The Cougar Curve

Games like these are left with many key moments that changed the course of the ball game. As the Cougars dropped this game to the Utes 41-34 most of those moments went against the Cougars. Allow me to submit several moments that will haunt BYU fans from now until next season when they get a chance at the Utes again.

Moment #1: In a game like this with Utah reeling going in starting a JC quarterback with no prior experience it would have served BYU well to get up early and make him play from behind. BYU now eschews a longtime tradition of deferring to the second half on the opening coin toss in exchange for choosing to receive the ball for the express purpose of getting ahead and making the opposition play from behind.

BYU won the toss, received the ball and then failed to score as Curtis Brown dropped the opening pass that would have gone for at least a 50 yard gain, committed an illegal procedure penalty on a crucial third and six while Eddie Keele accounted for a personal foul on the opening drive. Not the type of play that champions employ when coming out against their rival.

Moment #2: BYU gets the ball back as they now have to answer Utah's scoring drives. During this drive Matt Allen makes a great adjustment on the ball to catch a 40+ yard pass that was nullified by a very questionable and petty offensive pass interference call. Drive over and Utah answers with another scoring drive.

Moment #3: Bronco Mendenhall shows Crowton-like patience going for it midfield on fourth and two down 17-3. The conversion doesn't work, but then Ludwig (Utah offensive coordinator) bails out Mendenhall's bad decision by going for the end zone three straight plays. BYU gets the ball back and Fahu Tahi promptly has the ball stripped from him. Utah puts it in the end zone, 24-3 Utah.

Moment #4: BYU has the ball on a two-minute drill drive at the end of the half which is good since they practice it many times every week. On a second and 10 from just inside Utah territory, Beck throws a 4 yard pass to C. Brown with 36 seconds left, goes up to the huddle and spikes the football. BYU is now faced with fourth down and puts on the field goal unit.

Anae, Bronco and company then reconsider their likely attempted fake field goal after Utah calls a timeout, Beck throws a pass that is knocked down and the drive is over making it a three-score deficit going into halftime. So much for two-minute drill execution.

Moment #5: BYU has all the momentum in the world scoring two touchdowns within the first five minutes of the second half. BYU fails to pin Utah deep on special teams giving them good field position on their kickoff coverage. Utah does not take advantage as BYU works them into a 3rd and 23 at midfield after the Cougar pushed Utah out of field goal range.

Then my chief moment occurred when for some reason Mendenhall calls for single coverage from his second-string cornerback Cole Miyahira up the sideline. How there is no safety help over the top in this situation is anyone's guess as Mendenhall only rushed the quarterback with four men.

I don't know if it was a coverage error of mammoth proportions or simply a bad call by Mendenhall with his coverage, but having your second-string CB trailing a wide-receiver in single coverage on a fly pattern on third and 23 is inexcusable. Brett Ratliff takes full advantage completing a perfect and easy pass for a 31-17 Utah lead.

Moment #6: Score is 34-34 as BYU's defense holds the Utes and has the ball midfield. They get the ball will into field goal range with a very impressive run of around 15 yards. The officials then call one of the cheaper holding penalties you will ever seen on Terrance Brown who was not even the lead blocker on this play. BYU fails to convert and the game goes to overtime.

Moment #8: Utah's offensive line did an outstanding job throughout the game nullifying the blitzes that the 3-3-5 scheme has to thrive upon in order to be successful. On second and 10 from the 25 in overtime, Mendenhall calls for his Cougarback to blitz from almost 15 yards in the backfield. Utah picks it up easily and hits the tight end up the seam in the end zone where the Cougar would have been.

Moment #9: John Beck faced with 4th and 6 from the 21 in overtime scrambles out of the pocket and literally has 4 offensive linemen in front of him with no Ute within 15 yards of him. Instead of making the easy yards by running he decides that it's all or nothing at that moment and heaves up one of the more ill-advised and desperate passes you will see. Game over, Utah wins their fourth straight over BYU and their 6th game in the last 7 tries at LaVell Edwards stadium.

Moment #10: Ute fans and players alike are sloth to leave the field as their fight song is played loud and proud while the BYU administration passes out blankets to the graduating players. Several of these players went their entire career without beating the University of Utah.

Quarterbacks: C

Beck was prolific passing for a lot of yards, but he did not come through when the team needed him to do so. On the final offensive play in regulation, Beck read the blitz, went to the correct receiver who was Harline in single coverage and simply did not execute the pass overthrowing the receiver as he tends to do far too often in critical situations. It was Beck's worst game since the San Diego State game.

Running Backs: B

Curtis Brown and Fahu Tahi did well for the most part, but both made crucial errors which helped Utah to a victory with fumbles and dropped passes.

Receivers: B

The receivers caught just about every catchable ball that was thrown to them. Matt Allen and Nathan Miekle in particular had good outings. Todd Watkins was not as involved as he needed to be as Beck failed to deliver the ball to him when he beat the defense deep.

Offensive Line: B+

Offensive line did their job well for the most part. They did not get the push on running plays that Brown and Tahi have become used to, but they were effective getting a push for the most part. The OL gave Beck the time he needed on most passes as well. It was another solid outing for BYU's most solid unit.

Defensive Line: B-

The DL was not the problem bottling up Ganther for most of the game. They got upfield in their pass rushes on Ratliff, which Ratliff exploited to the max. Running out of the pocket was Utah's most effective offensive play, and it worked over and over and over again as the help behind the DL was non-existent for the duration of the ball game.

Linebackers: D-

What has been BYU's most effective defensive unit throughout the year was non-existent making plays today. Utah had a classic drop-back quarterback with little if any speed convert third down repeatredly and over again due to over pursuit of the linebackers and just a general inability to make plays in the open field. This was a game the linebackers should just as soon forget.

Cornerbacks: C+

The cornerbacks were not the problem, or at least were not the major problem, in giving up 41 points to: Utah. The CBs provided the best coverage I have seen in a while, but it was all for not. They were not great or even good in coverage, but they did relatively well.

Safeties: D

The safeties have to be some of the primary play-makers in Mendenhall's 3-3-5 scheme and this unit simply did not make plays whether it was blitzing out of the backfield, in coverage or in open field tackling. They were down two players and it showed.

Bottom line is that I like this team a lot. I like what Coach Mendenhall is doing and feel that this team will arrive, but they are not there yet as evidenced today with Utah's 41-34 victory. This BYU team most likely beats this Utah team 8 out of every 10 times they play, but good programs that have arrived do not allow for any margin of error. Utah was the better prepared team today and it showed.


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