ATI – Bye Week Edition and Hoops Preview

How are you and Cougar nation feeling after the win in Atlanta?

Carl: Frankly, I’m not happy.  The more we ‘beat the teams we should’ and ‘come up a couple plays short to the better teams’, the more I see BYU’s seasons as hollow.  I’m not buying ‘we’re a couple plays short’ Bronco.  I’m sick of the coulda woulda shoulda beat that team crap! Every cougar fan should feel similar to me.  I simply cannot understand why, after 8 seasons, we’re still a few plays away.  At some point you have to start pointing fingers on whose fault it is…

Don: It’s always nice going into a bye week after a win. Even better after a thumping. Even better when it was on the road against an ACC school. Is Georgia Tech awesome?  Nope.  But that’s mostly because their defense is crap.  Their offense is legit, and that makes the job done by the defensive even more impressive.  The numbers are staggering.  NO ONE has been able to stop the Yellow Jackets spread option attack in 2012.  They lose the same way BYU used to lose, by scoring a ton but giving up even more points.  For BYU to go in there and shut down that offense so efficiently was completely incredible.  We are talking about a team that had nearly 600 yards of offense against Boston College the week before.  Wow.

What does the win mean for the offense?  Hard to tell.  As with the beat down of Hawaii, scoring against a bad defense can be fools gold.  Remember, after 47 hung on the Warriors, the Cougs won a 6-3 turd fest over the Aggies the following weekend.  That said, the offense played a textbook game on what should happen to win big on the road against a below average defense.  They dominated possession.  They nearly doubled the number of plays GT had.  They out rushed their opponent.  They made one huge mistake on the Nelson pick 6, but that will happen when 1), Riley Nelson is your QB, 2) You run twice as many plays, and 3) Riley Nelson is still your QB. Riley do what Riley do.  That was not an easy place to play.  I flew out to Atlanta in 2002 the last time the Cougs played GT, and the stadium can get pretty loud.  The Cougs kept the crowd out of it though and dominated all phases of the game. All in all, a fantastic performance for the Cougs heading into a bye week.

Matt: In a word; empty.  Sure, it was a great win and fun to watch the boys dominate like that against a perceived “big” opponent, but Georgia Tech really isn’t having a good season and this win felt like getting a win against Washington State earlier in the season; meh.  It showed that BYU has the potential to have turned in the brilliant season we all hoped for at the beginning of the season with a senior returning quarterback at the ready but that we have continued to fall short of expectations and hopes all season.  It shows us what could have been but alas is not meant to be.  In a word; empty.

The defense once again turned in a dominating performance on Saturday at Georgia Tech against the 3rd best rushing team in the nation in Atlanta. Is this defense the best defense in BYU football history?

Carl: There’s only one other BYU defense to compare to and that’s 1996. Sidebar- if we had 1996’s offense, we’d be top 5 in the nation right now.  Mili, Lewis, Sark, K.O., Kaipo, Cahoon…ANYWAY, to this point, I’d say this 2012 team is better.  They’re not bigger than 1996, but they’re just so dominant on the front 7.  Other than Oregon State, they somewhat dictate the offense’s flow.  They’ve carried the entire BYU team on their collective backs during chunks of this season.  They’re prideful in a sense that they’re making sure they finish this season in style and on paper, regardless of what the offense does.  They know they’re having a special season and they won’t blow off the last 3 games.

Don: The defense once again turned in a dominating performance on Saturday at Georgia Tech against the 3rd best rushing team in the nation in Atlanta. Is this defense the best defense in BYU football history?  I don’ know how an argument can be made it isn’t.  This defense has kept Washington State, Boise State on the Smurf Turf, Utah State, and Georgia Tech offenses out of the end zone this season.  They are absolutely dominant.  1984 and 1996 also had great defenses and certainly won more.  But they also had great offenses.  A good to great offense can have a huge impact on a defense in a positive way.  When you have an offense than can go out and score 50 points, teams become a lot more predictable and easy to defend.  Add to that the ability to manage the clock and slow the game down in the 2nd half with a huge lead and you shorten the game for the defense.  This year, the offense have struggled to score and stay on the field.  It means our defense has been on the field longer and in situations where the opponent can keep them guessing on play calls and mix it up.  This defense has risen to the occasion time and time again and proven they are the best defense in BYU football history.

Matt: I’m still not certain.  It’s so good; so very good.  But I think that so much of its success is predicated upon the front seven controlling the line of scrimmage and pressuring the quarterback into quicker decisions.  But when a team has had time to throw the ball, our secondary has been shredded and that suggests (at least to this Cougar faithful) that our secondary isn’t as good as advertised.  I understand you will always have a “weakness” on an entire unit but if our front seven were as truly dominant as we often give them credit for, they would get more pressure on quarterbacks even when he has a really good front five protecting him, and we just don’t.

With games looming against Idaho, San Jose State, and New Mexico State, what would you work on as a team during this week’s bye week?  How would you keep your team motivated after that brutal stretch of games the team just finished?

Carl: Offensive line assignments and kicking.  I’d suggest downing the ball on some 3rd downs just to have the chance at situational kicking in a live game.  Those two facets of the game will carry over to next season.  Offensively, there’s not much I can do to keep them motivated. Even if you put up impressive numbers, they’ll be padded by terrible opponents.  Defensively, as mentioned previously, they’re out to make sure this dream defensive season remains in tact through season’s end. That’s more than enough motivation for the final three contests.

Don: After the poor performance of the offense for most of the season, I would hope there will be no need to try and keep them motivated against lesser opponents.  They haven’t earned the right to view ANY team lightly.  Fellas (speaking to the offense only), you’ve screwed the pooch during the most critical times of a season that should have been a special one.  Singlehandedly you have blown up something beautiful despite having an incredible defense.  So get your arses out there and beat the crap out of teams you should completely dominate.  Prove to yourselves and Cougar fans that if you can’t beat the teams you could beat, you can at least beat up on the teams you should beat.  Oh, and defense?  You’re fine.  You are built to destroy.  So defense…destroy.

What would I work on?  Blocking schemes on the offensive line and cleaning up some sloppy play, improving what went well in Atlanta, and honestly?  The most important thing I think will be to build up the Big Biscuits up front and make them feel good.  The psychological opportunity these games provide can help a group of guys who will drastically need to improve heading into 2013.  Oh, and we should play Taysom Hill to develop him for next year.  Wait…what?  What’s that?  The coaches kept him in at the end of a meaningless game and wrecked his knee ending his season for no bloody reason?  That sucks. Well in that case, let’s work on the coaches cleaning up “lack of communication” issues or whatever the issue was.  Rise up coaches.

Matt: These next few games are going to provide little challenge to the Cougars so they may as well start working on the biggest challenge they present themselves . . . the offensive line.  The defense is solid and the secondary won’t be challenged.  The receivers are just waiting to burst out and Jamaal Williams (aka #BoyWonder or #JamaalJuice) has gone uber-beast-mode.  And lets face it, Riley Nelson isn’t going to change.  He’ll be better, but that is because we will be against an inferior team.  So all that remains to work on is health and offensive line play.  There are some young guys along that line (Ryker Mathews and Solomone Kafu for example) and its time for them find how to develop into solid linemen so they can continue to anchor down the line for years to come.

With Tyler Haws back from his mission, I expect him to slide on after Brandon Davies as the second best player on the court with Matt Carlino also filling a huge role from the point guard position.  After that, there are a lot of new faces and some returning players with question marks on how they will perform. Of the new guys, who will have the best season and the biggest impact after the Big 3?

Carl: I like Cory Calvert here.  He’s a smart and quick talent that will be able to come in and effectively run the offense.  Whether his numbers show he’s the best newcomer or not, he’ll keep the offense running high whether first team or second.  That should put less pressure on Carlino to be on the floor as much and let him work into that leadership role rather than being forced.

Don: Way too early for me to make a definitive assessment of the new guys, though I expect Raul Delgado to provide an amplified boost with his athleticism and outside shooting.  The team desperately needs him to be a consistent long range threat, as they were lacking that punch for stretches of 2011.  The loss of Rogers with career ending injuries makes him even more important.  Solid play from newcomer Agustin Ambrosino could add to some serious depth in the paint behind Davies who is going to be an absolute force for his senior season.  Although he isn’t new, we need Zylstra to man up and be consistent this year.  No more nights of 24, 6, 2, 13, 4, 30, 7 points scored making it impossible to know what you are going to get.  15, 13, 17, 12, 19, 16…that’s much more palatable.  Soooo, ya.  Git ‘er done Brock.

Matt: I think the backcourt will have solid steadiness and leadership in the forms of Matt Carlino, Brock Zylstra, Anson Winder and Craig Cusick and the newcomers Raul Delgado and Cory Calvert will provide additional help.  I think the biggest impact that can and will be made will be along the front court as a second option behind Brandon Davies.  I expect Nate Austin to assert himself as that option but watch for newcomer Agustin Ambrosino to push him as well.

How concerned are you about BYU’s ability to fill in the gaps left by Chris Collinsworth and Stephen Rodgers on such short notice due to career-ending injuries?

Carl: Slightly concerned; call it 3 out of 10, because they were adequate producers now needing to be filled.  We were thin enough last season, so relying on untested newcomers is always a challenge.  The experience will offset some of the production issues they may have in the short term, but I’d look for many rotations by Coach Rose to make sure he finds the right starting fight and back-ups.

Don: Very.  There was a lot of hype and hope for Delgado and Ambrosino coming in even before the official end for Collinsworth and Rogers.  And that was hype and hope for a back up role.  Now that hope becomes a need.  We NEED them to man up and do the job.  Especially Delgado from the outside.  If Cusck can manage the game, Carlino can be a consistent threat, and every night either Zylstra/Winder and/or Delgado can step up and two of the three produce, this team will be very good.  But these injuries just put pressure on to perform while putting the Cougs 1-2 in-season injuries away from being average at best.  Depth is now a significant issue.

Matt: BYU seems to find a way to make things work no matter the situation.  But, the previously expected depth of the team took a major hit with both players calling it a career due to knee injuries.  So, I’m a little concerned.  However, as I previously noted, I think you will see Delgado step up and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him and Carlino play together this season allowing Zylstra to fill some time at the three and Ambrosino and Ian Harward should provide enough support in the front court to help fill those gaps some.

The West Coast Conference recently had their media day and the coaches voted Gonzaga a resounding favorite to win the conference with BYU and Saint Mary’s rounding out the top three, each garnering one first place finish as well.  Do you agree with the coaches and why or why not?

Carl: Really a toss up but I’d lean toward Gonzaga too.  They’re the ‘sexier’ pick; they were better last season and have a bulk of talent returning to a team that was young.  It’s quite alright to not be a preseason number one; there are fewer targets on your back.  BYU lifted this conference to a new level after year one and this year the whole conference could be tougher.  When is the last time the WCC got 4 bids in the NCAA tournament?  The league is that good.

Don: Yep.  There are only 3 teams who have a chance to win this league, and there’s no way you can vote against Gonzaga with the team they have coming back and the ammo they’ve added.  They are loaded.  Folks in Washington are saying this might be the best team the Zags have ever had.  Gulp.  As for the Cougs and St. Mary’s, it’s a pick ’em.  I’ll give the 2nd place nod to BYU because, well, I’m a Coug fan, so screw the Gaels   Zags, Cougs, Gaels…1, 2, 3.  So let it be written…

Matt: I agree with the voting.  Last season, Saint Mary’s took the crown from Gonzaga, but once does not make them the new kings.  The Zags have ruled this roost for so long now that it will take a mighty upheaval to unseat them from the victor’s seat.  In the meantime, I think BYU is deserving of its 2 seed and will push the Bulldogs for the crown.

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