Has BYU Hit Its Ceiling?
There’s an elephant in the room.
BYU fans can see it. The media that covers BYU football can see it too, but they’re not saying anything.
Hard questions must be asked after yet another BYU meltdown on national television against its arch-rival Utah.
Has the current leadership taken this BYU program as far as it can? Have the Cougars reached a ceiling with this coaching staff?
As the clock ticked down in the fourth quarter late Saturday night, the Utes tried everything they could to hand the game to the Cougars.
But in the end, BYU was just too inept to take advantage. A botched punt, a blown coverage in the secondary on 4th-and-12 and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Utah crowd couldn’t even bail out a second straight deer-in-the-headlights performance by the BYU offense and breakdowns on special teams.
For the second year in a row, the Cougars offense appeared totally unprepared to play in this rivalry game. In fact, the start of the game of was astonishingly similar to last year’s 54-10 debacle in Provo, with BYU quarterback Riley Nelson losing the ball in the end zone on the Cougar’s first offensive snap. Only a facemask penalty prevented the Utes from scoring a safety on the play.
It was one of several bullets that BYU dodged in the first half, but couldn’t elude in the second. In the end, BYU doinked a 36-yard field goal off the upright that could have sent the game into overtime, a fitting end to a night of mistakes, miscues, and a horrendous display of ball security.
Meanwhile the Utes were playing with a Division II quarterback and were without star running back John White, the guy who was virtually the entire offense for Utah in 2011. They were also without their second best defender in strong safety Brian Blechen and missing their starting free safety as well. Yet the outcome was almost predictable, with Kyle Whittingham winning his third game in a row and his fourth in the last five games over Bronco Mendenhall.
There was absolutely no excuse for BYU losing to such a depleted Utah team on Saturday.
Ask yourself: How many coaches in today’s world of college football would survive going 1-4 against an arch-rival? How can any BYU coaching staff defend going a combined 1-8 against Utah and TCU since 2008 and getting blown out in many of those eight losses?
Bronco Mendenhall and his staff have been able to hide behind the smoke and mirrors of double-digit wins in recent seasons. But any honest BYU supporter has to admit that wins against quality D-1 teams have been few and far between. The Cougars did defeat a rebuilding Oklahoma team by a point in 2009, but then followed that up by getting spanked by 26 at home by a Florida State team that would finish the year 7-6.
The truth is that the Cougars haven’t defeated a program of any consequence since November 28, 2009 when Andrew George scored his touchdown in overtime, giving BYU its last win over Utah. In the two years prior to the start of this season, BYU managed just two wins over teams that finished the year with winning records. And both of those wins (against Utah State and Tulsa in 2011) were squeaked out in the final 11 seconds of the game.
Through the last seven-plus seasons, BYU has lost most of the big games on its schedule, many of those in an embarrassing fashion. Some may point to a 5-2 bowl record as proof otherwise, but are bowl victories in mid-December over fifth-place teams from the PAC-12 and also-rans from Conference USA the height to which this program can and should aspire?
Bronco talks about winning national championships, but right now his team is only the third best in the state of Utah.
Enough with the talk, platitudes, and slogans from self-help books. It’s time to start winning some meaningful games. It’s time to stop talking in circles and making rookie coaching mistakes after eight years on the job. It’s time to start developing talent–particularly on the offensive side of the ball–and stop coaching like you’re at a military academy. A program that would routinely have a couple of dozen of alumni playing in the NFL in any given year, BYU currently has a grand total of seven players on NFL rosters. That’s right: seven.
It’s also time for Mendenhall to start coaching the entire team and not just the defense. It’s time to start holding an offensive line coach and offensive coordinator accountable for performances like the one we witnessed on Saturday. It’s time to start developing quarterbacks so that you don’t have five-star quarterbacks leaving the program and four-star QBs languishing on the bench while a gutty, gritty, slot receiver plays the position.
It also time to realize that you’re not going to defeat programs of equal or better talent with a staff that is putting in only part of the time required to get the job done. It’s not acceptable to have your opponents up toiling into the night to game-plan against you, while you and your coaches are at home watching the The Voice or America’s Got Talent. Being a college coach requires 16-hour days during the season; everyone entering the profession understands that. If coaches at BYU are unwilling to put in the time necessary to have the program compete at a higher level, then perhaps they should seek employment in another field.
Can anyone honestly say that Utah put better players on the field than BYU on Saturday? Did they last year? If the answer is no, one must conclude that the Utes are getting better coaching and are better prepared.
Bronco Mendenhall and his staff deserve tremendous credit and admiration for rescuing the BYU football program after Gary Crowton ran it aground. But this program is not currently progressing and it hasn’t really progressed for a few years now. The time has come to take a good, long, honest look at where this program actually is and ask some hard questions.
There is an elephant in the room and somebody needs to say so.