All I Want (but Did not Get) for Christmas

Christmas came and went without filling several glaring holes on BYU's roster for next season. The six weeks between now and national letter of intent day will be crucial for Cougar coaches as they assemble the final pieces of a promising 2006 squad.

After watching BYU fall short to California in the Las Vegas Bowl, I made a few last minute additions to my Christmas wish list. Much to my dismay, none of my eleventh hour requests showed up under the tree on Christmas morning. Hopefully, Santa will remember me on his supplemental run to college campuses in early February!

Before I share my wish list, I should explain what I observed in the bowl game that led to the late additions to my list of "I Wants." As I saw it, the game was won by Cal's offensive and defensive lines. Their O-line blew open huge holes that allowed Marshawn Lynch to use his lightning quickness and breakaway speed to gain big chunks of yardage. The Cal front line also gave their quarterback plenty of time to find open receivers. When the pass rush was able to apply pressure, Levy's accuracy diminished to the point that his receivers might as well not have been covered.

On the other side of the ball, Cal's D-line got as much penetration as any team BYU faced this year. Cal's D-linemen were in the backfield so quickly that the Cougar running attack was largely neutralized. This feat was especially impressive in light of the fact that BYU's O-line was arguably the team's strongest unit this season.

Much maligned all season, BYU's secondary struggled again. The only bright spot was a few plays by Kayle Buchanan. The sophomore cornerback had a nice breakup on a deep ball and later made a wise play after getting beat when he took a pass interference penalty instead of giving up a touchdown. Other than that, the secondary did little to write home about. The corners were slow to react at times and the safeties were frequently out of position or took bad angles in both run and pass support.

Cal also exposed the only chink in Curtis Brown's armor: his speed. Against the Bears, Brown was not quick enough to cut back and evade penetrating d-linemen, nor was he fast enough to run away from speedy linebackers.

That said, Brown had a phenomenal year. He put up fantastic numbers by combining a tough, efficient running style with good decision making. He carried the whole BYU offense several times this year. Brown was easily big and strong enough to run over Mountain West competition this season. As evidenced by his amazing breakaway touchdown against Utah, Brown even has the speed to run away from some of the best talent in conference. The only times Brown had difficulties were when BYU played defenses like Notre Dame or Cal that had the speed to chase him down before he could do any damage.

Finally, if BYU fans are looking for someone to blame for any disappointments this season, they need look no farther than the closest mirror. Cal fans may have embarrassed themselves with some of their behavior during and after the game, but what everyone should be talking about is how Cal fans embarrassed BYU fans when it comes to what matters most: cheering. BYU fans outnumbered Cal fans nearly two to one, but you could not tell it from the noise in the stadium.

BYU's offense was noticeably affected by the tremendous amount of noise made by Cal fans. It was not just on third down either. On every down that the Cal defense was on the field, Cal fans were yelling their guts out and disrupting BYU's offensive communication in the process.

BYU fans could and should have returned the favor twofold, but they did not. Instead they say quietly for Cal's first and second down plays. In the event that BYU's defense forced a third down, Cougar fans were still slow to make noise. Alcohol certainly enhances fans' raucousness, but not enough to account for the disparity in volume between Cal and BYU fans.

The fans finally started to contribute in the fourth quarter when the Cougars were clawing their way back into the game. Unfortunately, like the BYU comeback, the fans efforts were too little, too late.

I have harped on this all year, but the fact of the matter is that many BYU fans spend more of the game complaining about the Cougars than cheering for them. Griping and whining does absolutely no good for the team during the game. If you want BYU to do better, then do your part by screaming your head off at their opponent. Save the armchair quarterbacking for after the game.

If BYU fans want their team to be one of the big boys, they need to start acting like the big boys' fans.

So without further ado, here is a list of the things that Santa forgot to bring me yesterday.

1 - Two shutdown corners. I want two corners who can shut down the competition BYU will face in the MWC and at least keep up with receivers out of conference.

2 - One real safety. I want one player who spent his high school and/or junior college career playing safety. BYU has some good talent returning at the safety spot that should be enhanced by the presence of a teammate with training and skill at the position.

3 - A replacement for Manaia Brown. BYU did a great job against the run this year when Brown was on the field. I want someone to come in and fill his shoes.

4 - Two true defensive ends. This year BYU had two defensive tackles playing the d-end position in Manaia Brown and Vince Feula. They provided an incredible run-stopping force, but they were not a speed pass rushing threat. I want BYU to land two true ends in the mold of Brett Keisel or the Denney brothers to strengthen the Cougar pass rush.

5 - Lightning to match Curtis Brown's thunder. Brown will be the heart and soul of the offense next year. He needs to be on the field and lead the team in carries. I simply want a speed back who coaches can throw in for a change of pace—just to keep opponent off balance.

6 - A stadium full of smart, loud fans. I want LaVell Edwards stadium to be full of intelligent fans who know when to cheer and then cheer accordingly. I want the refs to flag the fans again for being too loud. BYU fans should make verbal communication impossible from the moment the opposing offense takes the field.


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