Six observations from college football’s opening weekend — one for each 15-yard penalty Utah State committed against Utah or one for every three-and-out sequence executed by BYU’s offense at Virginia …
• BYU’s frenetic, ineffective offense
To get the full effect of BYU’s offensive operation, you have to see it in person. I mean, it is impressive how quickly the Cougars snap the ball, after the backup quarterbacks on the sideline hold up cards with a crown, a “CTR” symbol and a directional road sign, among other icons. The results are another issue entirely.
The scheme is designed to be simplistic; I understand that. But so many plays were routine handoffs to Jamaal Williams, with seemingly no regard to down-and-distance situations.
Of Williams’ 33 runs, 17 went for 2 yards or fewer. The fact he gained half of his 144 yards on his last 10 carries suggests BYU’s pace can wear down opposing defenses. Otherwise, this offense has a lot to prove.
• Good offense or bad defense?
Watching the Utah-Utah State game was like to trying to evaluate an intrasquad scrimmage. I never imagined those offenses combining for 937 yards, which makes me wonder about the defenses.
Utah’s rationalization is USU quarterback Chuckie Keeton is just that good, but the Utes soon will face Oregon State’s Sean Mannion and UCLA’s Brett Hundley. USU’s secondary, meanwhile, allowed two 50-yard completions and four others of 20-plus yards in a 30-26 loss.
Such production is a good sign for Utah’s offense, which had trouble generating big plays last season. Then again, the Utes need more consistency, as 220 of their 450 yards came on those six plays.
• Another gritty Cougar QB
In that 19-16 defeat at Virginia, BYU quarterback Taysom Hill resembled a right-handed Riley Nelson. That’s more of a compliment than you might believe, but the question remains whether Hill truly is an upgrade.
Undoubtedly, receiver Cody Hoffman, who missed the game with a hamstring injury, would have made Hill look better. And the Cougars should have won anyway, after Hill led a 92-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.
On BYU’s third-down play with a 16-12 lead, even an incompletion — instead of an interception on a pass that Williams probably should have caught — would have done no harm.
Until his last, desperate heave, Hill had gone 6 for 26 in the second half, with two streaks of eight incompletions. The weather conditions and Hoffman’s absence can account for only part of that inefficiency.
• No more Bronco domination
Since 1998, Boise State is 20-0 against Utah’s five FBS/FCS programs. Whether it happens in October in Logan or Provo or in December in the New Mexico Bowl, somebody will beat the Broncos in 2013 and restore the state’s pride.
Boise State is vulnerable, judging by a 38-6 loss at Washington. So is the year the Potato Blight ends, finally.
• Ziggy II, the skier
Utah kicker Andy Phillips’ tale is not quite as unlikely as the rise of former BYU defensive lineman Ziggy Ansah, but he’s the best story in the state. In his football debut, the former U.S. Ski Team athlete delivered a two-play, game-changing sequence. With the Utes trailing 23-14 in the third quarter, Phillips drilled a 45-yard field goal. He then perfectly dribbled an onside kick that teammate Karl Williams recovered, launching a touchdown drive.
• The Matt Reynolds Rule
With his famous block in the 2011 Armed Forces Bowl, aiding Nelson’s touchdown pass, ex-BYU offensive lineman Matt Reynolds became responsible for the NCAA rule that forces a player who loses his helmet during a play to stop competing.
USU defensive end B.J. Larsen kept chasing Utah’s Travis Wilson, forcing him out of bounds for a loss, but the 15-yard penalty extended a Ute touchdown drive.
The irony is Reynolds never was known for fanatical effort at BYU, until that moment.