RAMBLE ON … Let the Blame Game Begin

After a painful season-opening performance by the BYU football team, there is plenty of finger pointing going around among Cougar fans. R. Leuma "Reg" Schwenke calls attention to several areas of concern from Boston College game.

Forget the fact that junior quarterback John Beck still does not have "IT" – the clutch capacity that great quarterbacks instinctively possess. This quality was consistently demonstrated by Ty Detmer from his redshirt freshman year and other notable Cougar quarterback greats from BYU's illustrious gridiron past.

Forget the fact the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) officiating crews essentially rendered Saturday's game in Cougar Town a "home field" outing for visiting Boston College in LaVell Edwards' backyard.

Forget the fact that BYU was simply beaten by a superior opponent from America's left coast, ironically from a state led by Gov. Mitt Romney, a BYU alumnus.

In the end, BYU's season-opener loss amounted to three words: lack of execution.

Cougar coach Bronco Mendenhall deserves kudos for his "no excuses" shouldering of the miscues that resulted in the BYU loss.

On the glass-half-full side, the revamped Cougar offense showed great promise for the near future and BYU's defense held the Eagles scoreless long enough for the offense to score on at least two separate occasions.

Unfortunately, that did not happen.

After watching John Beck the last three years, he is definitely our best bet right now at quarterback, but he seems to lack the "X-factor" that separates good quarterbacks from great ones in critical clutch moments. The most glaring example Saturday was his feeble failed attempt to gain a first down on an important fourth-and-one situation. Instead of stretching for an easy first down, Beck went down inches short of the first down he should have made had he just stretched for it. Instead, the ACC officials marked him down where his knees landed first.

Possibly because of past injuries, it seemed like Beck played not to get hurt and gave up too quickly on developing routes downfield. Todd Watkins and other receivers were open had he just waited a second longer or even looked in their direction. Instead, he relied too much on easy sideline passes to his running backs without too much pressure that were mildly successful, but became so predictable by the second half that Boston College defenders deflected at least three of them that could easily have been intercepted for instant touchdowns.

In the fourth quarter, two Eagle defenders on each side were anticipating and waiting for sideline passes and immediately reacted to them. It did not help when the wide receivers did not consistently block on these out routes.

Beck also demonstrated his "happy feet" of past years when he scrambled too soon for mostly negative yardage without identifying wide outs breaking open downfield. His decision-making skills in the pocket in the heat of battle leave a lot to be desired, but it is something impatient Cougar fans now demand from a seasoned junior veteran.

No one questions Beck's determination, dedication and work ethic, but he needs to significantly upgrade his decision-making in game situations if he is to return BYU to its championship days. Many question if he has the "right stuff" to make it happen.

For the most part, a great deal of credit goes to offensive line coach Jeff Grimes for significantly inhibiting Boston College's vaunted pass-rush. All-everything defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka was largely a non-factor for most of the game; a lesson sure to be closely scrutinized and emulated by upcoming Eagle opponents.

The pre-game confidence of BYU's defensive front six in stopping or severely curtailing Boston College's expected rushing attack worked in the early part of the game, but it became painfully obvious as the game progressed they were not up to the task for the full 60 minutes. By the fourth quarter, the Eagles were running the ball up BYU's gut at will, eating valuable time off the clock.

Senior defensive lineman Manaia Brown's inexplicable three penalties for lining up off-sides – one negating his quarterback sack – left people scratching their heads.

On the bright side, running backs Curtis Brown and Fahu Tahi demonstrated their double-threat running and catching abilities that will likely continue for the remainder of the season.

Similarly, BYU's cadre of receivers proved to be one of the Cougars brightest hopes for the near future with exceptional play by Nathan Meikle, Daniel Coats, Jonny Harline, Zac Collie and, of course Todd Watkins.

The fact that BYU's offensive coaching brain trust did not capitalize more on Watkins' game-breaking skills is inexcusable. Indeed, Watkins was double-teamed a lot and was often manhandled well past the five-yard line of scrimmage without a single offensive interference call from ACC refs looking in his direction. On three separate occasions, Watkins appealed to the nearest official who ignored him.

While the ACC officiating crew diligently called every holding call they saw from BYU's side – often when the Cougars completed big plays, they were not as vigilant in watching the Boston College super-sized offensive line. BYU defenders appealed on numerous occasions in vain to ACC officials they were being held in the front and in the back of their jerseys. The visiting officiating crew finally made up for their non-calls in the fourth quarter when the game's outcome was no longer in doubt.

I seriously doubt a Mountain West Conference officiating crew will have the gumption or the gall to do the same when the Cougars play the Eagles next season in Boston.

Clearly, coach Mendenhall must make a lot of internal corrections and adjustments quickly as his team revisits the lofty expectations he and they established in the preseason.

The Boston College match-up was a winnable game for the Cougars if they simply executed consistently in the "blue zone" – even with a one-sided ACC officiating crew.

The Eagles have superior talent overall and more depth in the key positions, but the Cougars cost themselves the game in the final analysis. One or two early scores would have put the Eagles on their heels and the recharged defense could have risen to the occasion.

Their improvement against an equal opponent like Texas Christian University in Provo in three weeks (the Horned Frogs upset 7th-ranked Oklahoma on the road Saturday) will go a long way toward showing how good the 2005 Cougars will be.

No one should overlook Div. 1-AA Eastern Illinois this Saturday, but let's be real folks…


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