31 August 2012

Now that's a home opener

Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo

I'm mentioned this a few times before, but the 2011 Utah game really shell-shocked me, and most of the fanbase, I'd reckon. To have the first game at LaVell Edwards Stadium end in a completely blowout against your rival was pretty disheartening. While Washington State is no Utah, experiencing a 30-6 win over a team with some buzz behind it during the preseason is still nice.

My thoughts:

1. The new replay boards are great. Very nice upgrade; good size and quality.

2. Whoever was running the replay boards was terrible last night. Super slow-motion replays that couldn't be finished before the next play started, skipping a lot of crucial replays entirely, messing up on the down and yardage display. It was bad.

3. I liked Washington State's QB. Tall, did a good job escaping BYU's pressure while keeping his eyes downfield. Sure, none of his work translated into touchdowns, and he benefited a lot from massive holding by his offensive line, but I like him anyway.

4. Riley has improved. He was hitting some fairly difficult passes with ease last night, and while his receivers made some great plays on the ball to help him out, the end results were completions. He's got to settle down on the running, though. He rushed 12 times for 18 yards, got popped more than once, and none of those rushing attempts were sacks. These were just times he decided to take off and failed.

5. The hurry-up worked really well. Washington State seemed confused by it and Riley was making quick reads to move the chains.

6. Kaneakua Friel was amazing. Where did we get a big, strong tight end with good hands? Last season it seems like BYU had 5 tight ends, all tall and skinny without exceptionally good speed or hands. Friel ended with 101 yards receiving and two touchdowns, one of which he punctuated by running over a Washington State defensive back to get to the endzone.

7. For the defense to keep a Mike Leach offense out of the endzone entirely was impressive. I know it was his first game and he was using someone else's recruits, but the scheme alone can be confusing and I felt like BYU's defense did a great job sniffing out screens and managing the misdirection plays. Holding the Wazzu rushing attack to -5 yards was a nice bonus. Van Noy (two sacks) was in beast mode as always, and Kaveinga's pick was awesome. Jordan Johnson highlighted a legit secondary in my eyes. These guys are fast, hit hard and wrap up well most of the time.

8. The offense has got to punch in scores from the 10. I don't know what happened in the second half, but faced with several excellent opportunities to score touchdowns, Riley and Co. came away with field goals. Against Washington State it doesn't really matter, but against Utah or Georgia Tech it may be the difference between a win and a loss.

9. Taysom Hill looked great on his touchdown throw. He clearly had an open lane to run for a first down, but instead he kept his head up and decided to just throw a touchdown pass instead. If he's the future of BYU quarterbacking, I approve.

10. I liked how the offense spread the ball around. Seven guys caught passes and six players recording rushes, not including Riley. Maybe that was a function of Hoffman sitting most of the game with a quad contusion, but if opposing defenses have to worry about any number of guys getting the ball, it makes their job that much harder.

In all, a good win against what I hope is a decent team. Let's clean up the red zone worries and be ready for Utah in two weeks.

30 August 2012

29 August 2012

Washington State at BYU, August 30, 2011

So apparently I couldn't be bothered to blog anything all summer, despite the fact that there were Olympics and some interesting NBA trades happening from time to time.

In my defense, my current job requires me to work weird hours, so I wasn't often home for NBC's nightly Olympics coverage. And as far as the NBA goes, most of the aforementioned trades and signings made me hate the NBA a little bit, so there's that.

But college football! There's something I can't ignore, no matter how lazy I am.

To preface my thoughts on the game in Provo tomorrow, and the entire BYU season, let me say this season I have the lowest expectations for the team I've had since 2007. This is a combination of a few factors:

1. I don't trust Riley Nelson or his abs. Sure, he made some great plays against Tulsa and Hawaii to end the season, and caused some good things to happen against TCU, but there were a lot of wounded ducks and terrible decisions mixed into those games. I consider him a homeless man's Tebow (Florida version); a quarterback who can run sort of well and pass sort of well. His best asset is his determination and fire and belief that he and his hair are awesome. Every quarterback needs that, but I'd rather see it in someone who has the tools needed to be an elite player.

2. The running game is largely unproven. Quezada has transferred, Alisa has potential but only averaged 1.6 yards per carry against TCU last fall, the only real test he faced as a back. David Foote is supposed to be improved from last season, where he was great in garbage time against 3rd-string players, but I don't feel like I can trust any news from fall camp. Which is point number

3. I don't believe much of anything I hear from fall camp. The summer of 2011 has made me very cynical when it comes to news from camps in general. If you listened to the BYU coaches 12 months ago, the offense was going to average 50 points a game and the defense would shut out 10 of the 12 teams they played. Instead, the Cougars barely squeaked out a win against a bad Ole Miss team (2-10) and lost to Texas (7-5) before an epic beatdown at LaVell Edwards Stadium to the Utes. The defense gave up big passing and running plays from Utah, showcasing weakness in the secondary and in the middle of the line. That was that, the season was over. Beating up on Idaho and New Mexico State as nice and all, but it was clear that the 2011 BYU squad wasn't any better than the 2010 or 2009 teams.

And honestly, I don't expect anything to be different this season. I expect good showings against Weber State and San Jose State, but a lot of struggling versus Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, Utah and Boise State.

I'll be attending three home games this fall, and taking time off work to watch the rest of them. I still believe BYU can become an elite team in college football, but this isn't the year it'll happen.

Quick thoughts on Washington State

In this Cougar vs. Cougar matchup, I see the blue and white winning. Washington's offense is supposed to be improved from last year, where they averaged 30 points and 322 yards passing per game. The defense, however, gave up 32 points per game, so the team ended with a 4-8 record in 2011.

Considering BYU's strength is its defense and the offense is fairly weak, I see a relatively even game tomorrow. BYU's defense will do a good job limiting, but not shutting down the Cougars, and the offense will score enough to win.

Prediction: BYU 28, Washington State 24.