Monday, September 28, 2009

What We Learned in the Colorado State Game

For a game that BYU won handily and featured a lot of scoring over a previously unbeaten in-conference contender, it was not a particularly interesting, exciting, or encouraging victory. There are a number of contributing factors and in reviewing the team’s progress over the previous week, many of these come to light.

Last week I wrote:
“I think that the team comes out with a little fire and a chip on their shoulder. They will have corrected the tackling issues, and will show up on third down. With the ball in the hands of the offense more, the defense will be more rested, becoming more stingy, and will put up more points than last week. The long plays go in our favor and BYU gets a nice rebound. BYU wins 41-20.”

Here is my assessment of the questions asked before the game:

1. Will they play with fire in the belly? One quarter was enough. The defense came out with intensity and played that way for the entire first quarter, getting turnovers, making hard hits, and putting the offense in good field position. Although that waned somewhat as the game wore on, the defensive intensity of the first quarter set the tone for the game and really was the determining factor in the game. The offense never really got into a rhythm, scoring quickly on short fields and did not have many early sustained drives or time of possession.

2. Will the front seven be able to contain CSU’s QB? No problem. QB Grant Stucker ended the game with -36 yards rushing on a couple of sacks. His running threat was a non-factor. That said, he had eons of time to throw, especially in the second half.

3. Will the defense get stingy on third down? Mostly. After conceding nearly all third downs to FSU last week, the defense held CSU to 7 of 17 third downs this week, a significant improvement.

4. Will the punt return unit finally get a chance? Two thumbs up for the unit. Of note out of five punts, Matt Marshall had a back breaking punt block in the first quarter and McKay Jacobsen had a confidence building clean fair catch. No real preview to the actual return capabilities, but a good performance by the punt return/defense team.

5. Can the defense limit the big plays? Sufficiently. Although the defense gave up 438 total yards, they limited the big plays and forced CSU to do it in small chunks, which sucked up game time, but kept CSU out of the end zone quite a bit more than FSU last week.

6. Which run defense will show up? Closer to Tulane than FSU. CSU was playing catch up for the entire game and primarily looked to the passing game to get them back in it, but still, was limited to 66 yards rushing on 28 carries (2.8 yd/carry average). Nice job by the run defense.

7. How effective will the blitz be? Almost non-existent. There was very little blitzing (apparently a game strategy decision by coaches), and equally little pressure on the quarterback, especially in the second half, so it should not be a surprise that CSU was able to pass for 372 yards. The sacks that BYU did get were often coverage sacks.

8. How big of a factor will missed tackles be? No longer an issue. After missing tackles on seemingly every play against FSU, the defense resumed its sure-handed grip on opposing ball carriers, and stopping them for minimal gain an many key plays.

9. Will the turnover pendulum swing back? On its way. After a -5 in the turnover department last week, it was progress to be even (two each), especially with CSU who was one of the national leaders so far this season in turnover margin. However, Max Hall has got to be somewhat disappointed in his two-interception outing, putting him even this season with 8 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. To put it in perspective, last season Max had 7 touchdowns in the UCLA game alone and only 8 interceptions through 11 games. Although he is effectively moving the ball, he has now thrown a pick in 7 consecutive games (15 total during those games).

10. How much success will Max to McKay have with deep balls? Minimal. After Hall to Collie deep was the story of the game last year against CSU, Hall to Jacobsen (or Chambers), was not much of a story. Chambers had a 37 yard catch to the 5 yard line, Jacobsen had one that was called back, and there were a few that didn’t connect, but otherwise most balls were thrown at fewer than 20 yards.

11. Have the fans recovered and will they show up? Almost. Although selling the game out for the 14th consecutive game, the crowd seemed to be a bit slow to react and not much of a factor. Perhaps that is because the Mtn. seems to muffle the crowd noise for television somewhat, so if you were at the game and have a different perspective, please speak up.

12. What impact will the new turf have on the game? Primarily embarrassment. There did not seem to be much in the way of player slippage, although the field looked like a joint meeting of the local beginner golfer convention and a gopher reunion. Between plays there was a crew out stomping down divots and relocating displaced chunks of sod. Not a good showing for the field crew of the stadium.

All in it was a good enough game, not a great game. The first quarter, which essentially was the difference in the game, went as fans and players would have hoped, but the remaining three quarters were much less decisive, leaving some question in the minds of fans as to the team’s actual progress over the previous week’s game.


  1. I was at the game and I got the sense that offensive and defensive play calling was purposefully bland once BYU got the big lead.

    No reason to risk injury nor give away any new plays nor effort if it isn't warranted. After all, this was the first conference game and we have many more difficult games to get through.

    Fans had an exciting 1st quarter, but could have just gone home after that.

    Too bad, but I see the point.

  2. Thanks for sharing. That is about how it appeared on TV, a loud an energetic first quarter, followed by a bit of dozing in the west stands, socializing in the student section, and yawning by everyone else...

  3. P.S. Harvey Unga is a stud. He needs more of an opportunity to make plays.