BYU 1-on-1: If healthy, who should the Cougars start at QB?
Courtesy BYU Photo
Daily Herald sports experts Darnell Dickson and Jared Lloyd address this week’s burning questions about BYU sports.
1. What will be the winning factor for BYU football on Saturday against Iowa State?
DICKSON: Most fans would point to the start time (the Cougars have been really, really good at night games for the past couple of seasons) but I think BYU has to find a way to start fast. On the road, the Cougars have fallen behind and the offense hasn’t had the ability to make up that difference.
BYU needs to play well from the start and ride the wave of momentum at LaVell Edwards Stadium. The fans need to be dialed in. A slow start would elicit some boos and doubt. The Cougars need to take that home field advantage and get LES rocking.
It’s Iowa State’s first trip to Provo in the Big 12 and nothing is more intimidating than getting the home crowd on your side right from the start.
LLOYD: Darnell talked about the importance of BYU getting some early momentum and I agree that will be key, but I’m going to take it a step further. The Cougars need to build on their successes with more execution.
BYU hasn’t been able to find much in the way of consistent play on either side of the ball in the last two weeks. There would be a few good plays then a few bad ones. Football punishes teams who are that up and down in a game.
The Cougars need to get back to complimentary football, where one unit steps up when another struggles. BYU needs players to make one good play, then another, then another … and then keep doing that.
It’s not going to be easy but the Cougars need to string together a lot more good plays, because those are the sequences that result in stops or scores — and BYU needs a lot more of both.
2. It sounds like Kedon Slovis won’t be ready but if he was healthy, would you start or Jake Retzlaff at quarterback on Saturday?
LLOYD: The answer to this question is a no-brainer if Kedon Slovis is healthy. BYU needs one more win to get bowl eligible and this might be the best chance the Cougars have to get it.
Before he got dinged up, Slovis was probably BYU’s best, most consistent offensive player. We saw his performance drop after what we now know was an injury in the Arkansas game, and the Cougar offense has struggled since.
I liked some of the things I saw from Jake Retzlaff at West Virginia last week but the harsh reality was the only points BYU scored under his direction came in garbage time when the loss was already decided. The home team can’t have that happen this week.
But if the veteran can play at a high level, I think Aaron Roderick has to put Slovis on the field and let him give the Cougars the best chance to win.
DICKSON: It’s a difficult balance for the coaching staff, and here’s why. You have spent hours and hours with Slovis as your No. 1, from spring to summer workouts to fall camp and seven games of the season. Is it really the best idea to kind of blow things up now and hope for a better result?
It’s easy to say a quarterback change would give the Cougars a spark but what about precision and execution? How much does that suffer when you make a big change?
So I still think a healthy Slovis is the guy you need to get a win on Saturday. But if he struggles, don’t be surprised if BYU coaches give Retzlaff a shot as well.
3. As only the fourth player in NFL history to have at least 10 passing, rushing and receiving touchdowns in his career, should former Cougar Taysom Hill be considered for the NFL Hall of Fame some day?
Courtesy BYU Photo
DICKSON: The last guy to do the trifecta of touchdowns, Frank Gifford, is in the Hall of Fame. Of course, Gifford was an every-down player and the Saints still use Hill as a novelty.
It seems that every time he’s in on offense, New Orleans moves the ball or scores. I don’t think Hill will ever get the usage he needs to get such a huge honor. But he is one of the most unique players in NFL history, no question. Maybe a special mention in the Hall?
LLOYD: The biggest factor with Taysom Hill’s Hall of Fame argument will be his longevity and success rate.
How long can he do it? Can he come up big on the big stages in the NFL? We haven’t really seen the answers yet, and so I would say his body of work isn’t enough yet. If he does those things, though, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a shot at getting into Canton.
I love watching Hill play. He still seems to be having so much fun playing a game that I thought he might give up on after his injuries at BYU. His speed, hands, decent accuracy and special teams acumen make you always waiting to see what he will do next.
4. Did the NCAA do BYU women’s soccer dirty by matching up the No. 1 seed Cougars against the only team to beat them in the regular season (Utah State) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament?
Courtesy BYU Photo
LLOYD: As an athlete, there is something very satisfying about getting a chance to avenge a defeat — and BYU didn’t lose many games this year.
Other seeded teams in the College Cup will be facing teams they “should” beat, but soccer can be quirky and overlooking anyone can result in disaster. The Cougars certainly know how good Utah State can be.
I actually think the team who has a right to complain is Utah State. Yes, Aggie fans will be able to make the trip from Logan to see their team play but this USU team shouldn’t have to face a top seed with a grudge in the first round.
DICKSON: Absolutely. The NCAA loves to do regional matchups for the early rounds and that’s what the Cougars got. BYU is the No. 2 overall seed and plays No. 44 RPI (Utah State).
The other higher seeds on the Cougars’ side of the bracket all play much, much lower seeds: No. 29 USC (vs. No. 75 Grand Canyon), No. 26 Michigan State (No. 154 Ohio) and No. 11 Harvard (No. 85 Maine). Would travel really been that much different if Grand Canyon came to Provo instead of Utah State?
Well, nothing that can be done about it now but for BYU to take its revenge on the Aggies, who won 1-0 in Logan earlier in the season. Jennifer Rockwood has a veteran group who will come out focused and ready to go.
5. It’s only been one game, but who has impressed you on the BYU men’s basketball team so far?
DICKSON: I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Spencer Johnson, not only as a player who made big contributions on both sides of the floor but as a leader. Apparently he gave a whopper of a pre-game speech before the Houston Christian game that made his teammates want to run through a wall for him. Bottle that up and use it later.
Noah Waterman looks a lot more in the flow than he did at time last season and Jaxson Robinson has been filling it up from the 3-point line coming off the bench. His range is pretty incredible.
I thought newcomer Aly Khalifa looked a lot more comfortable in this game than he did in the exhibition and Trey Stewart was really impactful on offense and defense against Houston Christian.
How does that all translate to playing the NCAA runner-up in San Diego State on Friday? Good question. No idea. It will be one of the toughest tests for the Cougars all preseason.
LLOYD: I also clearly saw that Spencer Johnson is likely going to be the heart and soul of this team, although frankly I expected nothing less. If he can stay healthy, his defensive determination, offensive ability and leadership will be invaluable to Mark Pope and the rest of the BYU squad.
In games against overmatched opponents like Houston Christian, I like looking beyond the point totals to things that indicated the flow a team has. I certainly liked the 27-9 assist-to-turnover ratio the Cougars had (led by seven assists and no turnovers by Johnson). I also liked seeing BYU haul down 59 rebounds.
It’s not going to be that easy against San Diego State and certainly not when league play rolls around, but it showed a glimpse of what the Cougars are capable of if they play well.