Here’s what’s going on inside Darnell’s head. Seems that 2019 went by like a blur. My New Year’s resolution must have been set too low. That, or I need better glasses.
Don’t remind me
On Christmas afternoon, my wife and my young adult daughter were standing at the kitchen sink doing dishes. My daughter started complaining about the last couple of minutes of the Hawaii Bowl from Christmas Eve and my wife cut her off.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” she said.
The Cougars’ frustrating loss to Hawaii probably spoiled a lot of Christmas mornings and afternoons for BYU fans. The Cougars were so close to finishing the season 8-5 and taking a little bit of momentum into the long eight months until next season. Instead, BYU messed up royally on a third-and-2 call that would have locked up the game and allowed the Warriors to easily drive for the go-ahead score.
A 7-6 record two years in a row is mediocrity, no matter how you slice it.
Yet there are positives from the 2019 season heading in 2020.
If Zach Wilson once again wins the starting quarterback job, great. He’ll have the entire offseason to sharpen things up and will be pushed by Jaren Hall and Baylor Romney. The entire offensive line returns, it appears BYU has bolstered its receiving corps with new talent and tight end Matt Bushman decided to return for his senior year. The Cougars played a ton of young players on defense, defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga opted to return for his senior year and the secondary will have Chris Wilcox and Zayne Anderson healthy.
With so many close losses, BYU isn’t that far off from turning seven wins into 10.
And for those who are sour on the coaching staff, they’ve all picked up one more valuable year of experience.
See, that wasn’t so hard. Optimism is fun, isn’t it?
Big needs during the off-season: A running back or two from the transfer portal and a defensive end who can occasionally apply pressure to the quarterback.
Listen to this
I hosted Ben Criddle’s radio show on 960 AM last Friday and my co-host was former BYU basketball standout Jonathan Tavernari. One of our guests was former BYU linebacker Brady Poppinga.
Ben likes to call JT “the Brady Poppinga of BYU basketball” because both guys are not afraid to speak their mind.
Getting these two together was really interesting and there were declarations and big, bold takes flying all over the place. Listen to the interview at http://espn960.com.
Locked in on the defensive end
BYU’s 63-38 win against Loyola Marymount on Saturday was pretty eye-opening.
Consider that the Cougars traditionally have consistently struggled to slow teams down on defense. Remember that Utah scored 102 points (in overtime) on BYU earlier this season. During the Cougars’ six-game winning streak since that loss, BYU has allowed just 54.7 points per game.
The Cougars gave up 35 points to Division III Colorado College in 2017. But the last time BYU produced this kind of defensive effort against a Division I team was in 2016 in a 91-33 win against San Diego.
Consider also that Loyola Marymount was averaging around 68 points per game coming into Saturday’s contest at the Marriott Center. The Cougars held Nevada to 42 points last month and the Wolfpack are averaging 76 points per game.
BYU coach Mark Pope was proud of his team for not letting the frustration from the offensive end bleed over to defense against Loyola Marymount, and eventually the Cougars ran away from the Lions.
If that kind of defensive effort has some staying power, look out.
The No. 4 BYU men’s volleyball team won twice on the road this weekend, taking down No. 11 Loyola-Chicago 3-1 and No. 6 Lewis 3-1. Cougar coach Shawn Olmstead preaches serve and serve receive as the two most important elements to winning in men’s college volleyball and so there is this: Junior Gabi Garcia Fernandez had 11 ace serves this weekend — a career-high seven against Lewis — and BYU produced a whopping 21 aces in the two wins. Garcia Fernandez aced the Flyers four straight times to end Set 2 in a Cougar victory.
It’s a small sample size, but BYU is averaging 2.63 aces per set. For reference sake, last year BYU was at 1.28.
That’s a promising start. The Cougars host Penn State twice this week with matches on Friday and Saturday.
That’s a long time
Vince Carter of the Atlanta Hawks is 42 years old and has become the first NBA player in history to suit up in four different decades — 1990s, 2000s 2010s and 2020s.
In other words, Carter started his career in 1998 when we were all caught up in a U.S. president (Bill Clinton) embroiled in the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Today, we’re all caught up in a U.S. president (Donald Trump) embroiled in an impeachment scandal.
So basically, everything is the same.
Did you see?
Taysom Hill’s spectacular performance in the New Orleans Saints’ overtime loss to Minnesota on Sunday — 50 passing yards (to set up a TD), four carries for 50 yards, two catches for 25 yards and a touchdown — was just more affirmation that Hill is a special talent.
The big plus for BYU fans is that when Hill’s mentions start blowing up on Twitter, it drives Utah fans crazy.
Alex Vejar is a new sports reporter for The Salt Lake Tribune. He covered the BYU-Loyola Marymount men’s basketball game on Saturday, subbing for beat writer Norma Gonzalez.
Vejar tweeted out “Today I found out for the first time that Danny Ainge and Shawn Bradley went to BYU.”
It’s true. I was sitting in the press room before the game when I heard someone say, “Wait, Danny Ainge went to BYU?”
It was Vejar.
I then asked him if he’d ever heard of a series of movies called, “Star Wars” because, you know, sports writers are smart alecks.
Be gentle with Alex. He went to Cal State Northridge. As Alex says, nobody who ever did anything comes from there.
That’s all I’ve got, but for this: With the new year I’m wishing you 12 months of success, 52 weeks of laughter, 365 days of fun, 8,760 hours of joy, 525,600 minutes of good luck and 31,536,000 seconds of happiness.
Who’s got time for anything else?
Have a great week.