Wednesday, October 5. 2011
Posted by Sideshow in Red, Blue And Pigskin
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There is an old football saying that tells us the most popular person on a football team is the back up Quarterback. BYU and Utah fans both got extended looks at their respective backups this weekend. One team will need to get familiar with their backup, like it or not. The other, well they'd be extremely foolish not to use their backup, who was a player of the week in his brief appearance.
Another saying, though not relegated only to football, is that things happen in threes. Utah State Gary Anderson is praying, and hoping beyond hope that it's true as he watched his team suffer a 3rd gut wrenching loss.
The Other Side Of The Coin
For the second straight game, the Utes found themselves going into halftime seeing the home team overcome three first half turnovers to be down by less than a touchdown. For the second straight game, the Utes would then see the visiting team dominate the second half, as the home team continued to make mistakes and turnovers on their way to a blow out defeat.
Unfortunately, this time the Utes were the home team.
A roller coaster ride of a first half started when Ryan Lacy fumbled the opening kickoff, and watched Washington scoop and score for a quick 7-0 lead. Fortunately the Utes handled the next kickoff correctly, but the first play from scrimmage saw LT John Cullen completely miss a block, and QB Jordan Wynn got dropped for a sack on the first play of a three and out series.
Then the offense woke up. A Washington defense that had been much maligned, and seemed like it could be taken advantage of, started living up to it's reputation and Wynn moved the offense down the field the rest of the half.
Unfortunately the Offense couldn't finish drives.
Sure they managed a nice diving TD reception by Dres Anderson on the second drive of the game, but there were missed opportunities the rest of the half. The Utes would twice more drive deep into the Red Zone, just to turn the ball over on a Wynn interception, and a Dres Anderson fumble.
Thanks mainly to a defense that had kept Washington's high powered offense in check, allowing them only to score a field goal on their last drive, thanks mainly to two boneheaded personal foul penalties, the Utes went into the half relieved to only be down 10-7.
Then the second half started Washington scored on their opening drive, and then doom came to the Utes, when backup QB Jon Hays came under center.
Hays' second pass was an ill advised interception. Hays also had another fumble later in the game when he tried to get rid of the ball instead of taking a sack.
The defense that held up so well in the first half, wore down in the second half thanks mainly to the offenses inability to do anything. What seemed like a close game at the half, ended with a 31-14 score, made closer by a garbage time TD for the Utes.
Unfortunately the game wasn't the worst loss of the week. That instead was the reason Hays was in the game in the second half.
When Your Body And Your Talent Don't Agree
The reason Jon Hays was in the game was because sometime late in the first half QB Jordan Wynn suffered an injury to his non throwing shoulder. While exact details of the injury have been scarce, reports after the game were that Wynn was physically unable to take a snap from center, as his left shoulder was popping in and out of the shoulder socket.
It's too bad, because throughout the year Wynn had been playing the smartest football of his career. He had finally started to overcome the mental issues caused by his offseason shoulder surgery, and was now throwing it really well. The past two games, his passes had nice zip, and were no longer the floating ducks we saw against Montana State. It seemed he was finally poised to be the QB this team would need.
Instead, Wynn suffered the third injury of his career which will require him to miss time. Ever since Wynn showed up as a 145 pound freshman, his body has always seemed to be the weak link of his game. Wynn had the arm strength as a freshman. He was now learning to think through his passes and make smarter decisions. Throughout his career you could see that he wanted to be in there. He always seemed to play better after taking a big hit. Whether it was his freshman year against BYU when a brutal hit by Pendleton was followed by Wynn leading the Utes back to force overtime, or this year, when Wynn came back from being knocked out of the game against BYU to lead the the Utes to 47 unanswered points.
Unfortunately Wynn's body just does not seem to be able to handle the rigors of being a starting division 1-A quarterback.
The official injury report says Wynn is expected to miss two to three weeks, and will then be re-evaluated at that time. It is my personal belief that Wynn will never throw another pass for the Utes. If that is the case, his legacy will always be one of unfulfilled talent and injuries.
Season On The Brink
The joy of finally being in the Pac-12 have now given way to the reality of being in the Pac-12. In a conference dominated by their Quarterbacks, the Utes are now forced to go with their unproven, junior college transfer of a backup. Despite getting to watch him for an entire half last week, there isn't really anything you can take away from that game due to the circumstances.
For parts of the half he seemed overwhelmed. He wasn't making the best decisions, as most evident by his fumble when he was trying to get rid of the ball to save a sack, and instead simply lost control of it. However, you must take into account, that he was thrown into a bad situation. There were bright moments as well including when he dove for a first down, and ended up doing an Elway helicopter to get it. His stats were also very similar to those of start Wynn. Once he settled down, he showed that he does have the arm strength.
Truth is we have no idea about Hays, which is a scary concept. To make matters worse, The Arizona State Sun Devils come into town. The Sun Devils are sitting at 4-1, with their only loss having come to undefeated Illinois. The Sun Devils won't feel any sympathy for Utah, as they have had to overcome injuries in abundance themselves. The Sun Devils are led by 6'8" QB Brock Osweiler on the offensive side of the ball. However their most talked about, and arguably their best player, is LB Vontaze Burflict.
Burflict is an aggressive and, according to some players, like USC QB Matt Barkley, dirty player. The only intentions Burflict has on the field are bad. He doesn't even care if you are on his team, as he's gotten into multiple fights with teammates. I'm sure he's chomping at the bit to rattle Hays in his first start.
It doesn't get any easier for the Utes either. After the Sun Devils, the Utes play two consecutive road games, starting with an east coast trip against Pitt.
If Hays struggles a 2-5 record is highly likely. In the Pac-12 there are no guaranteed victories, even when you are going against the likes of Oregon State, UCLA, and Colorado. So who knows where Utah would end up from there.
To help out Hays, the Utes must get their running game figured out. John White IV has been inconsistent. He had big games against Montana State, and in the second half against BYU. Versus USC, and Washington, White struggled. The Utes have been unable to find any secondary rushing either, as the second leading rusher on the team is Reggie Dunn with 67 yards.
Another thing that will help the Utes will be an abundance of motions and screens that you can expect to see this week. Expect the Utes to take the pressure off of Hays, and instead use the speed of their WR's. Jet screens, bubble screens, and middle screens to the WR's, where the WR will get the ball off of a short pass, and then make plays with their legs, will probably be the main course in the passing game this week. At least long enough to let Hays get into the game, and get into rhythm.
A successful running game is necessary to help take pressure off of the QB. Especially when the QB is a backup going against arguably the third best team in the conference.
There is good news for the Utes, as the Sun Devils are still prone to mental lapses and periods without discipline. If the Utes can get the running game going, and if Hays can manage the offense, who knows. Maybe the Utes can stem the bleeding, and still manage to have a successful first season in the Pac-12.
The View From The Red Zone
Confusion, that was the view. When Hays came in the big question on everyone's mind, was what the heck? When Hays stayed in, the confusion increased, especially because you could see Wynn on the sideline. To make matters worse, getting any data connection at Rice-Eccles Stadium is extremely difficult. Not that it would have mattered because apparently the Utes were
being tight lipped on exactly what was going on with Wynn. It took the majority of the third quarter before word of his injury finally started coming out.
Teammates Kenneth Scott, Dexter Ransom, and Lei Talamaivao take a moment before the game to prepare themselves mentally.
Of course, that's better than those watching at home on ROOT Sports, where the announcers didn't even realize Hays was the QB until the third or fourth offensive possession of the third quarter. Up till that point they had been calling Hays by Wynn's name.
Fool Me Once... What Happens If You Fool Me Thrice?
Of course, it could always be worse for Utah fans. They could be Aggie Fans. The Aggies seem to be making it a weekly goal to crush their fan base in the worst possible way. Though I'm not sure if they could top their 4th quarter collapse against BYU.
It's not just that the Aggies hate BYU, and were 12 minutes away from shushing all those who denied their being a rivalry between the Aggies and Cougars.
It's not that the Aggies had started the game with an 80 yard TD run by Robert Turbin on the first play of the game, and were looking to win in Provo for the first time since 1978.
It's not just that they had an 8 point or greater lead with 12 minutes or less to play in the game for the third time this season, just to end up losing.
To add insult to all that injury, it was Riley Nelson who beat them. Riley Nelson was the savior for Utah State when he committed to them out of high school. Riley was an Aggie legacy. His father played for the Aggies, and his grandfather was an Aggie basketball coach and athletics director. Nelson, being LDS went on his mission following his freshman year.
What happened next, depends on who you talk to. After his mission Riley announced that he was going to transfer to BYU. Utah State has accused BYU of actively recruiting Nelson while he was on his mission. The Cougars insist Nelson contacted them. At the time recruiting players on a church mission was not against NCAA rules. However it was something that head coach Bronco Mendenhall had promised BYU would never do, because they didn't want to take the missionary out of the spirit of the mission.
When Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o was contemplating whether he would go on an LDS mission, the Fighting Irish were so worried about losing him to other teams trying to recruit him, they pushed the NCAA to institute a rule preventing teams from recruiting players on ecclesiastical missions. This rule has been incorrectly called the Riley Nelson rule.
So imagine the agony and suffering Aggie fans went through when they not only saw their third heartbreaking 4th quarter collapse, but that it all started when their former savior was put into the game for their hated rival.
We Have A Controversy
Once again the BYU Offense had stuttered, stalled and looked generally flat. Through three quarters, QB Jake Heaps looked much like he had the rest of the season. He was missing open WR's. Bouncing passes short.
At one point the Cougars had first and goal from the five. A Couple plays later, Heaps had led the Cougars into turning that into a 3rd and goal from the 10. I promptly received a text from ThRhett saying Mr 3rd and 10 does it again. I can only imagine his frustration when later in that same driver, after a penalty had given them first and goal at the three, Heaps had turned it into 3rd and 8.
At the same time it was, and it wasn't a surprise when Bronco pulled Heaps in the 4th quarter. Backup QB Riley Nelson, who some had reported in fall camp had been dropped to 3rd string. Came in and led the Cougars from behind. In just under a quarter of action, Nelson went 10 of 14 for 144 yards, and 2 TD's. Where he was most dangerous, and what caused the Aggies the most problems, were his legs, as Nelson ran for 62 yards. With 11 seconds to go, Nelson threw a pass that was tipped by an Aggie Defender. Marcus Matthews caught the deflection, the Cougars won, and the QB Controversy was officially on.
There seems to be two big questions for BYU this week. The first, and most important one, is who will, and who should BYU start at QB this week against San Jose State.
BYU fans are tired of the offense failing to live up to potential, and are tired of seeing Heaps fail to live up to his hype. They are excited for what Riley Nelson brought in the Aggie game, and believe that he can help jump start the offensive production.
Sure Nelson was able to burn the Aggies with the QB draw, but doesn't anyone remember last year, when both Heaps and Nelson were splitting the quarterback duties. The biggest complaints about Nelson were that he couldn't throw the ball very far down field. This is where you would think that Nelson's running ability would come into play. That would be true if he were a threat to throw the ball down the field. Preparing for a scrambling QB is a lot different than preparing for a pocket passing QB, even if the majority of said QB's passes end up 5 yards short of his target.
Give a defense a week to prepare for a scrambling quarterback and then add into the fact that the QB is not really a threat to go down the field, and they have a running game that is struggling, and they aren't that much of a threat anymore.
Let's be honest, there is a reason that Nelson was almost the third string QB. Jake Heaps has the better arm, and the more talent.
That said, the one thing Nelson has, that Heaps obviously doesn't, is the trust of the team. It was evident from the moment Nelson took the field, that the rest of the offense had a new spark. The WR's were stretching out a bit more to make plays, than they had been with Heaps. Heaps has lost this team. They are tired of him missing them on passes. They were tired of him flinching at the thought of contact.
Nelson is a gamer. When he runs, not only does he not avoid contact, but he actually looks to run over defenders.
It really doesn't matter who the QB is for the Cougars the next three weeks. First there are other issues that the Cougars have. Their run defense was getting absolutely gashed by the Aggies on the ground. Last week against UCF, the Knights were moving the ball freely through the air, and everyone remembers what happened a couple weeks ago against the Utes.
The playcalling leaves a whole lot to be desired. Doman is a first year Offensive Coordinator, and you can tell by watching the calls he is making. The Running game is practically non-existant, and the WR's have struggled all year to get open.
The other reason it doesn't matter who is playing QB, is that the Cougars next three opponents are San Jose State, Oregon State, and Idaho State. The Cougars are beginning the poo poo platter portion of their schedule.
Jake Heaps is the future of this team. But right now, Riley Nelson is the QB who has the trust of this team. For that reason, and that reason alone, Nelson should be the starter. However, my bet is Bronco will give Heaps another chance. If Heaps does start, he will be on a bit of a short leash. It's a slippery slope, and now is when we'll find out what Heaps is made of. Heaps has never had to suffer such struggles as a QB. If he gets yanked again, it could damage his confidence permanently, or it could make him buckle down, and work on some of his glaring issues that have been prevalent for the last two years.
The other big question out of Provo this week already seems to have an answer, as reports out of Provo are that Riley Nelson has cut his hair.
About That Rivalry Argument
So any BYU fan that said there wasn't a rivalry with Utah State saw their argument go out the window when fans at the stadium rushed the field following the game.
Look that was an exciting game, with an exciting ending, but really BYU, have you fallen so far that squeaking past a team that has beaten you only once in the past 15 years, and has not beaten you at home in 33 years is really a cause for storming the field?
Utah's game against Pittsburgh on 10/15 has been given a time slot and a broadcast channel. The game will be shown on ESPN-U at Noon eastern time or 10:00 a.m. Mountain time.
This is a bad time slot for the Utes. It's already difficult for teams from the west coast to travel east. The Utes will be losing two hours during the trip. That means in order to be at the game for the 10:00 a.m. Mountain Time start, they will have to be rolling out of bed at around 5 or 6 a.m. Mountain Time.
To counteract this, I would expect the Utes to travel a day earlier than normal for an away game. While this will give the Utes more time back East to get adjusted to the time difference, it may cost them some travel time.
Meanwhile a time has been announced for BYU's game on the 15th against Oregon State. The Kickoff will be at 2:00 p.m. Mountain Time. Unfortunately, since this is an Oregon State home game, and the Beavers have been terrible this season, Fox and ESPN have passed on any National television coverage for this game. ROOT Sports Northwest, who has a local agreement with the Beavers has also passed on televising the game. This means that ROOT Rocky Mountain will not be able to broadcast the game.
Since it is an Oregon State home game, that means the TV Contract the Pac-12 had prior to expansion when they were the Pac-10, which was also widely regarded as the worst TV contract of the big six conferences, and not BYU's TV Contract has jurisdiction. This means BYUtv does not get any rights to broadcast the game live. BYUtv is currently negotiating with Oregon State, but as of right now, it looks like for the first time since either 1998 or 1996, BYU will not be broadcast live on TV.
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I don't agree with them, but reason the fans rushed the field was because it was a last second win. Not because it's a rivalry. I feel like USU is trying to make it a rivalry, but BYU doesn't really care.
And don't you think it's a bit hypocritical to be critical of the fans rushing field when I've been to more than one ute game where the fans have rushed for no reason? Kettle, meet pot.
#2 ThRhett on 2011-10-05 22:06
Let's see you are probably referring to Oregon State in 2008 or TCU in 2008. And I'll agree those weren't worthy of field rushing
But it was still better than rushing the field against Utah State.
The other thing is, I can't decide if BYU's rush was made even sadder by the fact that it was so very delayed.
#2.1 Sideshow on 2011-10-06 07:35
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