After an up and down season, the BYU football team begins preparations for the Poinsettia Bowl, which will be played on Thursday, Dec. 20.
The Cougars began the season with BCS aspirations after beating the Washington State Cougars and Weber State Wildcats in convincing fashion to open the season. The Cougar offense was impressive putting up 30 and 45 points in the first two games. In what would become a common theme all season, the Cougar defense was dominate.
The Cougars winning ways didn’t last very long though. The Cougars would lose their next two games to Utah and Boise State even with a chance to win both at the very end of the game. Against Utah the Cougars struggled to move the ball and committed a number of penalties killing drives. However, with just a few seconds left, BYU was in position to attempt a 51-yard field goal. Justin Sorenson, who has battled back issues since the end of last season, came on to attempt the kick. The kick was blocked but JD Falslev picked the ball up and tried running to extend the play. While the play was happening, Utah students jumped the fence and rushed the field before the play had been blown dead. Utah was assessed a penalty and BYU was given another chance to kick. Riley Stephenson came on and watched his attempt hit off the upright as BYU lost 24-21.
Boise State saw more struggles by the offense but stout play by the defense. The Cougar defense kept the Bronco offense out of the endzone. The only points Boise State scored came off an interception returned for a touchdown. After Riley Nelson struggled throughout the game, BYU fans got their first glimpse of freshman quarterback Taysom Hill. Hill came in and led the Cougars to their only score of the game. BYU then failed in their attempt at a two point conversion.
Due to an injury to Nelson, Hill got to start against Hawaii and Utah State. Hill would lead the Cougars to wins in both games showing off his athleticism and a powerful arm. Hill’s season would come to an early end following the win over Utah State. On the last series, a miscommunication led Hill to call a draw play. Hill took off up he middle but in doing so a Utah State player’s helmet hit Hill in the knee, tearing ligaments.
BYU would lose the next two games to two top ten opponents, Oregon State and on the road at Notre Dame. BYU came close to beating Notre Dame, who will play for the BCS National Championship. The Cougars lost to Notre Dame 17-14 thanks to some missed oppurtunities on offense and poor tackling on defense.
The Cougars now turn their attention to preparing for the Poinsettia Bowl. The Cougars have known they would be playing in the Poinsettia Bowl since their win over Idaho, but their opponent has yet to be announced. ESPN is predicting that BYU will face former Mountain West Conference foe, San Diego State. In an interview done for the San Diego Union Tribune, SDSU Athletic Director Jim Sterk confirmed that the Poinsettia Bowl would love to see a BYU and SDSU reunion.
The last time the Cougars and the Aztecs met on the football field, the Cougars won 24-21. However, many believe the Cougars were helped to a victory by an error by the replay official. After a fumble by a BYU player the play was reviewed and the replay official deemed that BYU had regained control of the ball. However, TV reviews showed a San Diego State player recovering the ball. This sparked an investigation into the incident and included a number of boosters asking BYU President Cecil O. Samuelson to take action.
A San Diego State rematch would reunite BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall with his former boss, and current SDSU head coach, Rocky Long. Coach Mendenhall worked as Coach Long’s defensive coordinator while the two were at New Mexico. The two coaches developed the 3-3-5 defense that Coach Mendenhall brought with him to BYU when he was hired to be former Head Coach Gary Crowton’s defensive coordinator. Coach Long still utilizes the 3-3-5 defense to put pressure on the quarterback.
With one of the nation’s top defenses the Cougars will put up a good fight against whomever they play in their bowl game. If the offense can come through, the Cougars will head into the offseason with a Poinsettia Bowl victory.