Boston College is a good team, much better than I expected them to be. Their offensive line is big and talented. BC also had two quality running backs that will likely go over 100 as a tandem several against quality ACC opponents. The Eagles had enough depth on defense to rotate in eight defensive linemen and six linebackers in order to stay fresh on the field. When Boston College goes up against Florida State in two weeks, Cougar fans should have a better idea about how good the team that cost them their home opener really is.
That being said, the Cougars I saw today did not execute like the Cougars I watched in fall camp. What I saw on Saturday looked an awful lot like what we have seen over the last three seasons in terms of back-breaking penalties and struggles on third down and in opponent's territory. During fall ball the Cougars were money in the "Blue Zone." The defense could not stop them, and as we saw today the defense is quite capable of making a stand anywhere on the field. The Cougars also got very good at converting on third down as fall practice wound down but there was too little of that on Saturday.
So here is my tidbit of hope for the frustrated, disgruntled Cougar fans out there. Every time the offense was challenged to step up after a poor performance in fall camp, they answered. Clearly, the Cougars have issues that need to be addressed, but be sure that they will be addressed by the coaching staff. I fully expect the entire team to respond to the challenges that will be laid by coaches and teammates alike this week.
The question that remains to be answered is, will the Cougars come back like the team in 2000 that lost its opener and went on to lose six games, or like the 1998 team that lost its opener and went on to win 9 games?
Why can't. . .
Why can't BYU fans get loud as soon as the opposing defense takes the field? How many times in the game did BC's quarterback start the snap count before the volume start going up in the stadium? The fans have the power to disrupt the opponent's communication, but in order to do that they need to do the disrupting while the opponent is communicating. That means getting loud as soon as the opponent's offense takes the field so it is difficult to hear in the huddle and impossible to audible without hand signals. That is what home field advantage and the twelfth man are all about. It does not sit well with me to hear fans at the stadium make more noise complaining about the Cougars than they do trying to help the Cougars.
Why can't Nate Soelberg turn his head to the ball when he is covering deep routes? I was under the impression that this was common practice for cornerbacks, but I may be mistaken. I do not remember if during fall drills Coach Mitchell taught Soelberg to look back, or not look back, for the ball while covering deep routes. I do not mean to pick on Soelberg, I only want this tendency explained so I can know if it is proper technique or something that needs to be fixed.
Why can't the people in charge of the audio/visual equipment at LaVell Edwards Stadium turn the dang loudspeakers and Jumbotron highlights off when the football team is doing the Haka before the game? I admit that the Haka surprise was likely a surprise to the A/V guys. Next time, I hope they will eliminate the distraction.
Jonny Harline – Harline showed off the catchers mitts he has for hands during the first half. Unfortunately he suffered an AC separation in his shoulder and could not help out in the second half. Coaches should know when Harline will be available after the severity of the separation is determined.
Justin Robinson – Robinson was impressive when he was in the game. He was quick to the ball and showed ability to make a stop in the open field. Robinson also showed a fearless nature as he fought through much larger blockers to come up and stop running plays to the outside. With Robinson's speed and ability to quickly change direction, it seems likely that he could see some time in the punt and kick return game in the future.
An Accountable Head Coach
Many fans and media personalities have questioned, if not criticized, some of the play calling by the Cougar coaching staff. At the top of the critics' list is Coach Mendenhall's decision to punt the ball on fourth and three while trailing by 14 with nine minutes left in the game. In keeping with his straight-shooter mentality, Coach Mendenhall admitted that he made the wrong call. He also directed all blame for the Cougars' shortcomings back to himself, explaining that he is ultimately responsible for his team's performance.
The candid answers do not erase the bad decision or fix the Cougars' problems, but it is refreshing to hear a coach who accepts, rather than deflects responsibility for what happens on the field. Also, admitting that something is wrong is the first step to making it right.
There Is Always Next Year
BYU will have the chance to return the favor when it travels to Boston in 2006. When the teams next meet, several players will be absent. For the Cougars, Spencer White, Nate Soelberg, Chris Hale, Paul Walkenhorst, Justin Luettgerodt, Manaia Brown, Vince Feula and Daniel Marquardt will be missing on defense and Todd Watkins, Fahu Tahi, Lance Reynolds and Brian Sanders will be gone on offense. The Eagles will be without the services of LB Ray Henderson, DB Jazzmen Williams, DE Mathais Kiwanuka, LB Ricky Brown, and DT Al Washington on defense and WR Will Blackmon, C Pat Ross, OT Jeremy Trueblood, TE Chris Miller, and QB Quinton Porter.
A brief roster analysis shows that the strengths of both teams in Saturday's game will be in a rebuilding phase next year. What that bodes for the rematch remains to be seen.