Was I surprised by the 0-0 score after the first quarter, or that both teams scored less than 20 in a 19-16 defensive struggle? No I wasn’t.
Was I shocked that Anae made a game losing offensive play call? Yes, I was.
Was I shocked that the clock was mismanaged on the final two drives? Yes, I was.
When your defense is as good as BYU’s defense, and you find your team up with four minutes left in the fourth quarter and it is third down, your play call should never be a question. You run the ball to suck either the clock or a timeout from your opponent, and then punt the ball. Could Virginia score on BYU’s defense in with an entire field to go? No! This play call should not have even been a question.
Add to this the fact that your running backs had finally started slashing the tired Virginia defense for first downs, a run sounds even better.
But Anae called a pass. He put the game in the hands of his offense and not in the hands of his defense. A mistake that cost him, his players, and Cougar fans everywhere, a game that they had well in hand.
Even on the turnover, with six minutes left, the goal should have been to milk the clock and run the game out.
To make matters worse for Anae, BYU’s offense looked worse against Virginia than they did last year. I think that BYU’s offensive woes last year had more to do with playing so many top 25 defenses and doing so with injuries than with bad coaching. If it wasn’t for the call to go for two against Boise, and Taysom Hill’s unprobable injury, running the ball when the game was over, I would have nothing bad to say about Brandon Doman’s offensive decisions. I made this very clear on the Cougar Blue football forum when I heard about the coaching change.
Last year, two quarterbacks were injured, a number of offensive linemen were injured, and the field goal kicker was injured. Take a look at the kicking situation alone. With a kicker alone, BYU would have beat Utah, Boise, Notre Dame, and possibly San Jose State. Even if they ended up losing one of them, a healthy and accurate kicker would have helped BYU to at least an 11 and 2 record.
A lot of BYU fans might expect Anae to lead BYU to produce more points. I expected a different offense but any additional points are more likely to come because of the health of the players. However, from the first game, I am not sure BYU’s offensive will score better than last year.
BYU’s defense like last year, was more responsible for BYU’s scoring than the offense. In the second quarter, BYU’s defense gave their offense the ball two straight times inside Virginia’s territory, but BYU’s offense only capitalized once. However, they did get 7. In fact, BYU’s offensive started off in Virginia’s territory at least three times. A prolific offense would have 21 points. BYU’s had 10.
BYU’s special teams bobbled a punt in the third, leading to a block. They actually got the punt off a play before but weren’t lined up correctly forcing them to punt again. They made two mistakes in a row. Virginia started at the BYU 16 yard line and scored a touchdown a few plays later on an amazing throw and catch from David Watford to Darius Jennings to take a 10-7 lead.
Remember those offensive fumbles by the quarterback for BYU the past few years? Well, they are still here. Perhaps the line had a lot of responsibility for those last year and the line this game was at fault again. No matter who is at fault, the offense couldn’t handle the shotgun snap and gave up a safety.
As for play calling, the slant was open the entire game. A lot of the run plays were getting stuffed because the outside linebackers were cheating inside. Either Anae or Taysom finally saw it because they threw a few quick slants in the fourth quarter, which allowed BYU’s offense to drive down for a touch down and a 14-12 lead.
BYU’s defense however, failed when it mattered. Sure the offense put them in a precarious situation after Anae’s costly play call. But if they could have forced a field goal, or forced Virginia to turn it over on downs, they still could have won. That is a lot to ask from the defense. But had they done so, BYU would have still won the game. However, they gave up six on the first play from scrimmage, allowing an easy 13 yard run for 6.
BYU’s defense did however give their offense multiple chances to seal the victory. The offense failed to capitalize time and again. In the fourth quarter, the Cougar defense intercepted a pass. With 6 minutes to go, a lead, and the ball in Virginia’s territory, the game should have been over. However, the Cougar offense was forced to kick a field goal. The field goal however, was one of the most exciting plays of the game. Making it was a great confidence boost in what was a horrendous kicking game last year.
BYU has played their first BCS conference team, what was considered one of their easier games, and has its first loss. Virginia only won four games last year, so unless Virginia is a whole lot better this year, BYU’s in four a tough season.
Football matters in Utah.