By Michael Hollingshead
USC did not beat BYU on Saturday.
BYU beat themselves, and everyone who watched the game knows it.
Before Gary Crowton even put on his headset, it was 21-0, and looking to be a nasty, 2002esque game.
Turns out, for the majority of the evening, BYU was an equal match for USC. But those critical first minutes killed the Cougars.
“You can”t make mistakes like that and win big football games,” Crowton said. “We learned a lot from our mistakes.”
An early fumbled punt, an interception and a personal foul on third-and-long led to 21 Trojan points. Take away the mistakes and you”ve got a 2-0 BYU team.
If BYU was going to win this game, they were going to have to do it without any mistakes. In other words, they had to play a technically sound game. No penalties, no fumbles and minimal interceptions.
“I hate penalties,” Crowton said. “I”m not very happy about it.”
None of those things happened, and the Cougars could not pull off the upset, even though they only trailed 21-18 with less than 5 minutes to go.
The USC game is over now, and the Cougars can turn their heads towards New Mexico and the rest of the Mountain West Conference, or they can linger on the miscues in Los Angeles.
The real question remains: Will BYU start strong against New Mexico and play an entire game? If you haven”t noticed, it takes the Cougars at least a quarter, and sometimes a half, before they get things going.
Last year early mishaps plagued their season. This year the trend continues, but to a lesser degree.
Against Georgia Tech, Matt Berry threw an early pick, a punt was blocked and returned for a touchdown and both the offense and the defense piled up the yellow flags.
The reason, according to Crowton, is that it takes Berry a little time to get into rhythm.
“When he gets into rhythm, everyone else gets into rhythm,” he said.
BYU will compete for a conference crown, but they must come out firing on all cylinders. No more of this wait-a-couple-quarters-to-get-going play.
Colorado State, Air Force and New Mexico will not wait to put points on the board. Crowton”s army has to do the same thing or they won”t be playing come December.
There are no questions that BYU is talented enough to win, but too many mistakes and slow starts will challenge that talent. Another “only if” season cannot be.
Crowton can”t afford it.
BYU can”t afford it.
The MWC can”t afford it.
With the exception of Colorado State and Air Force, no one has beat BYU in the past year. BYU has beat themselves by simply failing to execute.
This year, the play calling has been fantastic, the defense has been stingy and the offense has been getting the job done. Crowton and the Cougars know what they”re doing; they just need to do it.
BYU is better than people think. Just ask USC coach Pete Carroll, who spent two hours Saturday night pacing the sidelines as the Cougars dominated two quarters of the game.
“We definitely showed we can play with the top teams,” said senior guard Quinn Christensen. “We struggled a little bit in the first quarter, then once we started getting things going I thought we did pretty good.”
Christensen is right on the money.
BYU can play with the top teams, and they will. They just need to overcome the miscues and they”ll not only play with the top teams, but they”ll beat them.