1 – How does BYU change its culture in order to be able to win a “big time” game?
Carl: Get a new Head Coach. For all Bronco does well, he does not have the killer instinct, the ‘bad guy’ streak. Rather, he teaches his players to be stalwart, upstanding men first. Bronco will be the guy for as long as he wants at BYU, and the Cougars will always struggle with their nasty rivals, or in any big game.
Matt: Unfortunately, I agree with my counterpart; there must be a coaching change and it must be from the top. I like Bronco and how he’s been able to restore BYU to a national presence, but we’ve hit a ceiling and I don’t believe its on talent. When a coach preaches that “this is just another game” because he feels that by otherwise defining a game suggests his players won’t give 100% every week, it has an adverse effect on the team. Utah is not Weber State. Boise State is not Idaho. Notre Dame is not San Jose State. And Georgia Tech is not New Mexico State. There is an emotional element in the rivalry game that Kyle Whittingham addresses and Bronco does not. I can’t say for certain if the other coaches buy in or just follow suit, but until Bronco addresses the emotional hype of a big game, BYU will continue to lose more than they should.
2 – What do you think about the MUSS rushing the field?
Carl: Storming the field is such a lost art. What are the qualifications for rushing the field? Beating your rival would have been the only conceivable reason, yet I don’t believe that’s reason enough. Stay classy Ute fans, I’m pretty sure most of them just wanted a crack at giving the BYU players a ‘screw you’ of sorts. In my opinion, you’d need another determinant to rush the field, say for a conference championship, to preserve an undefeated season, a huge upset, a monstrous comeback, etc. None of those were in play, so I’m not sure what the motive was behind it besides the aforementioned chance to get a cheap verbal shot on the BYU players.
Matt: I know I keep saying “Act like you’ve been there before,” however, as I’ve dwelt upon this since the game, I’ve started to wonder if there isn’t some element of jealousy on my part for this. When was the last time I would have even considered it? That’s easy – the overtime win in 2009 on Andrew George’s touchdown catch. Carl makes some valid points above, and yes, there were some flippant and inconsiderate fans (see @suspenderute) but the bottom line is, I think my attitude is largely swallowed up in the desire to have a reason to flood the field; Idaho just doesn’t do that for me.
3 – Is it time to criticize Bronco or any of his staff? If not, when would it be time?
Carl: Criticize all you want, but I’m not a big fan of removing the staff during the season and for just one loss. Bronco is Bronco, and Cougar Nation knows his deficiencies. And his lack in certain areas will remain. He hasn’t changed them in 8 years and he won’t now because, overall, his system works in all areas except the ‘big games’. And even then, his style has its moments > > > see Oklahoma.
Matt: I sure feel like an armchair, Monday-morning quarterback sometimes. Criticism is something that just comes easily and naturally (hey, look at our thoughts above on winning a big game) but at the end of it, Bronco has done a great job and heck, he’s not Gary Crowton. Is there more I wish he’d do? Yes. Are there things I wish he’d change? Yes. But is it going to matter to him? No. If this were any other program in the country, the fans and the donors might have a say in how he is to run his program, but at BYU, they don’t. Bronco upholds his commitment to the University, the team, the players, and his staff. He wins 10 or more games consistently. And at BYU, a three game losing streak to Utah isn’t a cause for a conversation with the AD. So yeah, we can criticize (I did my fair share on Saturday night) but it doesn’t matter, so we really should cut it out.
4 – How much will Houston Reynolds’ torn Achilles affect the already poor offensive line play this season?
Carl: It will affect a lot > > > see last week’s loss. After digesting the loss and the poor performance of the line, I think it was equally the environment, the inexperience and the coaching that led to what we saw Saturday night. There was much left to be desired out of the offensive line. And until they can get it figured out, tight ends and running backs will need to fill in and provide additional support to Riley Nelson. I think we need to give them some time to regroup and reassess the problems. They will improve.
Matt: Offensive line play was poor and its only going to get worse. They claim they underestimated the noise level at Rice-Eccles Stadium; they better pipe it in for Boise State. Having just undergone an expansion to the stands surrounding the Smurf Turf, the Bronco nation is going to be raucous on Thursday night on ESPN. Mathews and Hansen need to figure out how to know when they should move. Tushaus needs to figure out how to snap the ball appropriately. They need to protect the quarterback and give him time to let plays develop. And they better figure out how to finally land this team a 100 yard rusher. The team can’t afford to keep the tight end or running back in to chip and block. The line has to finally figure out how to live up to their preseason potential and play a complete game.
5 – What is the best thing Bronco or BYU can do to keep morale high for the rest of the season?
Carl: I’m going out on a limb and suggesting Bronco give some tough love to his players. Make the O-line run extra after practice, make Alisa practice the fumble drill over and over and over, make Riley practice throwing the ball away. Also, Bronco needs to provide a mental edge to his team, and I’m not sure how he’ll do that. The team knows their season ends in San Diego, regardless of how many losses, assuming there are not more than 5. That’s a pretty empty feeling for a team who had much grander hopes. BYU needs to believe there are still opportunities to prove their true talent against Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, Oregon State, Boise State and Utah State. If they can find it within themselves to be who they are, they can still have a formidable 10-win season.
Matt: Bronco’s biggest challenge will be to keep the team excited, knowing they will almost certainly end up in San Diego in December playing a team likely well below their talent level. Such is the life of an independent not named Notre Dame. But I don’t know how Bronco does it. I think more if it will come from Riley Nelson and his leadership. It will be if they can accept that fighting for pride against the likes of Boise State, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech and others is a worthy goal. I don’t know that Bronco can keep the morale high; I think it will have to come from themselves at this point.
1 – How do you think the Cougars will respond on a short week vs. Boise State?
Carl: The great white unknown. I’m expecting them to be very flat, emotionless and slow out of the gates. Depending on how quickly Boise starts, the game really has the chance to be over before it begins.
Matt: The last time BYU faced a Saturday/Thursday turnaround, BYU won by 2 touchdowns on the road against a ranked TCU team. I’m hoping that a similar result will be the same. BYU has it in them to establish the dynamics of this game and I think they will focus on not letting Boise’s atmosphere (fans, noise, the ugly turf) be a distraction. If they can focus on playing for each other and not for themselves, they will win. But this will all be on the offense, as it will be the rest of the season. This defense is 100% legit.
2 – What is BYU’s main problem in their recent struggles against the Utes?
Carl: 2 things: mental toughness and team play. It’s clearly evident that Whittingham has created a culture within his team that they buy in to. His teams know that they will do anything in their power to win a game. They may not be flashy, but they will go with what works and they’ll keep doing it until it doesn’t work anymore. Why do you think BYU had so many false start penalties? Mentally, Utah got in to BYU’s head and they could not shake it out, the mental anguish grew roots and completely derailed the Cougars. Mentally, Bronco will have a HUGE challenge making sure his future squads can beat Utah. As for team play, I kept getting the feeling that BYU, Riley Nelson in particular, were suddenly trying to win the game by themselves individually rather than collectively. Whether it was Riley trying to extend a play, defense over anticipating a run or throw, or special teams over-pursuing, not a single thing looked synchronized or in rhythm. It looked like 70 individuals playing a team sport. Both of those problems are resolved at the coaching level. Something must change at the coaching level, whether it be a coaching style change or otherwise.
Matt: Its mental. Utah wants it more. Utah embraces the hype and the emotion. Utah finds the will to be better. Even in BYU’s three wins over the past eleven, they’ve had to squeak it out. Utah flat out makes the plays that BYU is leaving on the field.
Carl: Pain….The Boise St. offense has been a sleeping giant with a new quarterback under center. The firepower is still there. Will they finally take off the safety and unleash? If they do, it could be a long night for the Cougars. On the other side, if BYU regroups mentally and starts the game with their heads high and confidence strong, this game will be close. Because this is not BYU vs. Utah, I can predict a win here for the Cougars…but we’re on treacherous week to week predictions right now.
BYU- 27 Boise St- 24
Matt: This is going to be another slowed down, dragged out dog fight. Boise’s offense isn’t what it used to be and BYU’s defense is too solid to be picked on by suspect skill players. BYU’s offense is talented enough to push the Bronco defense around, but will they? If this comes down to kicking, I’m not going to take BYU. I think BYU’s defense realizes that this season’s ultimate success is on them this year and they will make things happen. BYU needs turnovers to go their way and the defense will find some this week. Offensively, Nelson will spread the ball around, the running game will improve upon last week, and we’ll see several offensive scores. Defensively, BYU holds this BSU offense under 300 total yards, will limit the running game once again (they are averaging 53 yards/game), and they will create turnovers. I like BYU this week 28-17.