Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Then and Now... A Different Cougars Host New Mexico

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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.

BYU was then lucky enough to have their bye week in which Bronco said they worked harder through than they had any other bye week in times past.  Knowing that their difficulty of schedule was decreasing over the next four games, an opportunity for a bowl was not yet out of the picture.  This would, however, require the Cougars to win 4 out of their last 5 games, something that seemed impossible after the first four games.

BYU came out to face UNLV at home fired up ready to play.    For the first time all year, flashes of a balanced offensive and defensive cougar team began to flash.  They went on to have their first blowout of the year and finally found some passing and running balance on offense.

The next task was to go on the road and try and get a win on the road, something the Cougars had not been able to do all year, at Colorado State.  Many felt that the youth of the team could cause some problems being on the road.  However, BYU came out, once again, firing on all cylinders.  After a "flea-flick", trick play on the second drive, which resulted in a fade touchdown pass to Luke Ashworth, BYU went on crush the Rams, while only allowing them to score 10 points.

This week the Cougars return home to face New Mexico, where BYU seniors will play their last game at Lavell Edwards Stadium.  It is hard to recognize the team we have seen the past two games, when compared to the first three.  Whatever it may be, BYU is definitely playing and executing with much more confidence and effectiveness than they have all year.  The big test for the Cougars will be next week, as they face Utah in Salt Lake.  Early in the season, many felt that BYU had no chance to give a game to the Utes, now, we may have ourselves a game.


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