It was a loss that could have easily been a win, against a ranked and unbeaten BCS opponent on the road, which is also what makes it both a potential heartbreaker and a possible springboard. Which will it be? The next two games will tell.
Mistakes continue to plague the Cougars, which this week included three missed field goals, two interceptions, a fumble and nine penalties. A particularly critical one came in the first overtime. BYU had second and six at the BC 10 and appeared poised for the go-ahead score. Instead, an illegal block made it second and 21 at the 25. After an incomplete pass, a mishandled snap caused a missed field goal, which would have been the winner with BC missing their ensuing attempt.
If there is a silver lining to this disappointing loss, it is the realization that despite all the mistakes, this was a very winnable game, as the Cougars outgained the Eagles and stuck with them blow for blow on defense. If not for their own mistakes, it would have been a decisive BYU win, if not a blowout.
After three games, where do the Cougars stand? Are they a team uncertain of itself, or one which has turned the corner? Will they draw confidence from the knowledge that they beat Boston College everywhere but on the scoreboard, or will they dwell on the L?
Here is a little food for thought. Last week #18 Clemson played the same Eagles on the same field. Clemson scored more points, but also gave up more than BYU. Slight advantage to Clemson. First downs? BYU wins, 30 to 23. Passing yards? No contest, BYU 438, Clemson 343. Rushing yards? Clemson wins but not by much, 116 to 136, but BYU picked up theirs on only 30 attempts to the Tigers' 41, an average of 3.9 per pop to 3.3 in favor of the Cougars. Overall, on offense the edge goes to the Cougars, over either Clemson or BC, both ranked BCS teams.
On defense Clemson gets the nod, allowing just 212 passing yards and 110 rushing to BYU allowing 353 and 118 respectively. Still, the difference is one of degree, not one of order of magnitude.
Write it down: although 1-2 now, BYU will finish the regular season no worse than 8-4, and 10-2 is not a pipe dream.
Next up: Utah State.
It was not the outcome that was surprising, but how the Horned Frogs got there. Neither team managed to find the end zone, but TCU held the Red Raiders to a first quarter field goal, and touchdowns do not matter when a defense can do that.
TCU ran the ball 41 times for only 137 yards and hurt its own cause by committing 12 penalties, but its defense held the vaunted Tech passing attack to only 214 yards on 23 attempts.
Next up: a bye, followed by a visit from BYU on September 28, a Thursday night game.
Utah 48, Utah State 0.
The Utes had no problems in Logan, jumping out to a quick 17-point lead and rolling from there. Utah's defense opened the scoring with a 21-yard interception return and added another touchdown later, while the offense scored nearly at will. The Aggies seemed eager to help their one-time rival, handing the Utes the ball no fewer than six times, often in excellent field position, with the result that Utah needed barely 400 yard of offense to pick up 48 points.
Next up: at San Diego State.
Coming off an emotional win over in-state rival Colorado, the Rams were flat and got flattened, rolling up a paltry 12 yards of total offense in the first quarter. They woke up a bit it the second quarter and trailed only 21-10 at the half, but dozed off again after intermission, scoring nothing in the second half while allowing another Nevada score. Overall CSU managed just 10 first downs and 177 net yards, and its defense was largely responsible for what points they mustered, coming up with an interception that led to a field goal and blocking a punt and running in for a defensive TD.
Next up: at Fresno State.
San Diego State 0, Wisconsin 14.
The Aztec defense acquitted itself well, holding the host Badgers to 373 yards of offense, but Wisconsin's defense snuffed San Diego State at every turn, limiting them to 124 total yards.
Next up: at Utah.
More woes for coordinator Bob Toledo's offense as the Lobos managed only 94 yards in the first half, hindered by three turnovers and quarterback Kole McKamey's absence. Overall, New Mexico garnered just 199 net yards and 14 first downs. They managed to pull within a field goal as the third quarter expired, but gave up two fourth quarter touchdowns to fall hopelessly behind before scoring one of their own with 25 seconds left to make the score more respectable.
Next up: versus UTEP.
UNLV 13, Hawai'i 42.
If a blowout can be even uglier than the score indicates, this one was. The Warriors led 42-0 before emptying the bench with seven minutes left in the third quarter. It wasn't turnovers or penalties – the Rebels had just one of each. UNLV is the Jekyll and Hyde of the 2006 MWC, battling Big 12 Iowa State to the wire one week and getting blown out by Hawai'i the next.
Next up: versus Nevada.
Two interceptions were the key for the Broncos, including one returned for a touchdown. The reality is that these two teams were very evenly matched, which in this case augurs ill for Boise State rather than well for Wyoming.
Next up: versus Air Force.
Air Force did not play.
Next up: at Wyoming.
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