23 December 2005

There's always next year, right?

Its one thing to be able to say we got beat by a better team, but I am tired of losing games because of our own mistakes.

I guess my post about how to win the game came a little too late. I should have posted it when the coaches were putting their game plan together. How many pass plays did we run before handing it off to CB? I know, I know, they called a run play and then Beck audibled to a pass. But that was only one play. We knew we needed to put together long offensive series. Why then did they come out and throw the ball every down going 3 and out on two consecutive series? They should not give Beck so much latitude to do what he wants. He is not Peyton Manning.

I love the fact that Nate Meikle plays hard. He may be the ugliest football player this side of (insert the name of the ugliest football player you know), but gosh he gives it his all. However, do we really want him getting that many touches? We have to find a way to get the ball to Curtis

The good football teams tailor their schemes to fit their talent. I don't know, maybe some rich alumni who helps pay Bronco's salary is forcing the team the sling the ball around the field because that's how they used to play. Maybe that's why Coach Anae seems to ignore what is obvious to even casual observers--we win when Curtis does well. Yesterday I included a link to an article that showed that when CB got over 100 yards rushing the team was 5-1. Considering we've only won 6 games I think that's significant.

I understand that we don't have the personnel to field a good defensive unit. I don't blame the players for that. What I cannot understand is why we are unable execute a routine tackle. It was so bad yesterday that the ESPN analysts said it was some of the worst tackling they had ever seen. At one point they showed a stat that showed 174 yard receiving. Of those, 173 came after the catch. This means they caught the ball close to the line of scrimmage and then ran--a lot. With extra time to plan for Cal our coaches should have put our offense in a better position to succeed.

And it's not just me who is critical of their tackling. I will readily admit that my analysis is worthless. However, I think a quick anecdote will prove enlightening. Last February I was giving myself a tour through the student-athlete center. While walking down the stairs I saw someone watching video from the last season. Wondering who would be watching football video that time of year I stepped in and introduced myself. The man was a scout for an NFL team and because he requested, I wont mention his name or the team. I sat there and talked to him for the next 2.5 hours while we watched film. I picked his brain about everything. I mentioned that there were many of us, (casual, untrained observers, but big fans) who thought that BYU wasn't very good at tackling. Before I could even get the question out of my mouth he immediately agreed, saying that they were among the worst tackling units he had ever seen in 30+ years of coaching and scouting. My opinion doesn't count for anything, but how about his?

Among the inexplicable were the 11 penalties in the first half. I have been a leading proponent of the whole officiating-conspiracy theory. One team manager said there were four penalties called against BYU last year that didn't get called in any other game (read: obscure). But that is no excuse for the ridiculous amount of penalties in one half of football. If you believe officials have a bias against you and are going to call the game tight, for the love of football, play cleaner than clean, play squeaky clean.

I think Bronco is a good coach. Every player I talk to is very complimentary and even those who had questions in the past have become Bronco believers. Who then do we blame for breakdowns in what Bronco has identified as his biggest principles? The mistakes that stood out--penalties and poor tackling (we'll ignore the dearth of run plays)--were the difference in the game. One comment I read in a message board last night noted that BYU teams as far back as Lavell have been poor tacklers. I am at a loss to explain this. Do they not teach tackling in practice? Or are the poor fundamentals being taught at the high school level? Maybe we can just blame the entirety of high school football in the state of Utah (I'd love to draw that conclusion being that I'm from Washington and think our football is better) but then that wouldn't explain the incredible job Kyle Whittingham has done with his defenses over the years--typically populated by BYU's state of Utah leftovers.

In typical form--one friend called it a microcosm of the season--BYU almost won despite their poor performance. They were just teasing us. If people wonder why so many of us have become cynical about BYU football, it's because they have become so adept at giving the game away.


Matt said...

Watching BYU play poorly and lose is a painful experience, but made even more bitter by the pessimism of the fans around me. The past three seasons have seriously jaded the supporters and turned them all into cynics. Truth be told, I'm already on my way there, and I was spared the hell of watching the past two seasons, so they are justified.

Call it the armchair quarterback in me, but how can something so obvious to every fan be so unfathomable for the coaches (ahem, Anae!)? Beck had a good game, threw for 350-some yards, broke a couple of Las Vegas Bowl records (*yawn*), and lost. What is the obsession? For a team that is so big on tradition and returning to glory, I wonder which tradition is more important: that of quarterback U, where we throw the ball all over everybody, or the one where we are always in the running for the conference championship and a bowl game? Because the last four years have proven that the former does not necessarily lead to the latter. I would be content if we ran 70% of the time, won games 10-7, and finished them in under 3 hours.

morgan said...

I find it hard to criticize Anae and the gameplan for this loss. Especially when you consider the fact that we scored 28 points on a very good defense that USC ( that team that many refer to as the greatest offensive college team ever)struggled against for most of the game. Also it is hard to fault the gameplan when 3 of the 4 touchdowns came off of drives greater than 90 yards. Whatever they were doing it was working. It is also hard to fault the gameplan when the Cal LBs and DL were absolutely stuffing the run even when they were in pass protection. BYU also won the time of possession battle 33:07 to 26:53. Granted it is not as big of a difference as I would have liked to have seen. However, in the 4th quarter Cal put together two long, time consuming drives relying exclusively on the run which significantly increased their time of possession. BYU finished with 27 rushing attempts for 94 yards. This wasn't Colorado State we were playing (see Poinsettia Bowl Box Score) we were facing. I think Anae did and excellent job calling the game. I mentioned to a friend (no names but his initial are JL, oh wait too obvious)that at first I was critical of not going deep more often because of the speed advantage Todd Watkins had (did you see the seperation he had on the defense when he caught the lone deep ball of the night?) but after thinking about it a little more I believe that we didn't stretch the field more because Anae wanted to eat up clock with longer time consuming drives. That is why we saw lots of high percentage underneath routes and swing passes to eat up clock yet still move the ball. It appeared that the run would not get this done. 27 first downs for BYU lends credence to this gameplan. It actually makes Cal's defense look very similar to BYU's which gave up 26 first downs. I don't think you can lay this loss at the feet of the offense nor the offensive coordinator. I think this is chalked up as a loss to a better football team who executed their gameplan very well and took advantage of a struggling defense which really missed Manaia Brown and KC Bills to stop the run. Special teams also killed us. Just look at the average starting field position. BYU repeatedly kicks it out of bounds and gives up solid returns while Cal does the exact opposite and BYU is forced to put together 3 drives of 90+ yards. I too would like to see a win even if it was a "boring" 10-7 win but that is not realistic. BYU will never have the athletes to put together a defense like that. Plus BYU does not play in the Big 10. Teams we play actually recruit wide receivers and QBs that can throw the ball.

I too was once bitter and jaded but I am no more. I have accepted the fact that the landscape of college football has changed. There is much more parity in all conferences now and I am ok with that. I am ok with BYU no "dominating" like they once did. That was 20 years ago. We don't play in the WAC anymore. I just enjoy watching BYU play and I enjoy supporting the team. Even when we are not winning every game. Maybe I am lowering my standards here but I am ok with it. At least I haven't lowered my standards in the female department :) Merry Christmas everybody.