ATI 2.9 – BYU Football vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Why didn’t Bronco Mendenhall elect to go for a field goal with 7:30 left to play and only one timeout? 

Don: Bronco locks onto ideals and does not budge from them for anything, good and bad. He lives and dies by the sword. His loyalty to Riley Nelson is pathological.  And in this situation, I think he believes in his defense so strongly, he justifies situations like this through that unshakeable faith. However, it’s not a bad philosophy in some respects. Where it failed in South Bend, the defense also got the message that their coach believes in them and backs up what he says.  He also has a justified zero-confidence in his kickers.

Carl: It’s baffling to me.  BYU hadn’t sniffed a chance to score in the second half.  Bronco had to know his defense was wearing down.  I’m sure he tried to put confidence in his defense by electing to punt, but they simply got worn down.  Notwithstanding the complete mess our kicking game has been this season, it’s still a shot.  Bronco’s been gambling all season; why did he pack it in at that moment?  I’m not certain why this is not getting more attention.  The call to punt was contrary to the way he’s been playing 4th downs this season.  To me, he simply cannot punt there.  You either kick or go for it, even if it was 4th and 13.  BYU netted 12 yards on the change of possession.  It’s unacceptable in my book.

Matt: I don’t know.  I’m still scratching my head about that one. He elects to go for two at Boise with the game on the line. He converts three 4th down conversions in one drive at home against Oregon State.  Yet he goes all Bronco conservative of old at this moment.  I just don’t get it.  I don’t have a reasonable idea as to what he was thinking.

What’s your impression of Jamaal Williams? 

Don: Love him. His upside is incredible, perhaps higher than any Cougar RB since Ronney Jenkins. Let’s hope he’s in Provo a lot longer than Jenkins. If he is, he will end up the best rusher statistically in BYU history.

Carl: Refreshing is the word I can use here.  You get the sense that Jamaal is thrilled at the mere opportunity to play on college football’s biggest stage at 17 years old.  You get the sense that he’s not caught up in the vitriol of player politics.  You get the sense that he’s mature in his running ability.  He has the speed, but he also runs straight ahead, isn’t afraid to hit the holes and do some tough running.  You get the sense that he understands he’s two out of the four cylinders running this offense.  And you get the sense he’s far and away the most positive player on offense, mainly because it shows.  Simply…refreshing.

Matt: Jamaal Williams is the best story of the offense this year, much like Cody Hoffman was in 2011.  He’s a bright reason why I feel BYU can still be competitive next year. I just have a feeling that there will be at least a coaching change to the line coach for 2013 and that this group will step up and perform better, thus allowing Williams to be an even bigger star next year.  The only concern I have is will Bronco defer to the senior Michael Alisa returning from injury or be a smart coach and play the guy with the most talent?

Looking at the O Line position, with a large number of lineman going into the season not producing a quality line, and the QB position failing to develop and keep a Top QB in Provo or win with a Senior QB, does that blame lie with the coaches not developing players?  Or is the problem recruiting practices and being unable to identify and sign the right type of player to win consistently against tougher opponents in Independence?

Don: I think it’s a combo of both. BYU and Utah are in similar positions of finding they need to upgrade recruiting in the future to compete. This is not the MWC anymore. It’s too early to make a judgment on if this is being accomplished, but the current group is obviously not talented enough to be competitive and that’s a huge problem for 2013 as well.  As for the coaches, I think they have created a potential formula for long term success through a commitment, win or lose, to what they believe in which generally over times creates success through consistency but short term has a lot of hills and valleys. They are certainly not making it easy for some players to succeed.

Carl: It’s difficult to develop players who are unwilling to develop, Riley.  I digress.  Jake Heaps for all his intangibles was not the right fit for BYU and he won’t be the right fit anywhere until he changes his attitude.  That’s a recruit that coaches missed on.  Teams miss on many recruits in the same way that NFL draft picks flop at times.  We can only go on what we know at the time of recruitment.  I think BYU would still go after a Heaps type player again; the talent is tough to pass up.  The player pool is much smaller than other schools, but shouldn’t be seen as weaker just because we’re in Independence now.  As exposure continues, or even if an alliance with a power conference comes, you might see better opportunities for the Manti Te’o’s of the world stay with or commit to BYU.

Matt: It is a hot mess of a lot of that.  I’ll break it down. 1 – The first problem is coaching.  BYU has had talented lines in the past and each season, they have several pre-season award watch list players.  That speaks to coaching.  Ryker Mathews was a 4-star recruit (yeah, I know, I know) but the point is, a lot of people thought he was really good, and he hasn’t been.  He’s gotten better, but I wouldn’t accuse him of being a 4-star recruit. 2 – The players are the second half of this equation.  I don’t see much drive to succeed.  A D-I offensive lineman should be able to hold his position more often than not(the biggest fail was the blown assignment on the two-point try at Boise State.) But I think this has a lot to do with scheming and coaching fails. 3 – I think the third reason for line failure is despite all the coaching, scheming, and practicing, how can they predict what is going to happen each down? As soon as any sort of heat reaches the quarterback’s mind, he tucks and runs and the line doesn’t know what’s happening. How can they plan for a pass when Riley Nelson just wants to run?

I am convinced there are powerful subcultures that have developed on the team over the last few seasons which at least in part led to Jake Heaps never fitting in, Quezada leaving, etc, and Bronco’s management philosophies enabling this to happen.  Is there any truth to this and if so, how significant is its impact on the Cougars?

Don: I think there is a subculture no doubt. Recent former players have mentioned a divide between not just offense and defense but also married vs. non married players, RMs vs. non-RMs and LDS vs. non LDS. Tough situation for Bronco to manage on top of extra duties BYU coaches deal with.

Carl: It’s precarious times for BYU.  Anyone, especially potential recruits, who follow BYU, see these divisions and derisions in the team.  It’s not doing these recruits any favors seeing it and Bronco not doing anything about it. I mean, what do coaches say during the offseason to recruits?  We’d love to have you fix our ‘clickish’ ways?  They can still say ‘you saw our terrible QB relationship, come be the future.’  I think BYU is wearing out the welcome of being the team that’s prolific, fun to watch, and gets players to the NFL.

Matt: I couldn’t agree more with this statement.  Forgive me while I play the religion card just a bit here. BYU is full of return missionaries who are advanced in their lives beyond that of typical collegiate athletes. So yes, it would be hard to be a 23 or 24 year old player and watch as a brash and cocky 18 year old assumes he’s the next Ty Detmer but these return missionaries should have learned patience and humility as missionaries and as older men, they should have been better prepared to deal with this.  Instead, you saw as Riley Nelson quietly subverted the program, and gained favor with the locker room and coaches behind Heaps’ back and the coaches did nothing to quell the manipulation.  I feel that the men who preached patience and honesty and humility should have been more ready to accept Heaps as they were and not allowed themselves to be taken in by Riley Nelson and his perverted manipulations.

In the past Bronco has called out fans as being uneducated. Post -ND Riley Nelson called fans not true fans for being too critical. What do you think of BYU’s top media faces calling out fans in public?

Don: Poor form and terrible PR.  If I’m Tom Holmoe out selling the program to other schools and fans at home, I’d be livid and put a big fat muzzle on the entire program. Justified or not with comments, it’s stupid, produces nothing positive to help the program win and just further distances an increasingly disillusioned fan base.

Carl: I do not like it one bit.  They’re wearing their emotions on their sleeve, they’re giving us a hint of their immaturity, and they’re distilling this feeling as if the whole BYU team feels the same way they do.  Riley will go down in infamy in BYU lore as being the most hated BYU athlete among their own fan base.  By his actions and Bronco allowing this to continue without repercussion is simply unfathomable.  Why does he care about Riley the person and player so much?  He’s virtually alienating his offense in maintaining his alliance to him.

Matt: I think this is an utter and embarrassing fail by the program and I have to believe that on some level the administration is not pleased with it.  I cannot wait until Riley Nelson no longer can wear blue and call himself a BYU football player. Maybe, just maybe, Bronco can get back to being a coach and get this team back on track. Bronco has had a ban on social media for his team and I know many ignore it anyway, but I thought this tweet from @CFB the other day quoting Oregon’s Chip Kelly was very poignant regarding player trust: “If you can’t trust your players on Twitter, you can’t trust them on 3rd down.” I don’t think Bronco trusts his players as much as you might think he does and that would have a very negative effect on their productivity.

But I digress. To the question, I am a believer that this team exists to entertain me and all other fans of the team. Calling me out for being critical of your inability to throw a ball even a minute number of yards with accuracy is indicative of your arrogance and false belief in your superiority.  When you stop throwing dirt darts, I’ll stop criticizing you.  Until then, keep your opinions of fans to yourself Riley.

Predictions

Don: 21-17 Cougs

Carl: As porous as Georgia Tech’s defense has been, you get the sense that BYU can play from ahead during the game, barring any easy turnovers and scores.  The option attack from the Yellow Jackets is something BYU is very familiar with, and I suspect BYU will make GaTech beat them throwing the ball.  BYU may be a little rusty in the first half playing assignment sound defense, but it’s like riding a bike, once you learn to defend the option, you never really forget.  I like BYU to dominate time of possession, but still keep GaTech in the ball game with their impotence to score.

BYU- 21 GaTech- 13

Matt: This game will be close for a while, but BYU’s defense isn’t going to let up on this running game and if they stay home in their assignments without over-pursuing, they will get stops. Then it will be up to the pass defense to get stops on obvious passing downs. And most importantly, BYU needs to win the turnover battle, and I think they will this week. The Cougar offense will be “successful” much like they were in South Bend and that will result in a 21-13 win for the Cougars.

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