Questions abound regarding the BYU program that was annihilated last week in the game that Utah fans have dubbed “shock and awe”. What was the cause of the comedy of errors in that game? Was Utah THAT good? Was BYU THAT bad? Was it rivalry jitters? First home game and couldn’t handle the pressure? We hope to find the answers to those questions and more this Friday, as BYU plays host to the Knights of the University of Central Florida (UCF). Bronco Mendenhall has said that this game is a “must win” for a program with so many questions raised by the blowout loss last week. I think we can all agree with that.
UCF ended last season 11-3. The Knights beat SMU in the C-USA championship game, and went on to defeat Georgia in the Liberty Bowl 10-6. This season, the Knights started out strong with wins against FCS Charleston Southern and Boston College, but fell last week to FIU despite outgaining the Golden Panthers offensively. UCF QB Jeff Godfrey is a dual threat – he is capable of running the ball – and rushed for 41 yards and a touchdown against FIU. He doesn’t always get away though, and was sacked 6 times in that game. The Knights are currently 3rd in the nation in points against, giving up 6.7 per game, while scoring an average of 34. They are fairly balanced in passing and rushing offense, gaining 204 and 223 yards per game, respectively.
The last two weeks the Cougars have been awful in the second half. Texas and Utah were able to make good halftime adjustments to improve their play, and BYU has been unable to cope with those adjustments. BYU was outscored 54-3 in the second half over the last two games. In the loss last week, the offense gave up 7 turnovers, including two that were returned directly for Utah touchdowns. The defense (whether they gave up or not) was worn out by the end of the game, and it seemed they had little to play for, as the offense put more points on the board for the Utes than for themselves.
Keys to the game
Doman. I was okay with the play-calling last week, but that doesn’t mean that Doman is off the hook. The offense was careless with the ball, and the shotgun snap issues are evidently still a problem. The offense was able to make some good plays, but only twice were able to score. I’m pretty sure that a pro-style offense is supposed to include some kind of running game – but that has not been working either. Half-time adjustments by Texas and Utah led to the Cougars scoring only 3 points in the second half the last two weeks. Doman needs to a) make better halftime adjustments, and b) adapt to changes implemented by the other team at halftime. It’s also on Doman to make the necessary adjustments for the runningbacks to have an impact on the game. DiLuigi, Quezada, and Kariya are all capable of running the ball effectively, they apparently just can’t get it done in the current scheme.
Heaps. Heaps threw for 300 yards last game, but on 27 passes (50 attempts). I would love to see the number of attempts drop, but that won’t until the running game improves. He reconnected with Cody Hoffman last week – for 138 yards, and hit Apo for a TD. I hope that Heaps can build on that and that he and his receivers can learn to trust one another.
The Rush Attack. I do not know what is wrong with our running game. The talent is there. Confidence may have been an issue last week, as DiLuigi and Quezada each fumbled early in the game. Half-way through the third quarter the Cougars became a pass-exclusive offense, which didn’t help anyone, as Heaps couldn’t manage the pressure, and even Nelson gave up the ball when he came in.
Special Teams. Falslev muffed the ball and the Utes officially recovered it on the one yard line. I hope he’s had a few extra reps catching the ball this week. Hoffman has the speed to run, but he doesn’t seem to be creative at all when he gets the ball. Sorensen hit a 46 yard field goal last week, the longest of his career. I hope that he can continue to build his (and our) confidence, so that he can be a reliable asset.
Bronco D. The defense has also been stellar in the first half. Bronco, like Doman, needs to do a better job of adapting to the opponent’s halftime adjustments. Corby Eason is the obvious weak link in the defense right now, and opposing quarterbacks are aiming his direction all game long. My biggest memory of him last week was a play where he ran toward the ball hoping for the INT, but it sailed over his head, and he was way too far out of position to make a play on the receiver, which resulted in an easy Ute touchdown. It’s tempting to go for the INT, but I’d much rather you stay back in your position. Evidently we don’t have anyone better, or they’d be on the field, but something has to be done to fix this.
This game is a must-win for the Cougars to gain back some of their credibility, and get some good exposure points on ESPN. A big win is probably too much to hope for, but I do think the Cougars can win this game, on strong play by the defense and by winning the turnover battle. I pick the Cougars over the Knights 24-14.