No, it’s not time to start Jaren Hall.
No, Kalani Sitake should not be fired.
And no, it’s not the end of the world Cougar fans.
Frustrations were rampant after BYU lost to arch-rival Utah 30-12, in the season-opening game for both teams at LaVell Edwards Stadium Thursday night. Some fans were calling for a new quarterback while others were calling for Sitake’s job. Yes, it was the ninth straight loss to the Utes — who were favored — but in the grand scheme of things, it’s just one game. There was no conference championship on the line and while state bragging rights are great and can help with recruiting, in the end, it was just one game. No more, no less.
The Holy War showdown was full of mistakes, which is what you would expect in the first game of the season, especially in a rivalry game where emotions run high. From penalties and missed fourth-down conversions to turnovers and missed field goals, the game had a number of game-changing moments for both sides.
Yet, it was BYU’s costly mistakes and Utah’s tough defense that proved to be the difference. Of Utah’s 30 points, 21 of those came directly from Cougar turnovers — two pick-6’s and a botched handoff that set the Utes up in the red zone. Thursday wasn’t simply a fluke as the ball has simply not bounced BYU’s way in the series for the past decade. In fact, since 2011, the Utes have recorded nine pick-6’s and have won the turnover battle 25-11. No matter who you are playing, losing the turnover battle and seeing the opposing teams defense score like that is going to make it difficult, if not impossible to win.
While the loss stings, it doesn’t mean Wilson should be benched or that fans should throw in the towel just one game into the season. Fans should remember that for the much of the first half, the Cougar offense was carving up Utah’s defense. However, a couple of penalties and bad snaps forced BYU to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns as Utah took a 9-6 lead into halftime.
Despite Utah leading at the half, BYU was winning in nearly every statistical category with more yards, third-down conversions, chunk plays, etc. In fact, the Cougar offense was on pace to put up over 400 yards of total offense against the Utah defense, which many believe to be one of the top defenses in the entire nation. ESPN’s Phil Steele even named Utah’s defense line the best in the country.
Yet, as we saw Thursday night, BYU’s offensive line gave Wilson a decent amount of time to throw the ball, and should have a lot of success going forward. The only time the Utes were able to get to Wilson was when they loaded the box and brought extra guys in on the rush. And while the Utes did record six tackles for loss, the Cougar offense only allowed one sack on the night. Of the teams remaining on BYU’s schedule, Washington’s defense should be tough, however, everyone else on the Cougars’ schedule will not come close to what BYU’s offense just went up against.
Running back Ty’Son Williams showed a lot of promise as the senior had seven carries for 45 yards and a touchdown. The South Carolina transfer averaged 6.4 yards per carry against the vaunted Utah defense and looks to be a great addition in the backfield for the Cougars.
Special teams was also a bright spot for the Cougars with Jake Oldroyd going 2-for 2 on field goals and BYU pinning the Utes on the five-yard line on a kickoff. Oldroyd also averaged 49 yards per punt with a long of 56 yards.
On defense, the Cougars just simply wore down. In the second half, BYU had just four possessions which resulted in a punt, a fumble, a pick-6 and a touchdown. In fact the Cougars only had the ball for seven minutes in the second half compared to Utah’s 23 minutes.
The time of possession difference was too much for BYU’s defense, which was basically on the field for the entire second half. It didn’t help either that when the Cougars had Utah backed up on third down, penalties — some very questionable — bailed the Utes out, keeping drives alive and the BYU defense on the field.
Yes, losing the season opener at home against a rival is not how you want to start the season out, however, some teams just have your number. Utah struggles with Washington and Washington State, while Michigan hasn’t beaten Ohio State since 2011 and before that, it was 2003 since the Wolverines beat the Buckeyes.
With games against Washington, USC, Tennessee, Boise State — which just took down Florida State on the road — as well as Utah State and its Heisman Trophy candidate Jordan Love, there is still a lot to look forward to for Cougar fans. This week, BYU travels to historic Neyland Stadium to play the Vols for the first time in program history, and still have a home schedule that most college fan bases would love to have!
Of course, winning takes care of everything and the Cougars can do just that as they look to bounce back in SEC territory against Tennessee in prime time Saturday night. The game is slated for 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.