After somehow overcoming all kinds of mistakes, frustration and futility to take the lead in the fourth quarter Saturday night, BYU’s offense invented one more way to avoid beating Virginia.
Naturally, the Cougars blew this game right at the moment when they were playing slowly.
BYU’s 19-16 loss to the Cavaliers at Scott Stadium required some effort, let’s just say that. All you need to know about the Cougars’ defensive showing is Virginia’s touchdown drives covered 16 and 13 yards, following a blocked punt and an interception. No way could the Cavaliers have sustained enough offense to win by their own merits.
Is any of this sounding familiar? The motivation behind Bronco Mendenhall’s offseason overhaul of the offensive coaching staff and a switch to a maniacally fast-paced approach was to have the offense do its part to win games. Strangely enough, after three mostly miserable quarters, that almost happened in Virginia — thanks to BYU’s epic, 92-yard touchdown drive that seemingly came out of nowhere.
But then, to conclude this bizarre adventure that included a two-hour weather delay, the offense gave it all away with a game-changing interception when throwing the ball was unnecessary. So ended a night characterized by “more dysfunction than I would like,” said offensive coordinator Robert Anae.
Anae blamed himself for the critical play call, which was both refreshing and accurate, topping the litany of reasons/excuses for BYU’s loss. It’s a long list. Personally, I’m convinced this was all some kind of conspiracy to protect the Cougars’ former cast of offensive characters.
Everything converged in this defeat: BYU receiver Cody Hoffman’s injured hamstring, the lightning delay between the first and second quarters, the steady rain in the third quarter, the waterlogged footballs, the offensive line’s inconsistency and quarterback Taysom Hill’s slightly high pass that glanced off the hands of running back Jamaal Williams for an interception that led to Virginia’s winning touchdown.
In other words, substituting Anae and Hill for Brandon Doman and Riley Nelson simply produced another of those disappointing outcomes that helped define the 2012 season.
Look, I know how this stuff works: If Williams completes his otherwise brilliant fourth quarter by catching Hill’s pass, the Cougars likely run out the clock and secure the win, and Anae’s aggressive call would be praised.
But the curse of the Cougar offense obviously remains intact. Williams kindly redirected the pass to Virginia’s Anthony Harris, who lateraled the ball to Henry Coley, who ran to the BYU 13-yard line.
Even if a running play was stuffed on third and 6 at the BYU 34, the Cougars — leading 16-12 — would have forced Virginia to use its last timeout before punting and making the Cavs go about 75 yards to win.
“That’s my fault,” Anae said, even before the subject came up in the postgame news conference.
Instead, Anae trusted a sophomore QB who completed 13 of 40 passes in Hoffman’s absence. Hill admirably blamed himself for throwing the ball high, even though Williams clearly should have caught it.
“We need to improve; we need to get better,” Hill said. “We also made a lot of really big plays, and there are some pros that definitely came out of it.”
The reality is that a BYU victory would have been deceiving, in terms of the offense’s development, after the Cougars posted only 151 yards through three quarters and generally seemed more concerned about getting the ball snapped quickly than about what happened afterward. Of course, judging by the ending, maybe they just should have kept going fast.