There was a time not so long ago when the BYU Cougars under coach Bronco Mendenhall won close games like clockwork. Lately, though, those days are gone.
BYU's 19-16 loss to Virginia on Saturday marked the fifth time in the last six close games (decided by a touchdown or less) that the Cougars have lost.
At one time, BYU had won 14 straight close games in the Mendehhall era.
If you didn't notice, Saturday's loss in the season opener looked eerily similar to several losses last year: the defense played well enough to win, but the offense faltered, and costly turnovers that basically handed the opponent points decided the game.
After the loss at Scott Stadium, however, Mendenhall said it can't be compared to some last year.
"Completely different," Mendenhall said. "I actually thought we were gaining momentum and then -- I can't say out of nowhere -- it just flipped. We were in control of the game, and getting ready to separate. That to me was a completely different feeling than I felt last year. So I don't see it that way."
You can read my follow from the game, and look ahead to this Saturday's 5 p.m. showdown with No. 15 Texas, by going here.
Also, Dan Wolken of USA Today lists BYU at No. 7 on his first "Misery Index" of the season.
"It's one thing to be a fan of a mediocre team, but if that's your lot in life, don't you at least want to be a fan of an unpredictable mediocre team? The Cougars pretty much picked up where they left off last year, losing 19-16 at Virginia, the only difference being that they are running their offense faster. But faster doesn't mean better when it's BYU. Think of it this way. Would you rather watch Taysom Hill complete 13 of 40 passes the way he did against Virginia, or six of 20? I thought so."
Hill realized he did not play well, and admitted it in the postgame news conference.
"I know this feeling is no fun right now," he said. "We have a quick turnaround. We play Texas at home on Saturday. We don't have time to sit and dwell on a loss like this. We will go back and watch the film, and see the things that we need to improve on to get better.
We all need to get better. You can talk about the rain, you can talk about the delay, but at the end of the day, we as a team, as an offense, me as a quarterback, we need to get better."
In fairness, several receivers dropped catchable passes, and after the delay the footballs became wet and heavy -- Hill called them "waterlogged." Several of his passes were high, as they were in the few times the media was allowed to view practice sessions or scrimmages during fall camp.
"We need to improve. We need to get better. But we also made a lot of really good plays. There are some pros that definitely came out of it. We had a lot of really good stuff on film that we could build off, but we need to get better. We had a lot of silly things that killed drives -- some penalties and a few things like that that we just can't have," Hill said.
He didn't add "dropped passes," but he could have.
There were also a couple of bad snaps, including the one that led to a safety.
"I think you can look back at each drive [and see the drive-killer]. I think our first drive we had a false start that turned a second and short into a second and long. There were various things like that that are drive-killers. Not to make any excuses, but we need to be better on third down and convert more third downs. Those are things we will look at on film and see where we can get better," Hill said.
Robert Anae admitted that his uptempo offense did not get off to a stellar start, and also said it needs to find an identity. He hopes that comes from a dominant offensive line, but if Saturday showed anything, it is that the entire unit needs to improve quickly if the Cougars are going to post a winning record this season.
"We were short when it counted. I feel we have an opportunity to use this and get a little better feel for who we are. We are still searching for an identity, and you know you get taxed in ways in a close game on the road. I do believe we will be able to grow from this, in that right direction and find a better vantage point as to who we are."
Count me as stunned as everyone else when Cody Hoffman did not play, due to a hamstring he apparently tweaked in practice early last week. His absence was especially noticeable on third down.
"Cody Hoffman would have been a welcome piece of the puzzle, because there is that search for identity. When things are getting tight and we are looking for someone to lean on, Cody Hoffman has been that guy for BYU for a couple years. Certainly, when Cody is healthy and back in it, I think his contribution will be just that, a confidence, a third-down play, a big play to be made. Seemed like tonight, we were just a little short of that."
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