For the first time in their history, the BYU Cougars will face top-10 college football teams in successive weeks. Having lost to No. 10 Oregon State 42-24 last week, the Cougars take on No. 5 Notre Dame on Saturday (1:30 p.m. MDT, NBC) in South Bend.
The Cougars will practice from 5-7 p.m. tonight, with media availability afterwards.
But before everyone moves on to Notre Dame week, a few leftover thoughts and comments about Saturday's game:
There were five or six huge, momentum-swinging plays in the second half that went OSU's way, as the Cougars mentioned in their postgame news conference.
However, one play that I believe had a big impact was the second one of the game. Cody Vaz threw a 15-yard pass to Markus Wheaton on second-and-7, and officials originally ruled Wheaton was out of bounds when he made the catch. After a review, they (correctly) overturned their call and gave the Beavers a first down.
Oregon State went on to score on that opening possession, capping the six-play drive with an 11-yard touchdown reception by Wheaton. Not only was the drive and TD a confidence-builder for Vaz, and a sign to his teammates that he could get the job done, it was a solid punch in the mouth to BYU's vaunted defense, which had not allowed an offensive TD in the 13 previous quarters. Thanks to the overturned call, the Beavers did not face a third down the entire drive.
I asked coach Bronco Mendenhall if the quick score dented his defense's swagger.
"Not necessarily. I really thought I would have better answers. We just didn't execute them well enough. That's where it became frustrating I think to all of us is even things we thought would be the right play into the right play, we weren't executing it well. And again, that's preparation, and that's on me."
Lots of folks out there are blaming Riley Nelson for the loss, but Mendenhall said Nelson and the offense played well enough for BYU to win. He rightfully blamed himself and the defense.
"I think the players play as they are prepared. Anytime we don't perform well, I always look at myself first. I could have prepared them better, obviously. Otherwise, they would have performed better," he said. "We didn't see anything concept-wise that we hadn't seen [on tape]. And really we had an extra day of preparation, so really all the same routes that were working against us today [were on tape]. I really felt, and obviously mis-evaluated, thought we were ready to handle [their offense], but we weren't because it happened multiple times. Again, I think our players will do exactly what they are asked to do. [Cody Vaz] just delivered the ball where he was supposed to.
They made a real focused effort on protection, meaning seven and eight man protection, and three guys out in the routes, to make sure we couldn't get to him. And the routes took longer to develop downfield, and more time to cover. Even when we were dropping eight, they were completing passes. So again, their plan execution was [bettter] and they played at a higher level than we did. Their quarterback deserves credit for doing what he was supposed to do. Which he did."
Some comments from BYU defenders Preston Hadley and Spencer Hadley, not related, on why a top-five defense had so much trouble with a backup quarterback:
Preston Hadley on why Oregon State moved the ball so well:
"I think they just played better than us today. They were really able to spread us out and just get easy throws for their quarterback. And then from that, we just naturally backed off a little bit, and our coverage just didn't hold. "
Preston Hadley on whether they were surprised Cody Vaz was so effective:
'I mean, this is Division I football. You just gotta assume that any quarterback will be able to throw the ball, and stuff. They were able to protect him, and their receivers were able to get open, so good job on their part."
Preston Hadley on the defense's reputation taking a hit:
"Our defense, we still have a lot of pride. And we still know what we are capable of, and obviously there's a lot we can do to get better. I think it just came down to not making big plays when we were given an opportunity to, throughout all three levels on defense. We are still going to keep working, and we are just going to come back and fix what needs to be fixed, and be ready for next week."
Preston Hadley on OSU scoring on opening possession and hurting BYU's swagger:
"It is disappointing when they score any time. But we were still confident in our coverage, in ourselves, and in our rush defense. After something like that, we just have to keep coming out, playing hard."
Spencer Hadley on how difficult OSU's max protect scheme was on the defense:
"As you saw, it took a pretty good toll on the defense. They did a great job of protecting their guy back there. We weren't able to get enough pressure on him, gave him too much time to make throws, and they had some great talent downfield, made some great plays, and it is hard to beat a team when they are able to do that. Makes them very successful."
Spencer Hadley on the offense scoring 24 points and whether it should have been enough:
"Yeah, I mean, the offense played a great game, were able to score 24 points. That was big. I am really proud of our guys on O, and what they were able to accomplish. It is frustrating being a defensive player, having our offense scoring 24 points, doing a great job, putting together a great game, and I kinda feel like we didn't hold up our end on that, and that is frustrating. It doesn't feel good, as a defensive guy."
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