Close But No Cigar? Well, Not Quite.

The Spartans arrived in Provo, Utah brimming with confidence, and why not? Yes, they had suffered a lopsided loss to powerful Stanford like everybody else does, but then only had two close losses in ‘coulda, woulda and shoulda' games to UCLA and Nevada. They then had two victories over New Mexico St. and CSU. The Spartan euphoria was all in place and then a problem occurred. The game started.

Face it Spartan Nation. How many of you had a ‘W" penciled in for the Spartans over BYU before the season started? Let's see a show of hands. Okay, just wait……we are still counting so keep those hands up. NOT!! The reality is that there were no hands up. Nobody expected to beat BYU in Provo on their homecoming. BYU was widely thought to have an extremely talented team which would dominate nearly all of their opposition this season. Then an epiphany took place. The Spartans started to emerge as a resurgent team, improving each week. Following their two victories, much of the Spartan Nation started scratching their heads and saying, ‘hold the phone….just wait a minute…maybe, just maybe we have a shot here if we play our best and have a mistake-free game.' Those hopes soon vanished after the opening kick-off.

Miscues, missed tackles, poor pass rush, weak offensive line play and no running game all kicked in to inaugurate the first half. To make the problem worse was that Riley Nelson and the entire BYU offense were clicking on all cylinders, and to put it mildly, they beat the Spartans ‘like a rented mule' in the first half, averaging 8.5 yards per play. They marched down the field at will. Even the Cougar's punting game was outstanding. Oh, wait a second. There needs to be a retraction. There WAS no punting game for the first half, or even for the full game for that matter.

The Spartans are a resilient group of young men with a never-say-die attitude. Coach Mike MacIntyre's squad doesn't know what the word ‘quit' means. The team regrouped at halftime, made some adjustments and did some damage in the second half. Not only did they climb back into the game, but amazingly, in the 4th quarter, with 6:30 minutes left the Spartans found themselves within striking distance of victory. They were successfully driving for a touchdown in Cougar territory with only a 13 point deficit when disaster struck. On what appeared to be missed timing pass route, and under pressure, Falkner threw an interception. After that miscue, the Cougars simply ran out the clock, to end the game.

While their 1st half performance and the loss has to be a disappointment to them, the Spartans have very little time to dwell on it, and that is a good thing. In 4 days they face the potent Hawaii Warriors (3-2), coached by former Spartan assistant under Jack Elway, Greg McMackin, on Friday night for homecoming. The Spartans not only have a short practice week, but the Warriors are coming off of a bye week. If the Spartans think Riley Nelson was a tough race horse to face at BYU with his outstanding running and passing capabilities, they are about to face Secretariat in the Warrior's Bryan Moniz. Just this last week, Moniz threw for 410 yards and 4 TD's in a rout against La. Tech. in Ruston, La. The Spartans once again will have their pass rush and overall pass defense severely tested. The pass defense game has been an Achilles heal for the Spartans all season. If they can improve that, they may just have themselves a game.

The game will be televised live nationally on ESPN beginning at 6:00 PM PDT.


Scott Phelps is Senior Editor for Inside Sparta. You are welcome to contact Scott with any questions or suggestions at scott@insidesparta.net.

Better yet, join the rest of the Inside Sparta community in discussions of this article, and more, on the Inside Sparta Discussion Forums!

Inside TheSpartans Top Stories