diego State, respectively. A 1-3 record was not what fans were hoping for with this new coach, and it didn't look like the program would get back on its feet any time soon.

The next team on the schedule was New Mexico. The Lobos are usually a decent team in the Mountain West, and while they never really fight for conference championships, you can count on them to finish around .500 in conference. The New Mexico defense is generally pretty good, and the team gives BYU a challenge almost every time they play.

After scoring first on an 11-yard pass from BYU quarterback John Beck to tight end Dan Coats with ten minutes left in the first quarter, the Cougars felt confident that maybe this could be the game where BYU makes its way back to prominence.

However, UNM scored 24 points to BYU's seven over the next two quarters, and the Cougars found themselves down 27-13 with time running out.

Here's the highlight:

Video courtesy Cougcan of cougarboard.com

I watched this game in the office of my college's newspaper, and I must admit my interest was pretty low for most of it. However, during that final touchdown drive I was glued to the screen and jumping up and down after every big play. It's the game that brought me fully back into the BYU football fold.

BYU finished the season winning five of its last eight games... nothing spectacular, but better than we'd seen in the recent past.

Since the 2005 season, BYU has won 43 of its 52 games and the universe is on the correct track again. Many fans look at this New Mexico game as the turning point for the program.

Here's hoping trend continues, and I think it will, assuming this two-quarterback system thing works out.

Go Cougars!

27 August 2010

BYU is going with a two-quarterback system for 2010

Photos courtesy The Deseret News

This is from multiple sources, but here's Deseret News writer Jeff Call:
Junior Riley Nelson will start for BYU when the Cougars open the 2010 season against Washington on Sept. 4.

Coach Bronco Mendenhall said Friday that Nelson will take the first snaps against the Huskies, but reiterated that true freshman Jake Heaps will also play.

I'm glad to see Bronco reads my blog, and it's nice to know what we'll see next Saturday from the quarterback spot.
Offensive coordinator Robert Anae said of the two-quarterback system: "We have two starters."

Can't get much clearer than that.

While there are examples of successful two-quarterback teams, there are just as many, if not more, where the system blew up and contributed to a failure of a season.

Last year, Michigan played freshman Tate Forcier, a mobile quarterback with a pretty good arm. Head coach Rich Rodriguez also had freshman Denard Robinson, who was mostly a running QB and inferior to Forcier in the eyes of many college football fans. Rodriguez continued to give Robinson fairly heavy minutes as the season went on, and Forcier lost a lot of his confidence and/or became upset that he wasn't the clear starter and leader of the team. Michigan started the season 4-1 but won only one of their last six games. Other factors definitely played into this failure, but the two-quarterback system didn't work here.

An example that hits closer to home is BYU in 2000. Three quarterbacks got significant playing time; Charlie Peterson, Bret Engemann and Brandon Doman all had at least 90 pass attempts on the season, with Peterson starting the year and Doman finishing it. The team finished 6-6, losing to San Diego State and Colorado State along the way. To be fair, the Cougars did have to play at Florida State and Virginia, both tough games, but this team underachieved, thanks largely in part to the complete lack of stability at the quarterback spot.

Why does this happen? Why can a two-quarterback system drag a team down?

1. Ego and confidence. If a quarterback gets recruited by a team like Michigan or BYU, they have been "the man" for their high school team for three or more years. They have dominated their teenage opponents and been the clearcut leader of their team for a long time. Bring them into a situation where that's not the case, and they can feel slighted or crushed at the lack of trust the coaching staff shows in them. For a lot of these kids, football is everything, and if they start to feel like they aren't good enough to play the game they love at this higher level, they can start a death spiral of pity or anger. It's hard to win football games when one or both of your quarterbacks feel this way.

2. Lack of preparation. Neither quarterback gets the practice reps they need to be truly ready for games. There is only so much practice time available during the week, and a freshman quarterback like Heaps needs all the snaps he can get if he's going to be effective against the Washingtons and Air Forces of the world. In the two-quarterback scenario, he's splitting time with Nelson, probably close to 50/50, and his preparedness level is effectively cut in half. The same goes for Nelson, though it can be argued he doesn't need as much practice to be ready for gameday, thanks to his prior experience in the program.

3. Offensive confusion. The offense has to prepare two types of play every week. The offensive linemen have to work on protecting a pocket passer like Heaps and covering a scrambling Nelson. Wide receivers have to block more when Nelson is in, versus running their routes if Heaps is throwing the ball. Similar to problem number two, this leads to players not being quite ready when Saturday comes around.

Now, the nice thing about BYU's situation is that I believe both Heaps and Nelson are mature and level-headed individuals with lives and goals outside of football. I don't think either of them will enter into a death spiral anytime soon, though as the season wears on, one or both of them might.

ESPN.com's Andrea Adelson actually quoted both players on this subject in a post today.
"I know this will give us an opportunity to have a highly successful season," Nelson said in the statement. "Jake and I both have the ability to lead our team and offer unique skills that will help us be successful as an offensive unit. I am excited about this opportunity and fully expect that we will carry on the great tradition and legacy of the quarterback position here at BYU."

And from Heaps:
"I am 100 percent behind this decision. I feel the coaches have made the right decision for both Riley and I and this football team. Riley is a great player and I'm excited to have the opportunity to contribute. This isn't about me or him; it's about us -- it's about doing what we can to help our team."

Very impressive attitude from both of these players, but again, it's early.

I'm excited that BYU has a definite strategy in place for the 2010 season, and I think it could be a lot of fun to watch. That said, I am wary of potential problems that may arise, and will keep a close eye on these areas as the season progresses.

26 August 2010

Jazz Jackrabbit

This game is possibly the best shareware title for PC in the 1990's. Jazz Jackrabbit gave you fantastic music, great graphics and it was all around super fun to play. The game embodies the spirit of my gaming experience as a teenager; as I never had a console gaming system growing up, I mostly obtained free shareware titles and played them until my fingers bled (or my parents yelled at me to get off the computer).

Jazz Jackrabbit was released in 1994 by Epic MegaGames, one of many classics these guys created around the same time. I also played a lot of Jill of the Jungle, Epic Pinball, and Xargon, all from Epic. Today, the company is better known for games such as Batman: Arkham Asylum and Gears of War.

It's hard to explain just how fun it was to run around as a green rabbit with a bird for a pet, blowing up turtles. Today's games have much, much better graphics and more involved gameplay, yet for some reason they can't duplicate the feeling of these earlier PC titles.

Just part of getting older, I guess.

23 August 2010

Bronco and The Great Quarterback Controversy of 2010

To begin with, I'd like to say that I love Bronco Mendenhall. His overall performance as BYU's head coach has been borderline spectacular, and to take the team from where it was in 2004 to where it is today has been great to see as a fan.

That said, he needs to pick a starting quarterback already.

For those of you who live in a hole (or don't care about BYU football), the story of the Cougar offseason has been "Who will start at quarterback in 2010?" Here is a quick rundown of the contenders, in alphabetical order.

Jake Heaps: True freshman, very, very highly recruited coming out of Skyline high school in Washington state. Has a great long ball.

James Lark: Came from Pine View high school in Utah, was named the 3A MVP his senior year. Redshirted the 2006 season and served a mission in Russia. I've never seen him play.

Jason Munns: Recorded a pass efficiency rating of 140.8 his senior year at Southridge high school in Washington state. Stands at 6' 5" and redshirted in 2007 before serving a mission in Mexico from 2008-2010.

Riley Nelson: Started eight games at Utah State as a freshman, completing 55 percent of his passes for 925 yards and six touchdowns while rushing for 290 yards. Mobile.

All four of these guys tore it up in high school and have the ability to start for an FBS program. The problem is, at most, two guys can get significant playing time, and most schools would rather have one guy get the majority of the snaps.

So as unfair as it may be, the race is between Heaps and Nelson for the starting job. That's how it was during spring practices, and that's how it is now, during fall practices.

Now, I feel that Heaps should start, if just because he has more eligibility left than Nelson and has a higher ceiling. Add these reasons to the fact that Bronco steadfastly continues to comment that both players are playing equally well, and you have a junior quarterback who can't clearly beat out a true freshman. Let's just make it Heaps and be done with it.
With the season opener against Washington a little less than two weeks away, coach Bronco Mendenhall said the quarterback race is "dead even." He added that a starting QB probably won't be named until game week.
Is this true? Does Bronco really believe both quarterbacks would do equally well starting for BYU? Or has he chosen one of them and decided not to announce this publicly, the better to make sure everyone involved keeps working hard?

Either way, I'd like to see a decision made public by the end of the week. Since the play styles of Nelson and Heaps differ so greatly, the offense needs to know how they will be playing against Washington, or the game will be a scrimmage for BYU, where they try to learn on the fly.

On the other hand, if Bronco is keeping his decision a secret in order to throw off Washington's attempts to prepare for the Cougars, then kudos to him.

And on the other other hand, maybe he's planning on giving both quarterbacks extensive playing time, like Utah did last season or Florida did with Chris Leak and Tim Tebow a few years ago. While I'm not a fan of this method, it can work, and if Bronco wants to give it a shot, I trust him enough to not complain too much.

The more I think about this, the more I think I'm not really bothered by not knowing who will start in a couple weeks as long as Bronco knows what he's doing. It adds to the suspense and anticipation I have for college football in general, which makes everything a lot more fun. Only 12 more days to go!