Monson: For BYU, Utah football, hope is an enemy and a friend
Published: October 22, 2012 09:25PM
Updated: October 23, 2012 06:03PM

Somebody once defined disappointment as a sense of loss for something you never had. Somebody else said, “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” And a third guy said, “Good is not good when better is expected.”

How bad is bad, then?

BYU and Utah football expected a lot this season, apparently too much. And now, picking up the pieces is what’s left for them.

With two-thirds of their seasons gone, those two teams have combined for six victories and nine defeats. Utah is winless in the Pac-12, having dropped four straight games by a total score of 117-56. BYU has beaten only one quality opponent in five tries.

And it’s easy to bury these teams for all their failures and mistakes, and maybe they, especially the coaches, should be buried for falling so far short of what even they had planned. But veering away from the sometimes-brutal bottom line of sports — the winning and the losing — for just a split-second, we should all be impressed by the attitude of some of the Cougars and Utes after Saturday’s disappointments at Notre Dame and Oregon State.

Senior linebacker Brandon Ogletree didn’t hide his emotion at what happened against the Irish.

“It’s frustrating,” he said. “It hurts to lose.”

But then, he added something else: “We’re not going to let this loss set us back.”

That was a near-perfect rolling of a lie and a truth.

The defeat, the Cougars’ fourth in eight games, in fact had set them back. They certainly were diminished numerically by a defeat against a real good team on its home field that they could have forced into a win had they made fewer errors. And it was further evidence that BYU football is the master at beating teams it is favored to beat but cannot take down teams that are more highly thought of. The Cougars haven’t defeated a highly ranked opponent for more than three years.

But Ogletree also was looking ahead to BYU’s four remaining scheduled games, the leftovers of his college career: Georgia Tech, Idaho, San Jose State and New Mexico State. None of those opponents is much to bark at.

And yet it was noble for the team captain to gather himself so shortly after a bitter result, after he had thrown and slammed his body around for three hours on the storied field, in a game he characterized as a “battle,” and try to find glimmers of hope after those glimmers just had kicked him in the teeth.

It’s the human side of sports we don’t talk all that much about. These are college athletes who put their hearts and souls into their athletic pursuits, sometimes coming up short, and then all we can see is Riley Nelson missing a shockingly open Cody Hoffman for an easy touchdown and the go-ahead score.

I’m not saying that last part shouldn’t be the focus — we all jump aboard the train of criticism, and I’m often first in line — and frequently that criticism is deserved. But once in a blue moon, alongside the rest of it, the human part also is worth acknowledging. Ogletree expected more out of this season, just like almost everybody else who follows BYU. It affects him even more profoundly.

Same with the Utes, who had their chances against Oregon State but could not finish their business, too often turning over the ball. They now are 2-5 overall.

“It’s not what we anticipated,” Utah defensive lineman Dave Kruger said. “Things happen and adversity is thrown your way. We have to keep our head up and keep grinding and keep working.”

Disappointment sucks for the Utes and Cougars. They had expected something big this season, and so at present they are not so blessed. But on that human side, there is honor in facing down the frustration and in the grind and the work ahead, even when the hope that once embraced them now hardly recognizes their names.

GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 1280 AM and 97.5 FM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.