In a game that played out much closer than most expected, the Cougars put San Diego State behind them with an offense that played just below its UNLV performance (best of the season) and a defense that was barely better than its Florida State performance (worst of the season).
Last week I wrote:
“BYU will come out focused and meet SDSU’s preparation with preparation and execution. After a tight first quarter and a close first half, BYU pulls away in the third quarter and plays the subs in the fourth. Records fall, experience is gained, and the Cougars can finally focus on TCU.”
That was a reasonably accurate assessment of the first half, although in the second half the Cougs didn’t really pull away until the fourth quarter. Hall and Pitta did make their move up the record charts, and the team learned some lessons that will hopefully wake them up for this week’s game. Here is a review of what we watched for in this game:
• Health—Success. Despite several players fighting a flu bug, and not playing at 100%, there were no major injuries.
• Box Score Victory—Draw. The score was closer than it needed to be as BYU didn’t cover the spread, however, given the number of losses in the top 25 this week, it didn’t really matter.
• Another Clean Game—Offense yes, Defense no. As mentioned last week, it would take a combination of several significant mistakes—key turnovers, meaningful penalties, blown coverages, special teams meltdowns, etc—for BYU to lose this game. And as the offense held up its share of the bargain, the defense alone was not able to make enough mistakes to lose the game. That said, there were some blown coverages and 1 or 2 meaningful penalties. There were a few questionable penalties as well—as I was in attendance at the game, I have not had a chance to review most of the calls, but several seemed suspect at the time (as well as 2-3 obvious no-calls) and Bronco seems to agree, having submitted at least two calls to the league for review.
• Max Protection—Max played a great game. There were a few moments where he felt the pressure and was able to escape. He ended up with 14 runs for 47 yards, and had another 42 yarder called back on a penalty.
• Scott Johnson—Played. There was some question as to whether he would play and how that would impact the game. Johnson played and had a key tackle and interception at the goal line.
• Eenie, meenie, minie, moe, to which receiver will Hall throw? All of them. Despite 346 passing yards, as has become common this season, no single receiver filled the stat sheets, but it was Andrew George, Dennis Pitta and JJ DiLuigi that came up with the big plays when they were needed.
• Secondary Impact Games—OU close loss. TCU big win. The stage is set for another top 10 battle this Saturday in Provo, complete with Game Day on hand. I find it interesting to note that BYU had already been in discussions with ESPN regarding Game Day for several days prior to Sunday’s announcement. It is likely hard not to overlook a game when you are already making plans predicated on victory. I wonder how that impacted the team or staff, if at all (and to the extent they were aware of it—at the very least I imagine Bronco was).
• Player Records—Done. Hall passed McMahon for third place in passing and total offense. Pitta passed college-football-hall-of-famer Gordon Hudson to become all-time leader for receiving yards by a tight end, as well as moved into third place for receptions and sixth for yards among all BYU receivers.
A few other items of note:
• Overall seemingly poor officiating—inconsistency, long delays, late calls, non calls, questionable calls.
• Hall looked great on his feet, but at some point is going to pay a price for that
• In a curious decision by the coaches, the defense only sent three rushers for most of the game, giving SDSU QB Lindley enough time to throw that he looked like an All-American.
• Several of the big plays given up by the defense were not a matter of defenders being out of position or even beat really, but rather was an issue of how the defender played the receiver at the point of reception—often seemingly not even aware the ball was coming, only to make a tackle after a catch that could/should have been denied.
• As it was my first time in Qualcomm Stadium, my first impression was the vast emptiness of the seats. Otherwise, it was nice, with reasonable parking and easy access to the various levels.
• The running game seemed to lack a bit of creativity and impact, but was likely hampered by the loss of Manase Tonga’s lead blocking skills. It was also curious to see JJ DiLuigi given the ball on two critical short down plays, where a power runner (or at least someone that can push through the first tackler) would seem to be more suited.
• The kick returners seem to have adopted a new practice of going half speed until the blockers have committed to the defenders—it didn’t seem especially effective and was rather frustrating to watch. Anyone have any insights as to what was going on there?