Eye on the Y: Breaking down BYU football’s early season success

BYU quarterback Zach Wilson throws a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Houston, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

Hey guys! It’s been a hot minute since I last graced your inboxes and so much has happened — so let’s get right into it.
There’s no denying, 12th-ranked BYU is having a good season, but how much of it is from improvements the Cougars have made since last season and how much is due to the pandemic? It can get tricky, but I will say this: BYU had one of the largest advantages going into the season because the Cougars were able to start voluntary team workouts and official team practices well before the majority of programs throughout the nation.
I asked my Twitter followers if they believed BYU would be having this level of success had the pandemic never happened. The results after 167 votes: 38.9% voted “No,” 35.3% voted “Hard to say” and 25.7% voted “Yes.”
The biggest proof of improvement has been the way the Cougars ground out a win against UTSA and were able to mount a comeback at Houston. A year ago, that UTSA game may have resulted in a loss. (Remember Toledo and USF?)
But would that improvement be enough to overtake the originally difficult schedule? The Cougars were set to take on six Power Five opponents this year before the pandemic forced cancelations and caused BYU to completely rework its schedule.
By this point, BYU would have played Utah, Michigan State, Arizona State, Minnesota, Utah State and Missouri. Seeing as the majority of those teams have yet to even start their respective season, I can’t completely gauge how this year’s Cougars would have fared.
It’s pretty obvious that playing the bulk of your difficulty early on would leave a team banged up midway through the season. I believe the Cougars could have managed to win 3-4 of the first half of games, as do my Twitter followers (65.9% said BYU would have won 3-4 games).
The trickier part would be predicting how the Cougars would respond to the beat-down to keep swinging the second half of the season.
But that’s the thing. Even though BYU was forced to get rid of a super strong schedule that would test the Cougars and instead had to fill up the season with winnable games, BYU hasn’t just taken it easy. In fact, the first three games were a perfect example of domination: BYU left nothing in question as it outscored opponents 148-24.
And the player leading that charge is Zach Wilson.
I’m going to be completely honest, having come in at midseason last year, I wasn’t entirely sure if Wilson would be the best one for the quarterback job this season, especially because Jaren Hall and Baylor Romney did a good job of filling in during Wilson’s absence. I saw the mistakes Wilson made that could have been avoided and wasn’t overly impressed with him. He was good, but not completely amazing.
But I was wrong.
Wilson has been lights out in mesmerizing performances so far this season. And it has started to garner attention from people outside of the state of Utah, including Kansas Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes and the too-early Heisman watch list.
Maybe this wasn’t the season BYU was going to have, but it was the season they were destined to have. It’s the one they’ve been needing to have.
And maybe the Cougars will be able to find themselves back in a New Year Six Bowl bid or even in playoff contention — a long shot, I know.
Stay tuned.

How is new BYU center Matt Haarms' adjusting?

Matt Haarms committed to BYU back in April and moved from Indiana to Provo in May. So far, his entire journey as a Cougar has been while navigating the pandemic.
Getting to be able to finally take the court at the Marriott Center last week for the Cougars' first team practice was “wonderful,” Haarms said, after everything it took to get there. Even with all the unexpected twists and turns the pandemic has forced on the college basketball season, Haarms wouldn’t change his decision.
“I’ve never been happier with my decision — every single day I feel better about it,” “Since I stepped on campus, there hasn’t been a single moment, a single day of doubt. Every day I learn to trust the coaches — everything they tell me is true. I learn so much every single day.”
It was also recently announced by the NCAA that winter sports athletes will essentially have their eligibility frozen, allowing those who wish to come back for one more year. That opens the door for BYU senior Alex Barcello and grad transfers Haarms and Brandon Averette.
However, Haarms made it clear that his initial plan of coming to BYU for just one year is still intact.
“For me, I don’t think it’s really relevant; I’ll be 24 at the end of this year," Haarms said. "This is my year. This is my one year. I’ve treated it like this and I’m going to keep treating it like that. God forbid something happens to me that I have that extra year, but I’m treating it like my one year.”

Another thought

In case you missed it, BYU defensive end Zac Dawe has had an interesting — and obstacle-filled — journey as a Cougar. But even through all his ups and downs, he persevered and has now become a high-impact player for BYU. Read my story here.

Other voices

• Pete Thamel from Yahoo! Sports wrote a feature piece on Zach Wilson and the resurgence of the throwing game at BYU.
• The San Antonio News desk wrote an advance on this weekend’s football game and how No. 12 BYU can’t afford to overlook Texas State.

Normita’s Spanish lesson of the week

Because Spanish is my native language, and my Mexican heritage and culture is a huge part of me, I thought I’d have some fun with these newsletters and start some Spanish lessons. I know many BYU fans have served Spanish-speaking missions, so know that my Spanish may be different from the Spanish spoken in other countries outside of Mexico.
Not to start y’all off with a hard word, but this word isn’t easy translatable. It’s a word of “encouragement” and implies the act of reassuring, inspiring or even cheering someone on to overcome a challenge. Usually it’s used as “Don’t give up! You can do it!”
Example: “¡Ándale, Cougars! ¡Ánimo!”
Translation: “Come on, Cougars! You can do it!”
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