Weekly Musings – BYU Edition

There’s no question that the feeling after this week’s game is categorically different than last week’s. The obvious issue is an OT loss hurts where a big win feels euphoric. But there are two other aspects I would add creating uneasiness and/or disgust.

(1) We just still don’t know if we’re a good team or not. Was the win over Stanford against a hyper sub-par/mediocre team? Perhaps. And would we have actually beaten BYU had Rector played? Perhaps. Are we just on the good side of average or are we as good as it can feel when the offense pulls off the long touchdown drives we’ve experienced several times, and the defense performs heroic stops? I’ve seen enough to feel that we are really good, and I’ve seen enough to question it. That makes the Utah game insanely important.

(2) Sorry, I’m not a “blame the refs” guy – but no one in their right mind believes the refs did not brutalize USC in the latter part of the 4th quarter. The refusal to overturn the call that showed Pittman’s left foot down was a game-changer, but no call was as cartoonishly bad (or dramatically significant) as the Offensive Passing Interference they called late in the fourth quarter in Pittman (on what was just textbook defensive PI). Throw in a significant amount of BYU holds taking place in open space throughout the day, especially on their key plays, and it was just a brutal day to take a loss you know the refs really owned a big part of.

Now, that said, we did not play well enough to overcome the zebra factor, and any time your true freshman QB throws three picks, the final one being the dagger in your heart, you are likely going to lose. Some comments written throughout the flow of the game real time …

– The first touchdown drive was start to finish a thing of beauty. Play-calling, line play, execution, skill guys – just lovely to watch.

– Our backs are often making defensive players miss tackles five times more than they did last season. The athleticism, power, and speed in the running game – all fruit from the tree of an actual offensive identity and intentional strategy – are just so nice to see. But in this game, I can’t help but thing we got away from what was working and tried to work Stephen Carr around the edges in too much. I love it when our offense runs down field, and Markese Stepp seems always ready to do just that. I was seeing more of a need for Lendale than Reggie on Saturday, if you know what I mean, but we kept trying to get Reggie going.

– Slovis’ two first quarter picks both involved (a) His lengthy staring down of his receiver target, and (b) A linebacker making an athletic catch. The first one was a great defensive play. This is a bad QB habit, but a fixable one. In OT, I really don’t know if the play call should be blamed as well – but certainly the decision to take that risk at that moment of the game was horrific. He’ll learn.

– Our defense holding BYU to a field goal after the second pick was another moment this season that kept a potential catastrophe to a merely unfortunate event. Our defense has been solid in timely cases this year, except for when it hasn’t.

– The wheel route to the tight end for a 50-yard play near the end of the first quarter made me think one thing I haven’t thought since late 2017: “Oh yeah, throwing to the Tight End is still legal”

– I am not sure what happened to #8 Amon Ra St. Brown. Either they locked him up or he wasn’t full strength or Slovis just couldn’t work the ball to him. We have an ability to distribute around the air raid offense, but we need to do a better job at capitalizing on what the defense is giving us. At times they were begging us to run and we weren’t getting enough done out of that.

– I don’t want to be excessively negative about some things we saw on the field. A made 51-yard kick (with seven yards margin of error), a 92-yard touchdown drive, it wasn’t all bad. You just have to get these road wins if you want to be a top program. Have to.

Simple reminder for the utter toolboxes celebrating the loss as a way of accelerating Clay Helton’s demise. No Trojan will ever, ever root against his Trojans. Helton’s fate will play out how it does. Our job is to root like hell for the team and the program to be successful. Period. One can hope for the best even as they anticipate something worse.

What next? You beat the hell out of Utah, that’s what’s next. If USC can beat a really good Utah team at home on ESPN Friday night, it will be a statement we need to help demonstrate the kind of season we are capable of having. Am I being dramatic? No, not really. This is the most important game of the season. The next game always is, but this one really is.

Not much to say around the country. Florida looks deeply overrated to me and is not likely a top 20 team. The cream of the crop appears to be Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma, Georgia, Ohio State, LSU, Notre Dame so far – and also, the sun came up today. I guess Arizona State beating Michigan State was something, but not really. The schedule was awful this weekend (not one single ranked team played another ranked team?????? Dear Lord).

I would comment on Pitt being down seven to Penn State late in the game, getting the ball to the 1-yard line, and then failing three plays in a row to score. AND THEN, attempting a FIELD GOAL (down by seven) on fourth down???????? (one that missed, by the way, a 19-yard attempt). But discussing it would mean acknowledging it, and all I can say is Pittsburgh’s coach having a job after that malarkey should drive a Congressional investigation.

It does look like the media has found a narrative around Alabama’s ex-QB vs. their current QB as the Heisman race this year, and it probably isn’t unfair … But it is mid-September, so maybe let’s wait until, like, week five, before we start doing this???

I wish I could take my seat in the Coliseum for Friday night’s game NOW. I am ready. But this one will take a lot of courage, some improvement in health, and a well-prepared coaching plan. Like I said, we still just do not know who this USC team is. Friday night, we will know a lot more. Fight on !!