Now is the Time for Real Player Leaders to Step Up

The ESPN broadcast team patiently waited all game for an appropriately bright spot to segue and showcase the University's brand-spanking-new Indoor Practice Facility and adjoining athletics administration complex with its expected boost to the Cougar program's prestige and recruiting efforts.

Finally, with about four minutes left in the game, they could wait no longer. They had no choice but to go with their canned footage and positive review amid BYU's continuing slide when Boise State scored a final touchdown.

It was a bittersweet moment. It was the only piece of good news they or anyone else could say about the Cougars during or after their fourth consecutive home loss – the first time since 1968 a once-proud BYU program has reached this low point.

The "IFs, ands" or "buts" just don't cut it anymore.

Raise the white flag; this year's Cougar offense is about done, especially with Matt Berry not completely healthy and John Beck out for the season with a fractured hand. But I'd love for the team to prove me completely wrong. Take your best shot, guys.

To steal a line from the medieval movie, "A Knight's Tale" starring Aussie actor Heath Ledger with its deliberately displaced modern sound track, BYU was "measured, judged and found wanting" in its second consecutive Thursday night ESPN embarrassment – a 50-12 home-field loss last night to Boise State.

The Colorado State Rams walloped the Cougars 58-13 in their last home game in Provo on Oct. 9. The two-game total of 108 points marks the most points ever allowed by BYU over a two-game home stretch.

I won't give up on this team in deference to BYU's defensive unit which, despite the lopsided final score, held Boise State to 381 total yards on offense, significantly below its 519-yard season average coming into the game.

Frankly, while there are some very vulnerable areas on defense, you can't realistically (Bronco Mendenhall will likely disagree) expect them to repeatedly rise to the challenge time after time and game after game all season long.

The Cougars offense has failed miserably to give them any reason or ray of hope. Injuries and excuses aside, it will take a Herculean effort by coaches to sustain and maintain any semblance of real belief and conviction from players on both sides of the ball as they prepare for the final two games of the season against Notre Dame and Utah.

You can bet no player or coach will publicly concede or voice anything but continuous hope and optimism. The sad fact is this Cougar squad truly does not yet have any real playmakers on offense whose will or powers of persuasion are strong enough to move and motivate an entire team.

ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit even noted that none of BYU's three quarterbacks he saw (before scout team quarterback Jackson Brown entered the game) gave him any sense they had any inkling of the stuff former Cougar quarterback greats like Steve Young, Jim McMahon, Ty Detmer and Marc Wilson were made of. Perhaps therein lies this team's greatest challenge: No one on offense inspires visions of greatness or potential greatness in their ability to lead and motivate when the chips are down – like now.

In the interesting-but-meaningless category, BYU comparably matched up well against the Bronco's. Specifically, the Cougars had 22 first downs compared with Boise State's 19; Boise State (134 yards) only had 12 yards more in net rushing and 40 yards more (247 yards) in net passing than BYU. In the typically important time of possession category, the Cougars held the ball longer (29:39) than the Broncos (29:20).

However, when it mattered most, the Broncos intercepted the ball four times (three from Berry and one from Todd Mortensen), repeatedly killing any hope of momentum shifts for the Cougars.

If only to play for pride and self respect in a fast-deteriorating season, BYU's sole source for individual, team and national respect will be a nationally televised NBC game against another struggling team at Notre Dame on Nov. 15.

Now is the time for the senior player leaders on this team to step up prominently and publicly to assemble and rally their respective teammates and individual units with their passion and fiery competitiveness. Underclassman Brady Poppinga deserves kudos for stepping up already. The team needs more players, whose words are matched by their actions on the field, to do this.

Failing that, underclassmen leaders must then emerge now to assume new mantles of leadership and demonstrate a real take-charge attitude to get their team ready for next year.

It will be a fascinating study in human psychology to see who, what, where, when, why and how in the next few weeks.

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