For the BYU Cougars, it has been a very interesting season. After having one of the best recruiting classes ever, Cougars were stunned when Harvey Unga, the all time BYU leading rusher, dismissed himself from the team and BYU for honor code reasons. Hoping to be able to move forward, BYU coaches had the tough decision to make of who would be the starting quarterback. Though many felt that highly touted recruit and true Freshman Jake Heaps would be lock for the job, Coach Bronco Mendenhall was unable to name Riley Nelson (or Jake Heaps) as a backup. This was until the decision was made for him, when Nelson opted for surgery that would take him out the remainder of the season.
After an impressive and win over Washington to open up the year, BYU went on to lose their next four straight games, including a blowout by Utah St. After that, many felt that was it for BYU in 2010 and a chance for a postseason was long shot. To throw another log on the fire, Defensive Coordinator, Jamie Hill, was dismissed following the loss to Utah St. As an explanation, Bronco said he felt that he needed his team to feel his presence and influence more and the only way he felt he could do that was to take back play calling duties.
The following game, BYU was able to hold off San Diego State and finally snap its losing streak. Although it had only been a week since Bronco had taken over, you could see very big execution and attitude differences from players on the field. Following SDSU, the Cougars had the tough task to take on BCS buster, TCU, on their home turf. Amazingly enough, BYU held on for most of the half, only allowing TCU to score 3 points, however, fatigue overpowered as TCU cruised on to an easy victory while only giving up 3 points from BYU.
Despite the loss, the defense was praised for their execution and effectiveness. The offense, however, remained as one of the worst in college football, as pass after pass was either dropped or off target. The cougars were forced to heavily rely on the running game. This strategy continued into the home game against Wyoming, where Cougars looked to maybe be able to put up some points, only to struggle to barely pull off a win with a defensive stop. It was a win, but definitely felt like a loss.
It was announced on Tuesday that Riley Nelson was injured during the Florida State game and will opt for surgery that will put him out for the rest of the season. The announcement was made official just a day after Coach Mendenhall announced that he still planned to utilize the two quarterback system. Mendenhall also said that Riley first injured his shoulder during fall camp, which was kept quiet, and on Saturday the injury was worsened. Riley made the decision to have surgery in hopes to return to the team by spring practice.
Of course the other result of the injury is that Jake Heaps will now be the full starter of the team and will get all the reps in both practices and games. In response to the move, Heaps expressed his excitement for the opportunity to fully take control of the offense and hopefully show what he is capable of. He admits that there is still a lot of work to be done, but feels that good things are ahead for BYU Football.
It is quite ironic that one of the biggest controversies was pushed to a forced decision. There were many that felt that a decision should have been made during fall camp, however, Bronco continued to boldly say that no one had "emerged" as a starter and until someone had, the two qb system would remain in tact.
No one likes to see anyone get injured, especially someone as hard working and tough of a guy as Nelson. However, Riley's sacrifice may help BYU win more games by the end of the season. It was clear that Bronco was not close to making a decision and everyone knew splitting reps was affecting the effectiveness of both quarterbacks and receivers. Now that Bronco's hand was forced, I do believe we will begin to see much more effectiveness on offense.
It was also announced today that O'neill Chambers will be suspended for two weeks from the football team for "disciplinary reasons." The suspension comes from Coach Mendenhall himself and would not specify what caused the suspension. It is known that Chambers has had a mixed attitude in the locker room and has popped off on a few occasions in practice. Chambers will not be able to practice with the team or play in the games for two weeks and will solely focus on academics. He will also be moved from off campus housing to Wymount Terrace for the time being. Chambers has not been much of a play maker thus far in the season, besides returning both kickoffs and punts.
Sources say Chambers is unhappy with the suspension and is working things out in his head.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Bronco Mendenhall met with reporters on Monday to discuss upcoming news about the team. Of course, as has been the case this year, many questions revolved around what is next for the quarterback situation. Bronco said that he was "not ready" to announce who would be starting this week against Nevada, but that he wanted to discuss more with his coaching staff and discuss with his players first before announcing it to the media. He did say that he should have an answer for media by Wednesday, which is the last day they get of Bronco before Saturday.
When asked why he felt there was such an issue with protection in regards to the amount of sacks FSU was able to get he said that much of the sacks resulted from the quarterback not getting rid of the ball quickly enough. When asked if the receivers were open, he did say that the receivers were having a tough game getting open, hence the longer hold time for the quarterback.
Heaps did definitely "hold on" to the ball longer, but he also did receive quick pressure from defensive rushers on several occasions. The offensive line was clearly not on target, which may have resulted from two offensive lineman getting hurt and returning the same game. From watching the game, it was clear that FSU's aggressive, "twisting" defensive moves were much to aggressive for our offensive line. Considering the experience of BYU's offensive line, I do not expect to see this continue.
It seems that the BYU Cougars still have much to work on for the 2010 season before they impress anybody. I do not think there was that high of expectations for the young Cougar squad, considering the massive loss of veteran players they experienced, which included their Quarterback, Running Back, Tight End, and almost all of their defensive front. So to see growing pains should not be a shocker to anybody.
The Cougars almost did themselves a disservice opening up the season with such a well executed game against Washington, which many felt was going to be a sure loss. The team looked sound, precise, and well executed, which even surprised Coach Bronco Mendenhall.
However, the team quickly returned to earth for the Air Force and Florida State games, showing that indeed the lack of experience is taking its toll.
As stated beforehand, Riley Nelson started the game only to go three and out on the first possession. Following a strong defensive stand, Jake Heaps took the reins and was able to slightly move the ball, but failed to convert the drive to points. From there, Nelson once again returned to the game, which made many wonder if we were going to see yet another game of every other series reps, which has not been a popular strategy thus far. However, following Nelson's second drive which resulted in an interception, Heaps took the field and solely remained on the field for the rest of the game.
BYU heads to Tallahassee, Florida on Saturday to face the Seminoles in their second of two game series agreement. Last year, FSU marched into Provo and quickly put hopes of BYU BCS busting year to an end as
The Seminoles went on to beat BYU 54 to 28.
Bronco Mendenhall admits that he believe he "underestimated" FSU and their athleticism as well as underestimated quarterback Christian Ponder's ability to scramble for first downs. It was clear that BYU was still on their Oklahoma victory honeymoon and failed to make the proper preparations.
Bronco said that mistake would not be made again this year.
Both BYU and FSU are coming off disappointing losses as FSU was routed by home team Oklahoma and BYU got smashed by Air Force. Both schools are hoping to come off the losses and learn to adjust and move forward. Of course, one of the schools will be frustrated with a second straight loss, which Vegas says will be BYU, being 10 point underdogs.