What the Doctor Ordered for B.Y.U.
By Paul Myerberg // Sep 30, 2011
Of the losses that made up B.Y.U.’s 2-5 start to 2010, none stood out quite like this: Utah State 31, Cougars 16. It was Utah State’s first win over B.Y.U. since 1993; Utah State’s first marquee win under Gary Anderson; it was the low point of the dreadful start for Bronco Mendenhall and B.Y.U., which knows many things but knows one thing for sure — we don’t lose to Utah State. So it was a loss to chew over, ponder and forget, remember and rehash, and one that B.Y.U. has carried in its back pocket over the 365 days since the two teams last met. Yes, that’s right: exactly one year to the date of B.Y.U.’s embarrassing loss, the Cougars get a chance to make up for lost time.
Just what is Utah State, anyway? This team, I mean. Is this the team that went toe-to-toe with Auburn in the season opener, putting the Tigers on the ropes before a special teams gaffe led to a late-game meltdown? Or is this the team that lost to Colorado State last weekend, 35-34, in overtime?
The Aggies are little of column A, a little of column B with a dash of the unknown thrown in for good measure. This is not a team that would hang with an SEC bowl team more than once in 25 tries; the Aggies took it to Auburn, but the game was the exception, not the rule.
Nor are the Aggies as sloppy and foolhardy as they were against the Rams: four turnovers forced overtime, and Utah State put it all on the table by going to the two-point try in the second overtime — Robert Turbin came up short. I appreciate the gutsy mindset, but the Aggies were at home: when at home, take the points and head to the third overtime.
More than anything, the Aggies are just what the doctor ordered for a B.Y.U. team still struggling to find its voice. That is especially true on the offensive side of the ball, where the Cougars are searching for answers. The 24 points — with seven coming on special teams — against U.C.F. last Friday was a season-high, besting the 16-point output in a loss to Texas.
Jake Heaps is struggling from a lack of confidence. That’s the unfortunate byproduct of a month’s worth of ineffectiveness, inconsistency and, dare I say, near-incompetence. Most expected more of Heaps; all expected more from the offense at large, which was perceived to be strong where it mattered — quarterback, running back and the offensive line.
B.Y.U. looks towards Utah State and finds all the motivation it needs to turn this ship around. The most important — at least the most noticeable — is the motivation found in avenging last year’s unpredictable defeat. Will all due respect to the Aggies: B.Y.U. is not supposed to lose to Utah State. So when the Cougars do lose, it’s a loss that reverberates through the roster, the coaching staff, the football offices, the program and, most of all, through a fan base that had already clicked that game into the win column.
The fact that fear may be the primary motivator — fear of losing another game to Utah State — doesn’t matter. B.Y.U. will find that fear might come in handy nowadays; fear that their already tenuous grasp on a successful season might slip away might be more than enough to get the Cougars on the right track.
Forget about what’s going in B.Y.U.’s head. Simply in terms of on-field product, Utah State might serve up just what the Cougars need. Utah State has run the ball as well as anyone through September: the Aggies rank fifth in the F.B.S. in rushing yards per game, though the lion’s share came in a 440-yard performance against Weber State.
B.Y.U. couldn’t stop Utah from running up and down the field, especially in the second half. But the front seven took a huge step forward against U.C.F., holding the Knights’ ultra-talented quartet of rushers to only 81 yards on 34 carries. The Cougars knew what they had to defensively — stop the run — and they did it. Utah State runs a different offensive philosophy than does U.C.F., spreading things out a bit more, but B.Y.U. looks to carry over its performance against U.C.F. against the Aggies.
The B.Y.U. pass defense has been pretty strong throughout, and was terrific against Mississippi and Texas. Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton isn’t there as a passer, not yet, and if the Cougars can limit the Aggies’ damage on the ground Keeton doesn’t have what it takes to beat B.Y.U. on the strength of his arm.
And the Utah State defense? Well, the Aggies have had their moments — against Weber State and Colorado State, it should be added. B.Y.U. is no offensive juggernaut, it’s safe to say. But the Cougars seemed to have found some sort of offensive identity in running right at U.C.F., even if the running game did not push Heaps and the passing game to better heights.
On paper, Utah State — this specific team — lines up right with what B.Y.U. needs at this crucial juncture. You find an offense that, if forced into the right situations, won’t experience great success against the B.Y.U. defense. You find a corresponding Utah State defense that has pushed around lesser opposition but struggled getting stops against greater talent.
That alone is enough to make B.Y.U. excited to take the field. That the Cougars seem to have the on-field advantage against a rival, one that upset the Cougars a year ago — well, this game smells like the prescription for what ails B.Y.U.
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Tags: B.Y.U., Chuckie Keeton, Jake Heaps, Utah State
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