I can’t remember ever waking up so aggravated by a sporting event. Maybe in 2003, when The Aaron Boone Moment happened, I was in a funk for a few days, but I have no memory of it.
Seven turnovers. Eleven rushing yards (better metric: 0.5 per rush). 54 points surrendered; 40 in the second half. 481 yards of offense allowed to a team that, early in the game, had us thinking BYU might not give up more than a handful of first downs all night. And, in some ways the most disappointing number: maximum of five tweets per quarter per media entity. More on that in a minute.
It was a hideous performance on every level. I won’t attempt to break down the game itself, because a.) I’m not smart enough and b.) it doesn’t deserve to be broken down. Here are my thoughts.
1. What do we make of the Utes? It’s clear that BYU—on this night, at least—is not “who we thought they were.” So what did I learn about the Utes? I learned that Norm Chow is miles ahead of Brandon Doman at the moment. I learned that Kyle Whittingham, as always, is a master at game preparation and in-game adjustments. Nobody seems to get more out of his talent. We learned that Jordan Wynn appears to be “tougher” than Jake Heaps. Other than that, I’m not sure what conclusions we can draw because I don’t know what a beatdown of this BYU team means.
A few BYU fans gave me grief because I tweeted that Utah could go 11-1 with their schedule. These are the same fans who have been railing on the Pac-12 for their every loss, and calling the conference overrated. If that’s the case, then you need to allow for the possibility that the Utes could dominate the Pac-12 South. I never said that I think it will happen. Even in the lesser of the two Pac-12 divisions, even having dodged Stanford and Oregon (both of whom would, realistically, dominate the Utes), it’s likely that one or multiple Pac-12 teams will trip up the Utes. But, again, nobody gets more out of his players than Kyle Whittingham. I don’t love that fact, but it’s true. And it means that, given the schedule ahead of them, there is a definite chance that Utah goes to the Pac-12 championship game this year. Every year, BYU fans predict a certain number of wins for the Utes and every year it seems Kyle exceeds that prediction. Look at the teams they play. Toughest matchups? Washington and Arizona State (both at home); Cal, Arizona, and Pitt on the road. While the odds are that they’ll lose a couple of those games and maybe more (Wynn might be tough, but his arm still stinks), every single one is winnable on paper. I wouldn’t be shocked if they lost all five of those games. But they don’t have a team on their schedule that makes me think, “That’s a definite loss.” So, if you’re not a fan of my rational, unbiased opinion on this, here’s some advice for you: “I don’t like this, therefore it is not possible” is not a viable outlook on life. With that schedule, 7-5 is possible, as is 11-1.
2. What do we make of the Cougars? As you’d expect after a 54-10 drubbing, I have more questions about this team than I do about Utah. How do I feel about Bronco Mendenhall? What is going with Brandon Doman? At what point does inconsistency become simply “who you are” as a football team? Is Jake Heaps a bust? How long can we keep using the “he’s only a sophomore!” excuse? Why does he seem scared in the pocket? Why won’t he accept accountability? How can we get more from the running game? Should I be angry at the defense for looking incredible and then apparently folding in the second half (and making John White IV look like Marcus Allen), even though the offense asked far, far too much of them?
I’m still sorting out my feelings. Let’s go back to how I felt this morning.
I don’t mind losing. I’ve lost big games before, and I’ll lose them again. It’s certainly frustrating, but I can accept failure when you come prepared to play the game and get beaten.
That didn’t happen last night—at least, that didn’t happen for 60 minutes. BYU apparently came prepared to play for about 30 minutes defensively and about 15 minutes offensively. (It’s likely that the defense burned 60 minutes of intensity within 30 minutes due to the offense’s inability to hold on to the football.) The rest of the time they seemed flat and almost disinterested. I’m pretty sure that, at this level, fans expect you to play the full four quarters.
I honestly don’t mind turnovers when the opponent makes a great play. A helmet on the ball. A fantastic break on a pass by a defensive back. A bone-crushing hit. Too many of the turnovers by BYU last night were unforced mistakes. That doesn’t mean BYU “gift-wrapped” the game or that Utah “got lucky.” As a wise friend and fellow BYU fan asked last night, “At what point is a team not allowed to claim they emphasize discipline and execution. Is it after the 4th turnover?” Mistakes are part of who you are, but they also mean you’re not a great football team. The group that showed up last night was certainly not great. It bothers me that so many of BYU’s mistakes didn’t need to happen. If this is who they really are, then we’re in for a very, very long season. I genuinely hope that’s not the case.
3. Why could media outlets only tweet five times per quarter at LaVell Edwards Stadium last night? This is just embarrassing. What are we, the Gestapo? When you’re appearing on national television, and “exposure” has been your battle cry since you announced the move to independence, why would you impose some inane rule limiting the number of tweets that journalists can post during the game?
The worst thing about this is that people have an image of BYU, for better or worse, as a backwards place filled with pointless rules and laws just like this one. I never once felt like my freedom was restricted while I was there, but that’s the way a lot of people perceive BYU and things like this serve to validate such misconceptions.
BYU is a place apart. I think people get that following Jimmer’s run and the Brandon Davies thing. Just as some people at Notre Dame might complain about Brian Kelly’s colorful language in an era when few others care, some aspects of the BYU program are unique and won’t make sense to everyone. But those things are based in the philosophy guiding BYU. Limiting tweets from the press box has nothing to do with that mentality. It’s baseless, arbitrary and weird.
Beyond that, it simply detracts from fans’ ability to enjoy the game. Those of us who were not at the game might have enjoyed some of the insight that journalists can provide in real-time via Twitter.
I guess BYU got exposure from the move, but it’s not the kind of exposure that I’ll bet they had in mind when moving to independence. Instead, you’ve got Darren Rovell, who has 121,000 Twitter followers, calling out the university during the game. The Salt Lake Tribune’s Brian Smith said he was “shocked and appalled.” You and me both, Brian.
The game made me a little embarrassed by my team. The tweet rule made me embarrassed by my university.
I don’t ever want to wake up that frustrated again.