BYU football: Sobering thought: Cougs probably haven't hit rock bottom
Provo • Shortly after a couple of wild celebrations on the field and in the locker room after Utah State's first win over BYU in 17 years on Friday night at Romney Stadium, Utah State coach Gary Andersen called the Cougars "a quality team."
He can be forgiven, though. Blame it on the euphoria of the moment, or some residual fogginess from that nasty fall he took last Monday.
Right now, BYU football and quality go together in the same sentence like happy hour and Provo. Partly due to his team's 1-4 start, coach Bronco Mendenhall fired defensive coordinator Jaime Hill on Saturday.
The latest NCAA statistical rankings pretty much spell out the misery: the Cougars rank dead last in rushing defense (120th) and are 101st in scoring defense.
Offensively, they are just as inept, ranking 118th in passing efficiency, 114th in scoring offense and 96th in total offense.
Longtime BYU followers are struggling to remember a time the Cougars looked this bad, with a few even suggesting it was before the LaVell Edwards era.
The last time the Cougars started 1-4 was 1973, Edwards' second year. Somehow, they finished 5-6 that year with a 46-22 win over Utah and a 63-0 walloping of UTEP. The 2010 Cougars are just hoping to score that many points this season, with just 76 through five games.
With 3-1 San Diego State you know, the team that was idle this weekend after crushing USU 41-7 last week and No. 5 TCU licking its spurned-at-the-altar chops for its shot at the Mountain West Conference-departing Cougars up next, BYU easily could be 1-6 before it sees a winnable game.
The 1973 team dropped to 1-5 with a 41-21 loss at Wyoming before righting the ship with a 56-21 win over New Mexico. Before that, Tommy Hudspeth's 1968 team was 1-7 before notching its second win.
It's well past time to hit the panic button in Provo, but Hill's firing may signal more changes, despite Mendenhall saying Friday night that few were in store.
"The only change is to continue to work on our execution at a much higher level," he said. "The wrong answer is to alter [things] and go around to try to develop schemes to be a Band-aid. The right thing to do is to continue to develop the players."
That might include introducing more new faces to the lineup if the injuries suffered Friday by two of the Cougars' best defensive players, safety Andrew Rich and linebacker Jordan Pendleton, are serious. Rich left the game in the second quarter with what was diagnosed initially as a shoulder stinger and an upper-arm contusion; Pendleton went out in the third quarter with a knee sprain just before the Aggies went ahead 31-3.
Both X-rays were negative, but that doesn't mean both will play against the red-hot Aztecs.
"We're not throwing in the towel," said defensive end Vic So'oto. "We will be back on Monday, ready to go."
Mendenhall told the players in the postgame locker room to "let it hurt right now," then come back Monday ready to work harder than ever to fix multiple problems.
"I told them that basically my responsibility was to help them play at a higher level, and that is my responsibility. And I would hope that I can ask more of myself, and our staff, to get the improvement necessary; and they have to make a choice of how hard they are willing to work to move our team forward," Mendenhall said.
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P San Diego State (3-1) at BYU (1-4), 4 p.m., TV • The Mtn.