Random Musings: BYU v. Virginia
Twenty-first ranked BYU improved to 4-0 on the year with a 41-33 win over ACC foe Virginia. Here are my random musings from the contest:
FOR WHOM THE PROCEDURAL WHISTLE BLOWS — Leading 7-3 with the first quarter clock winding under 1:20, Virginia had a First and Goal on the BYU 5. Three plays later, the Cavs were poised to go for a 4th and Goal inside the BYU 1. It was the right call. It was also when the beautiful hum of the BYU student section hit a crescendo. Three players on the right side of Virginia’s line moved prior to the snap and a false start was whistled. The Hoos settled for a field goal and instead of a commanding 14-3 lead, Virginia settled for a field goal. BYU capitalized on the infusion of energy and drove down the field on a touchdown drive. From 14-3 to 10-0. The Cavaliers had penned a perfect William Faulkner-esque first quarter novel only to have the final page be ghost written by RL Stine.
PLEASE RETURN TO THE SIDELINE IMMEDIATELY. AND WIPE THAT SMILE OFF YOUR FACE BECAUSE THIS IS SERIOUS BUSINESS — Anyone who attended, watched, or was otherwise associated with the football contest between Virginia and BYU would admit that the ACC officiating crew had an afternoon to forget. Inconsistencies abounded, and the measure of their bewilderment was visited upon both teams in equal measure. The TV broadcast, however, uncovered the worst offender of all: The Back Judge. On each of BYU’s touchdowns, this official made it his business that no one, and I mean NO ONE would be allowed to contemplate celebrating vociferously. Seriously, go back and watch the film. He is the most militantly anti-fun authority figure since Dolores Umbridge. This dude had the withitness and laid back nature of a government bureaucrat. Giving a fist pump to the crowd is different in-kind than showing up an opponent. I would be in favor of abolishing the celebration penalty altogether because let’s be real here: football is a game. Get your paternalistic mumbojumbo out of here and let the kids celebrate on-field excellence without worrying about some busybody breathing down their neck threatening to punish them for having too much fun.
THE OLD LADY, THE YOUNG MOM, AND ME — I was privileged to set in front of the cutest old lady I have ever encountered. She wore a throwback white polo with Brigham Young University stitched above the breast. Her matching white hair reminded me of my Grandma’s — the type that ‘she goes into town’ once a week to receive. This darling old lady was as into the game as much as I was. She lived and breathed every play, and sang each word of the fight song with an aura of youthful exuberance. In front of me, two rows ahead of said old lady, was a young mom with her four kids — all of whom were experiencing their first BYU game. The young mom was explaining the game to her children and they took in the experience with awe. We high-fived the two young boys after each BYU invasion of the Cavalier end zone. The old lady, the young mom and kids, and me sitting with my dad represented four generations of Cougar fan. All of us were at different stages of life, but united in the purpose of cheering for our team. Sports truly are a curiously wonderful invention of man.
POLLING AND THE COSMETIC WIN — The Cougars moved up to #20 in the latest Associated Press poll. The ranking are a war of attrition and mean very little before week nine or ten. Just win and your ranking will take care of itself. BYU needs to get to #10 to have a legitimate shot at a New Year’s Day Bowl. Once conference season starts, BYU will have a slew of chances to move up as teams around them lose games. That being said, I would be lying if I did not get frustrated with Virginia’s garbage time TD to bring the game within one score. 41-26 looks better, cosmetically, than does 41-33, even if the absolute outcome is the same. BYU is trying to impress voters and increase its national pedigree. Back-to-back one score wins over Houston and Virginia fail to impress if you didn’t actually watch the entire game. (As few if any of these voters actually do) If you did watch, you would know that both of these BYU wins were comfortable and the score was a bit misleading. It’s an unfortunate double standard set against teams outside the Power 5. Oregon struggles with a Washington State team that lost to Rutgers and got blasted by Nevada? “Washington State really came to play. Impressed with Oregon’s ability to fight through a team who gave it their best effort.” BYU struggles with a Virginia team that pushed around UCLA and beat ranked Louisville? “BYU’s inability to put Virginia away is indicative of a fatal flaw and it won’t be long until the Cougars slip up.” It is maddening, but it is reality. Fortunately, if BYU continues to win, even ugly, there will be fewer and fewer comparable teams who can outbid them. Just win baby.
A SPECIAL TEAMS ROYAL FLUSH — What a day for the oft-forgotten third wheel of the BYU machine. Trevor Sampson was perfect again in the place-kicking game, Andrew Mikkelsen kept Virginia’s dangerous kick returner at bay with numerous touchback, Davon Blackmon showed flashes in the punt return game, punter Scott Arrelano was apparently implanted with a chip pre-game that allowed for his player rating to be turned up to 99, and, speaking of 99, Adam Hine parted the Red Sea and delivered BYU its first kickoff return touchdown since Cody Hoffman’s TD against UCF. That, my friends, was paragraph long sentence that even the Prophet Joseph would have been proud of. The BYU special teams showed itself to be equal in competence to what its counterparts on the offensive and defensive side of the ball have shown this season. BYU is a complete team.
DR. BLUEHAIR: OR HOW I STOPPED WORRYING INSIGNIFICANT ATTENDANCE STUFF — Why are BYU fans obsessed with attendance figures? It seems to me that Cougar fans are more interested in the 5k who did not show up than the 60k who did. It was a terrific atmosphere on Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium. The crowd was rocking, the white-out was a terrific success, and BYU had nearly 60k fans in attendance. In the age of HDTVs and many other entertainment options, most schools fail to sell out every game. Even the big time EssEeeCee Programs TM. As I said last week, the difference between drawing 60k and 64k is of little consequence other than self-worth and navel-having. BYU has been averaging between 58k and 64k for the last three decades. Nothing has changed. Stop obsessing.
MORMONS ARE WEIRD OR SOMETHING — One of my favorite (see non-favorite) things about listening to outsiders talk about BYU sports is the realization that they align us more with the Amish than the Anglicans. “BYU is playing [popular crunk rap song] haha those Mormons look so weird trying be cool.” The idea that BYU students or fans or Mormons in general are so sheltered from the world that they don’t understand the world around them — or enjoy non-Mormon forms of entertainment — is pretty ridiculous. The Cougarettes are nationally-renowned hip hop dancers because they like to dance (like most all college kids) and are really good at it. The uniqueness of the BYU experience should not be conflated with the idea that BYU students don’t live in the same world as the rest of humanity. I didn’t see many pioneer dresses and bonnets in the crowd on Saturday.
NO PRESSURE — BYU failed to generate the type of pressure it needed to curtail Virginia drives. This was troubling because it was not on account of a lack of effort: BYU’s front seven played hard every play. The Cougar defense simply could not burst through for major plays in the backfield despite using a bunch of differing schemes and personnel. BYU showed blitz too early and allowed Virginia to checked out of its play. It is incumbent on Mendenhall and Howell to improve the team over the bye week. And getting Bronson Kaufusi back will be the first step in the right direction.
WHEN IT MATTERED — One of the staples of the BYU program is the 24 point threshold — meaning that for the Cougars have a good chance to win the contest, BYU will need to concede 24 or fewer point. I am sure Mr. Greg Wrubell has the statistical specifics but I do know the stat is pretty indicative of BYU’s successes. On Saturday, the Cougars were called to defend a staggering 102 plays from scrimmage, gave up over 500 yards of total offense, and permitted the Cavaliers to amass 29 first downs. In the end, Nick Howell’s defense stood firm inside the BYU 30 and the Cavs managed just 26 points prior to a garbage time touchdown late. The point of the game of football is to score points and pass, rush, and return yards are the way this comes to pass. But a ton of yards with little return on investment is usually a path to defeat. Props to the BYU defense who, per the usual, bowed up when it mattered most.
THAT’S MY QUARTERBACK — When BYU is in a short yardage situation, do you have any doubt they are going to pick it up on the ground? 3rd and 4 or less means a BYU first down is just one play away. Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams run with a ugliness not seen since Marla Hooch was batting cleanup for the Rockford Peaches. Taysom continues to impress with his ability to shake off tacklers who try in vain to grab him by the shoulder pads. He is a Grown Man. Amazingly, during the ESPN broadcast, Matt Millen said, for the second straight year(!), that “Taysom Hill [was] not a make-you-miss kind of guy.” I am going to need to get Mr. Millen’s definition for a “make-you-miss kind of a guy” because I have seen a whole bevy of guys wearing UConn, Texas, Houston, and Virginia jerseys miss and miss again. Hill can beat you by running by you, through, or around you. The Mormon Manziel is on the loose and the sky is the limit — so long as Millen doesn’t get another NFL GM job and draft Taysom as a possession wide receiver.