BYU Lets One Slip Away in 24-23 Loss to UCLA
BYU more than held their own in a tough one point loss to UCLA Saturday night but many Cougars fans have to be wondering if that was one that got away. The Cougars were a 17.5 point underdog and certainly garnered respect with the way they played. However, BYU was the better team much of the night. The loss does not doom the season; it’s just that the game could have so easily been a win.
So what are the takeaways?
- BYU is a legitimate team. The Cougars proved to everyone they are for real by hanging with, and often out-playing a very good UCLA team. UCLA may win the Pac-12 this year. BYU is going to win 9 or 10 games this year.
- BYU has a solid offense that can move the ball. Their receivers are quite good. They have some play-makers on defense – just not enough of them. BYU has opened as a 5.5 point underdog at Michigan this week. Based on what I’ve seen, BYU should beat Michigan.
- Those that have read my blog over the years know that I am often very critical of Bronco Mendenhall. I think he deserves some credit for Saturday night’s effort. I loved the onside kick. I thought it was a gutsy move and showed he was playing to win (remember when the Saints did it in the Super Bowl). I loved that Bronco threw Harvey Langi in at running back for a play or two. Some may call it desperation. I call it finding your best athletes and turning them loose to make plays when the lights are the brightest. (Langi was an all-state running back in high school). I also liked Bronco dialing up all the run blitzes. I thought it cost them a few times but I liked how aggressive he was.
- Beyond the Langi runs – BYU did a nice job establishing the run game. Their best effort yet. Adam Hine rushed for 150 yards. If BYU can do that all year – they will be in great shape. The run game was a huge question mark and it looks like they may have that problem solved. Nate Carter has a ways to go still but I am sold on Hine. And we’ll wait and see what Algie Brown can provide.
- Tanner Mangum is very good, and is only going to get better. I thought he’d need to throw for 350+ yards to win. He threw for 240 but looked poised. He just needed a few more yards and another touchdown pass instead of settling for field goals. What I liked is that Mangum stayed in the pocket and was perfectly content to take the underneath routes and get 6-8 yards a hit. Nothing wrong with that. It keeps the chains moving.
- As I thought might happen – BYU gave up way too many big plays. Most of them were straight hand-offs and then they allowed the one big punt return after the disastrous holding and false start penalties by Ryker Mathews. BYU’s defense is good but they are still without their starting nose tackle, and they just don’t have enough bodies and/or guys with closing speed to make tackles. They wore down and just got torched in those last two UCLA possessions. That can’t happen.
- He was mentioned above but he deserves mentioning again – Harvey Langi played a great defensive game. He was everywhere.
- I loved the moment when Mitch Mathews scored the touchdown and went leaping and jumping in the air. To me that said that he understood how important this game was. It reminded me of when Max Hall walked off the field at halftime at Jerry World in 2009 against Oklahoma and was screaming, “We’re gonna win!” I thought Mitch Matthews was demonstrating that same emotion and I respect him for it. The guy’s a senior, he knows they may never have an opportunity like this again and he balled out. He played a great game and was an incredible possession receiver. Though he’s a wide out – Mathews’ overall play reminded me of the glory days of BYU tight ends like Dennis Pitta and Andrew George that could make critical, contested, 3rd down catches to keep the chains moving. You can see Matthews’ TD catch at about the 1:50 mark in the highlight reel below:
So where does BYU go from here?
They need to stop listening to the critics that said they just got lucky. Perhaps a few different offensive play calls, or a few more tackles against UCLA and they are undefeated and ranked #12 or so in the country. It looked like BYU couldn’t believe they really had UCLA on the ropes and slipped up just a bit at the end. I thought of that super bowl commercial from a few years ago when the guy shows up solo to prom in his Dad’s Audi, kisses the prom queen and then gets his butt kicked. That was BYU Saturday night. Everyone thought they were a nobody. Instead, BYU rolled into the dance brimming with confidence and made a huge splash, but ultimately succumbed to the big jock. BYU could have kissed the girl, knocked out the prom king and won the night. They just need to get a little more ferocious.