Point #1: A loss is always a loss. There's no other way to spin it.
Point #2: BYU has a better quarterback than UCLA. Hands down, not even close.
Point #3: This BYU team is just as good as UCLA, a top-tier Pac-10 school, on both sides of the ball.
This one hurt a little extra, because it was not merely a winnable game, it was a game the Cougars should have won. As in, had it in their hands. Could taste it. Yet lost. After nearly being blown out in the first half, BYU rallied to hit a field goal to get on the board as the half drew to a close BYU then stuffed the Bruins throughout the third quarter and scored 14 points of their own to close to within 17-20. The Cougars then marched to a first-and-ten at the UCLA 13, when Hall was hit as he threw. The ball came out. Was it a fumble? Or was it an incomplete pass? Ruled a fumble on the field by a Pac-10 crew, the replay appeared to show Hall's arm moving forward, but UCLA was awarded the ball. The Cougars never threatened again.
How lucky was UCLA to be awarded this win? Consider 24 BYU first downs to 15 for UCLA, 431 yards of offense to 236, and 31:53 for time of possession to 27:39. The key differences were turnovers and penalties. UCLA's only interception was returned for a critical touchdown, while UCLA benefitted from two more calls on questionable turnovers. Vic So'oto was ruled to have fumbled when the replay appeared to show his right knee on the turf before the ball came out. The Cougars also appeared to intercept a second Ben Olson pass that was tipped twice, once into the air by a diving Cougar. It was ruled to have touched the ground and the replays shown on television were not good angles, certainly not enough to overturn the call.
Penalties greatly favored the Bruins, 11 to 4. Yes, some were questionable, but the most critical one was not. Chris Bolden clearly interfered to keep alive the UCLA drive that clinched the game.
This game should be seen as the Boston College game of last year. The Cougars traveled to play a tough opponent, beat them in every way but on the scoreboard, and advanced in important ways despite being hung with a loss. This team learned Saturday who they are, that they can play with anyone, and will win a lot of games this year. Barring injury, BYU has an excellent chance to finish the regular season 11-1.
Major advancements in this game start with Max Hall, who was pressured hard all day, hit repeatedly, and yet stood firm in the pocket. He completed 31 of 54 for 389 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. This was a baptism by fire for a young quarterback, and Hall passed the test with colors flying. Look for great things from him, starting now. Harvey Unga again outplayed his backfield running mates. The defense was very impressive, playing smash-mouth football against a much better offense and better athletes than they saw last week, and held the Bruins to only 126 passing yards and 110 running yards on their home turf.
On the downside, the punting game again barely avoided being abysmal, and the field position battle showed it. A better punting game would have made UCLA's two first-half field goals more dicey, and perhaps given the Cougars a shot at some more field goals of their own. Kick coverage was slightly better than last week, but still not good. Fui Vakapuna showed he still isn't fully back from ankle surgery.
Next up: a night game at Tulsa, who had a bye this week. The biggest risk for the Cougars is an emotional letdown.
For the first time in five years, the Falcons beat the Utes and did it in Salt Lake City, to boot. It wasn't a fluke, as Air Force had more first downs (20 to 15), total yards (390 to 313) and time of possession (32:51 to 27:09). It was, rather, a product of Utah's injuries from last week. Tommy Grady confirmed that Utah is better with Brian Johnson at quarterback. Without running back Matt Asiata, the Utes could manage only 73 rushing yards. Even more telling, Utah had two chances late from the Falcon one-yard line with 1:09 left, but on third-and-goal a trick play fooled no one, and Air Force then stuffed Daryl Poston to seal the win.
Next up: versus UCLA.
It looked good for the Frogs through three quarters as the former Southwest Conference rivals battled to a 10-10 tie, but the Longhorns scored 17 straight to open the fourth and TCU had no answer. The Horned Frogs managed only 43 rushing yards and 251 total yards.
Next up: at Air Force. The Falcons will be primed for an upset.
The Cowboys gave coach Joe Glenn his best start in five years in Laramie, holding off WAC doormat Utah State, but folks, it wasn't pretty. The hapless Aggies led, in Laramie, until 6:54 remained in the game, when the ‘Pokes took a 25-18 lead. The Aggies then fumbled the ball away at their own 28 on the ensuing possession, and Wyoming put it in the end zone for the clincher. Utah State managed to move the ball down to the Wyoming 1-yard line before time expired, however.
Next up: at Boise State, and a real chance for an upset as a good Cowboy team looks for revenge against a Bronco squad that got manhandled in Seattle.
Colorado State 28, #10 Cal 34
Three Caleb Hainie interceptions killed the Rams chances. Maybe the Bears were flat after an emotional win over Tennessee last week, but Colorado State outplayed their guests, rolling up 458 yards of offense to 391, and 22 first downs to 14.
Next up: at Houston.
Last week the Lobos lost a game they dominated every place but on the scoreboard. This week they won such a game. The visiting Aggies rolled up nearly 600 yards of offense and had 30 first downs, but suffered two key turnovers in the fourth quarter, dooming their hopes. New Mexico was no slouch, passing for 342 yards and rushing for 154 more.
Next up: at Arizona, which rebounded from last week's loss to BYU with their annual thumping of I-AA Northern Arizona.
Some games aren't as close as they look. This was not that game. The Rebels led the first half until a Badger field goal on the closing play, then came back to take the lead midway through the fourth quarter, losing only on a long bootleg run with 1:53 remaining. They held Wisconsin to 17 first downs while picking up 15 of their own. The key difference was the Badgers' 210 rushing yards. The Rebels managed only 48. Can UNLV keep it up next week, when a second ranked team comes to Las Vegas?
San Diego State 17, Washington State 45
Washington State passed for over 300 yards. In the first half. Any other questions? After next week's beatdown at Arizona State, the Aztecs host the I-AA Portland State Vikings in what could be one of only two wins this year.
Next up: at Arizona State.