When Nevada backed out of their scheduled season opening game with BYU several months ago BYU was left in a bad spot. They needed to schedule a home game for August 30 with a good opponent. The problem is that most schools are not super anxious to come to Provo to face the Cougs — largely because most schools realize it is hard to beat BYU in Provo these days. So BYU reportedly took the best game it could get. That meant that Division 1AA (FCS) powerhouse Northern Iowa.
In the end BYU took care of the NIU Panthers 41-17. But the game was no thing of beauty for the Cougs on Saturday. BYU actually did have an excellent first half. It was the dominating performance one would expect from a top 20 division 1A (FBS) school over a good school from a lower division with the Cougs leading 27-3 going into the break. But the third quarter was a disaster for BYU. After losing 4 fumbles the Cougars gave up 14 points and scored none in the 3rd and the score heading in to the 4th quarter was 27-17. BYU righted the ship quickly enough and got those 14 points back but the game did show that BYU is has a way to go in its “Quest For Perfection” (the team motto in 2008).
Here are some random thoughts and observations about the game:
- First, I was stoked to actually see this game. The game was on the MTN (The Mountain West Conference channel) but this season for the first time that channel is available nationwide to DirecTV subscribers who pay the $12/month upgrade to get the Sports Pack. Very sweet for fans like me.
- Quarterback Max Hall looked great. The dude passed for nearly 500 yards and completed like 80% of his attempts
- There were some painful rookie mistakes in this game. Two fumbles were lost by new running backs, and another fumble was lost when the rookie left tackle whiffed on pass protection and Hall got drilled (in his own end zone no less) and fumbled. The other two fumbles were by veterans so clearly hanging on to the ball is a concern. I suspect that is the result of not much real contact in Fall camp.
- If the offense can avoid turnovers in general it could be scary good this year
- 200+ yards receiving from our tight end? That rules.
- Running back Harvey Unga is a tremendous talent for BYU. Even without fellow running back Fui Vakapuna playing (due to an academic issue) Harvey looked good running and receiving
- Freshman Oneal Chambers has a ton of raw talent. If he can keep his head screwed on right he will make a real difference this year.
- Where was that vaunted defensive line? They were adequate but not great
- The defense in general looked pretty mediocre to me — although the crushing blows delivered by new LB Coleby Clawson were impressive
- Anyone else nervous about the BYU cornerbacks? They looked slow Saturday — especially Johnson. Slow corners are never a good thing.
- Mike Reed is a real asset at receiver. He is often overshadowed by other players on offense but the guy can play.
- Let’s hope Austin Collie leaves his dancing shoes home in the future and gets the yards in front of him
BYU travels to Seattle to play a woeful UW team led by embattled coach Tyrone Willingham. The Cougs must win this game to retain any national respect but the Huskies are playing with their backs against the wall after getting their butts handed to them by Oregon last week. Should be fun to see if BYU can finally win a non-conference road game.
BYU is ranked #15 in both polls as of today.
Any thoughts o ye Cougar fans?