USC came into Provo as one of the hottest teams in the nation and left with a tough loss.
What a game. Again. I think that the last few weeks have taken about ten years off of my life. Honestly, the Cougars are two plays away from being 0-3, but instead they sit at 2-1 and will be receiving votes in the AP poll this week.
As I watched the game I began to finally feel like I was getting a good read on the team. The first two weeks were tough because nobody really knows how good or how bad Tennessee is. Now with three games by BYU and all of their opponents, it is becoming clear that Utah may be elite. Tennessee is bad but not awful, and USC is a quality team.
While obviously the overall celebration will be positive, there were a few things that concerned me in this game that I will address. However, again, most will be very positive.
1. The defensive plan was brilliant
Most of the time, I feel that BYU is over conservative on defense, which was no different this game, but they actually played so over conservative it worked out. The Cougars at some points of the game were running a 3-2 defense, which technically doesn't even exist, but that was what was being run. The result was Slovis throwing three (nearly five) interceptions and only one big pass play being given up.
It also begged USC to run the ball which got the offense out of sync and forced a style of play calling that likely led to some of those turnovers. After all, who wouldn't be running the ball when there are only five defenders (as low as four at times) in the box.
2. Players need to know when to be out on the field
If BYU lost this game, I would have blamed it on this. Midway through the fourth quarter USC was setting up for a very long field goal on fourth down and short. But because the Cougars had an extra man on the field they had to call a timeout. Out of the timeout USC decided to go for it and actually converted. A few plays later, Slovis hit his receiver in the back of the end zone to give USC a touchdown lead.
On a side note, although it didn't cost the Cougars a turnover, on a play earlier in the game, BYU only had ten guys on the field. Due to that, Wilson was forced to make a throw quickly and the ball was almost intercepted. The Cougars were very fortunate that play, and perhaps the 11th player would have changed that.
3. Wilson is back!
Alright, so Wilson hasn't played bad this season, but in the first seven quarters of the season he was looking like he hadn't recovered fully from his shoulder surgery. To give some comparison, in the first seven quarters he threw 33-51 for 314 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. Since then, he is 27-44 for 396 yards, zero interceptions and three total touchdowns. Again, he wasn't playing terrible before, he has just played really well in the last five quarters.
Also, his scrambling and play making ability has gotten better every game this season.
4. Sitake made a few bad decisions
Yes, I know that every game has moments that cause fans to wonder what the coach was thinking but this game had a few moments that had me screaming at the TV. When BYU called a time out with under five seconds left in the game I was puzzled why Sitake would do that. Granted it was still super low risk, but what if USC had somehow bounced to the outside, who knows what could have happened. BYU of all teams should know that miracles happen.
The most questionable call of the game though was the special formation play on fourth and one. While the play is great once, the defense knew exactly what was coming. The play was run and went nowhere. Lucky for BYU a timeout was called by USC right before. Instead of kicking a field goal, or at least running a different play, Kalani decided to run the play again.
I will give him credit for some other great play calls such as the Philly Special and the fake reverse to start overtime, but those three calls really had me going back to the 4th and 18 fake punt.
5. College Football really is a game of inches and the call on field makes all the difference
Whether it was the questionable catch in the end zone by Tennessee, the sideline incompletion, BYU's failed fourth down attempt, or the game winning interception, it was close and the call on the field made all the difference. At the end of the day, two went for BYU and two went for USC. It is sort of crazy with all the technology that is out there that even in super slow motion, those four calls were all too close to confirm or overturn. Had any of those four calls been called the other way, the game would have likely ended in a totally different way.