Saturday was another tough day for the Cougars, as they fell to the Wolfpack of Nevada, losing their third game in a row, for the first time in the Bronco Mendenhall era (in the same season). A loss is a loss, but there are few good things that the Cougar faithful can take away from this game. Jake Heaps had his first start. The game never got entirely out of reach of the Cougars. Let’s take a look at my keys to the game, from the preview.
Jake Heaps and the Receivers. Jake, the receivers, and the O-line did a good job of avoiding sacks this game, only giving up one. Compared to the 8 against Florida St, that’s a big improvement. Jake ended the day 24/45 for 229 yards. While I’d love to see that percentage be higher – you can’t say they aren’t giving him enough attempts – it could be argued that they are giving them to him at the wrong times (see next paragraph).
Side note regarding play calling: play-calling this year has at times been shocking. In the 3rd quarter, trailing, the call on 4th and 4 is a run – even when Heaps was 5/6 passing on that drive leading up to that play. Kariya rushed for 3 of the 4 necessary yards. 4th quarter, still trailing, 3rd and 7 on the Nevada 15 yard line, the call is, DiLuigi to run. He got 3 yards, and the Cougars settled for a field goal. On that drive, Heaps was 4/5 passing.
Ball control. BYU actually won the turnover battle. In the second quarter, Nevada attempted and failed to convert on a 4th and 1 try, for a turnover on downs; and Vic So’oto intercepted the ball (while wearing the fallen Romney Fuga’s jersey) in the fourth quarter. Taking the ball away from the Wolfpack did a lot to keep the Cougars in this game.
Team Identity. While they aren’t there yet, these Cougars have a lot to be proud of. Jake Heaps has had his first official start. He is getting all of the reps in practice, and the difference can be seen on the field. The Cougars never quit on this game, and looked really good in the last minute as they were driving down the field.
What we know about Nevada
Nevada is going to have a banner year. They are off to their best start since going 12-0 in 1991. They are 4-0, and I think their only true challenger the rest of the season is Boise State. Most people figure Boise St. already has their ticket punched for their trip to the BCS National Championship, but I think the Nevada Wolfpack have as good a chance as anyone this season to knock off the Broncos.
What we know about BYU
Yes, BYU lost 3 games straight, but this BYU team did more against Nevada than many expected. Nevada was held well below their season averages for offensive production – they were averaging around 50 points per game. The fact that the Cougars kept it close really tells me that these kids are headed the right direction. Look for them to rebound the next couple of weeks, and to continue to get better as the season progresses.