Washington 1986. Hawaii 1989. Oregon, Hawaii, Texas A&M 1990. Florida State 1991. 2000 pre-Doman. Hawaii 2001. 2002. 2003. 2004. Utah, TCU 2008. TCU 2009.
What is the common thread in all of these? That you were there until the end. You didn't leave the stadium early. You didn't turn off the TV. You stood by the Cougars until the end. That is what true fans do. They support their team in good and bad. That is a defining characteristic of BYU fans. We believe. We stay until the end. No matter the score. No matter the time. The team doesn't stop competing (I can only think of two exceptions--CSU and Boise in 2003) and we don't stop supporting.
But, that doesn't mean that we don't have opinions, or dissect every move of the players and coaches, or think we might have some insight into what is really going on. I am no different.
Here is my somewhat-stream-of-consciousness take on a few pieces of our current situation:
Jamie Hill--Hill was not a scapegoat. Bronco is not one to be reactionary. The fact that Hill was released means to me that there were significant underlying reasons, and that if anything, Bronco probably waited longer than he should have.
Coaching Matters--What Bronco did to the defense in a few days between Utah State and SDSU, was stunning. Most BYU fans were bemoaning the fact that we had no talent on D. Then the first quarter of the SDSU game happened and it hasn't stopped. The same players, minus a few of the better ones to injury, have performed admirably. One can only imagine that the same transformation could be performed on offense. The talent level is not the problem.
Hot Seat--Robert Anae has to be on the hot seat. I like him. He frustrates me at times--frequently this season--but I hope he succeeds. I want him to find the solutions and get the ship righted. But, if he cannot do it, Bronco will need to find someone who can.
Leadership Vacancy--Bronco has stated a couple of times that this team is short on leaders... and he is looking for someone to step up. I would suggest that this is a problem that is actually inherent in the approach to this season. Bronco has only named two captains, leaving two other traditional spots unfilled. There were two opportunities to provide a mantle of leadership to a couple of his seniors. Perhaps they were not ready--a mantle allows a player to step up and grow into the role and responsibility. It allows the players around him to respect and follow that leader without thinking that the player is trying to be presumptuous. How was Jake supposed to be a leader early in the season? He wasn't the starter. Bronco had not expressed confidence in him, so how were the other players supposed to feel? BYU of all places is a place where players know how to lead and how to follow. They understand mantles. How many times have these players followed a district leader, zone leader, bishop, EQP, etc that was given a mantle? A "calling" to team captain, might have been, and still could be a good recipe for leadership success. Vic So'oto? Bryan Kariya? Brian Logan? These guys should be captains. Give them the mantle and let them run with it.
Starters--Failing to name a starter at QB and TE, has left these positions in somewhat of a tailspin. QB has been on the mend after an injury mercifully ended the spiral. TE is still out of control. A coach needs to pick a starter and then let him play. Should he lose the job, there are others waiting to step up. If they are all the same, go with the gut. Failing to name a starter cuts reps, leadership ability, confidence, and chemistry.
Reps Impact--Linked closely to the failure to name a starter is the impact that has on repetitions for those players. I promised some numbers in this first analysis since I've been back. Here it is (if not exact, it is at least illustrative). If a typical opposing player gets 100 reps, here is how this shakes out for the BYU QBs, TEs, WRs.
100: Typical player reps (for example)
80: BYU practices are roughly 20% shorter than most opponents practices
72: Assume 10 percent of those reps (early season) were lost to time spent installing two distinct offenses
36: Reps are split between the two QBs, leaving them with 36 each--WR's only get 36 reps with each QB
7: With 5 TE's splitting time, each only gets 20% of those 36 reps with each QB
What is the result? Our QB, a true freshman, is (was) only getting 36% of the reps of the opponent's QB. Our WR's were only getting 36% of the reps with their QB as opposing WRs were getting with their QB. Compounding that, our TE's--all rookies--are (were) only getting 7.2% as many reps each as players from opposing teams! At that rate the season will be over before any of our TE's get the same number of reps as opposing players get in Fall Camp!!! And these are players that needed to get more reps than opposing players due to inexperience! The WR's and QB's three games into the season were barely where others were at the end of fall camp. This has been course-corrected for Heaps and his WR's, but the TEs are still a mess, and unless someone gets named a starter soon, is unlikely to improve.
Drops--Are you following the chain here? 64% fewer reps for our QBs and WRs than the competition might shed light on some of our drops here. The drops this season have been unprecedented. Doubtless some portion of them must be a systematic failure such as above. Likely there are others too. I would hope to see more accountability for receivers dropping passes--critical first downs, touchdowns, third down conversions, easy dumps, fades, across the middles and everything in between. It was reduced in the TCU game but still remained an issue--hard not to improve considering how glaring this was. I wish I had tracked the actual number of drops in those first few games. I think we would have seen a significant number of drives ended and points missed due directly to dropped passes--enough so that it could have been the difference in the season so far.
The Long Ball--Between the dropped passes (seemingly one or more per series in the first 5 games) and the decision to have Heaps throw it deep on nearly 1 in 3 plays in those first few games, can explain nearly all of the offensive ineptitude. Anyone who ever succeeded at intramural football knows that the long ball is hardly ever completed and yet is so tempting that many do it anyway, to the detriment of their t-shirt dreams. BYU was essentially throwing 2 plays away (a drop and a long ball), leaving us with one real crack at a first down, and ensuring 3 and out repeatedly. It is good to see we have moved away from this, but perhaps we have mistaken failures of the long ball for failures of the passing game and need to reinstate the mid range game.
Running Personnel--Our running game has improved significantly since the UW game. However, there are still far too many instances of Kariya trying to take it around the end on third and short or DiLuigi trying to go up the middle in the same situation. Enough to make you want to pull your hair out. Use the personnel to their strengths.
Coaches Giving Up--In many of the early games, the coaches elected to punt from inside the 40 yard line. They opted to kick field goals when touchdowns were needed if there was any hope of winning. As an anxious fan, it was exasperating. It felt as if the coaches were giving up--going for the moral victory. When coaches are doing that, what are the players supposed to do? The fake field goal was a turning point. It showed that the coaches had not given up. BYU is going to need much more of that mentality from its coaches if it wants that message to rub off on the players.
So there you have it.