The offseason is killer, and I don’t know if the daily countdown helps or not, but there are 43 days left until college football, and more importantly, until BYU football kicks off. To make it through, I’ve been using BYUtv and watching some great old BYU football games. Today I watched the Utah State game from last year, and I decided that it tells the story of the entire BYU season. Few analogies are perfect, and neither is this one, but it’s a pretty close match.
Game: Things started out well enough, we won the toss!
Season: We also won the game at Ole Miss, which could have gone either way, if it weren’t for the heroics of Kyle Van Noy, who made sure that this toss-up came down clearly in favor of the Cougars.
Game: In the first play from scrimmage, Robert Turbin reeled off an 80 yard run for a touchdown. Talk about a stake through the heart. This came against a defense typically strong against the run. A defense with guys capable of pursuing and decimating a ball carrier. But the Aggies, and Turbin, killed us on that play.
Season: We gave up a late lead at Texas, and ended up losing by a point. AND we lost 54-10 to Utah at home.
Game: We follow up with ten points on the next two drives to take an early lead! Utah State responds with another touchdown and we add a field goal. Trailing by a point at the half, and wondering how we’re losing to the Aggies.
Season: We follow up the loss to the Utes by beating Central Florida. Heaps struggled in passing, completing only 16/34 attempts, at 3.9 yards per attempt. The difference in the game? A 93 yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Cody Hoffman. The Cougars beat the Knights despite being outgained offensively, 399 yards to 260 yards.
Game: By the middle of the third quarter, Utah State had extended its lead to 8 points, with a score of 21-13. Five consecutive drives for the Cougars (reaching back to the 2nd quarter) netted only 3 points, and during the same span that the Aggies amassed 14, so Riley Nelson was put into the game to relieve Jake Heaps.
Season: Jake Heaps had been declining consistently since a decent game against Ole Miss. In that game Jake posted a completion percentage of 63.2. Over the next four games, that number would continually drop: 57.9, 54, 47.1, 44. It’s not the only relevant stat, but it’s probably the most telling, and the one that most directly illustrates the increasing frustration of decreased performance as losses began to add up. When it became apparent that with Heaps in the game, a loss to Utah State was inevitable, Riley Nelson was brought in the end of the third quarter, in hopes that he would provide a spark.
Game: Riley Nelson indeed sparked the Cougar offense, guiding the Cougars in their longest drive of the half, 36 yards, to set up what would be a failed FG. On the subsequent drive, Nelson connected with Hoffman on a 24 yard touchdown pass, cutting the Aggie lead to just 4. The subsequent Utah State drive stalled after 55 yards, and resulted in a turnover on downs. The Cougar running game then came alive under DiLuigi, as he contributed a few good runs to a 42 yard drive that seemed destined to be the game-winner. But DiLuigi fumbled, and it was recovered by the Aggies.
Season: Riley sparked the team to come back and win the game against Utah State in dramatic fashion. The Cougars followed up with wins against San Jose State, Oregon State, and Idaho State. But they ran into trouble against TCU, where special teams gaffes ensured a Horned Frog win.
Game: The defense came up big when it needed to, holding the Aggies to just 1 yard on their next possession, and getting the Cougars the ball for one more drive. Riley Nelson led the Cougars 96 yards in just over 2 minutes to get the game winning touchdown with a mere 11 seconds remaining.
Season: The Cougars rounded out the season with wins over Idaho, New Mexico State, and Hawaii, making football look easy. They ended the season, and their bowl game against Tulsa in dramatic fashion, with Riley Nelson leading the offense, down by 4 with just over four minutes remaining. The drive ended on a touchdown pass to Cody Hoffman with a mere 11 seconds remaining.
The game ended in a win, and the season was a good, winning season because of the incredible turnaround of the team, led by the one and only Riley Nelson.