COMMENTARY — Sometimes the agony of defeat is hard to swallow, especially when the difference between a win and a loss was so small.
BYU has been far too close to victory to walk away winless against all of these ranked opponents.
The last two weeks the Cougars have had the opportunity to turn the season around, A missed block here, an off-target pass there, a bad bounce – whatever the case, they have been unable to pull one out. It’s incredibly frustrating.
This most recent loss, a heartbreaking 17-14 defeat at the hands of No. 5-ranked Notre Dame, really hurts me as a former player as well as a fan. Notre Dame is literally a couple of wins away from playing in the National Championship game. It would have been so sweet for BYU to spoil that.
The Cougars did come out and play good football against a really great team so, I am (in a humble way) proud of their effort last Saturday. BYU’s offense scored twice on the Fighting Irish defense, which had not allowed an offensive touchdown for 17 prior quarters of play. BYU’s offense has struggled this season, so it was a great improvement against a tough defense.
On the other side of the ball, the defense was sound and back to its high standards set by Bronco Mendenhall. All in all, the Cougars showed up to a stadium of great football history and notoriety and gave it their all. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite enough.
BYU has lost its three road games by a combined seven total points. This is a stat that is very tough to stomach. Think about that for one minute. One touchdown worth of points separates the Cougars from being ranked nationally as well as knocking off teams like Boise State, Utah and Notre Dame on the road. It kind of makes you wonder if the season would be vastly different had BYU come into the season with a solid kicking game.
Of course, this program needs to do some homework on how to finish games away from home to get itself back to greatness.
This Saturday, BYU will face a struggling Georgia Tech team in Atlanta at 1 p.m. MST. These two programs have only met twice, with each team winning at its home field back in 2002 and 2003. In 2002, my junior year at BYU, I had the opportunity to travel out to Atlanta (Bobby Dodd Stadium) and play.
It was a great experience to play back there but, unfortunately, we had an off game and went home with a loss of 28-19. This team was and still is a very fast, smart program. Dodd Stadium is a very loud place to play with a lot of intense fans. It is also a humid location to play a football game, so hydration, cramps, and muscle pulls can be a scare for BYU’s trainers. This should be BYU’s turnaround to winning future road games the rest of this season.
Georgia Tech (3-4) came into the season highly-touted and nationally ranked, but has fallen short of expectations. The Yellow Jackets did just come off of their first win in several weeks, beating Boston College 37-17.
Both teams have a lot to prove and a chance to salvage their seasons this Saturday. Georgia Tech knows how good BYU is without their record to back them up. BYU has played three ranked team with two of those being in the top 10.
BYU’s defense is ranked in the top 10 in nearly all categories and is a physical bunch. But last week the Cougars gave up 270 rushing yards to Notre Dame and the Yellow Jackets No. 1 goal will be to run, run, run.
As one of the few triple option teams left in the modern football world, Georgia Tech (like former Mountain West foe Air Force) is difficult to prepare for. Traditionally, the Cougars do defend the option fairly well.
Teams now have to start thinking about becoming bowl eligible (six wins). Georgia Tech will virtually have to win out to become bowl eligible and they still face teams like Georgia, North Carolina, Duke and Maryland. This is a must-win for this team.
BYU has three relatively easy games left after Georgia Tech, so this game is more about salvaging a great season vs. an average year.
It’s time to find out what the Cougars are really made of. If BYU doesn’t show up Saturday, it will be a long flight home that I unfortunately know all to well.
BYU has a bye after this week’s game. If the Cougars can pull away with a road victory in Atlanta, they will have plenty of time to prepare and get healthy for teams like Idaho, San Jose State and New Mexico State to wrap up the season.
Scott Young is a sports commentator. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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