BYU football vs. Liberty

BYU freshman linebacker Keenan Pili (41) celebrates getting a sack during the Cougar football game against Liberty at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019.

Here’s what’s going on inside Darnell’s head after spending a couple of days covering the state volleyball tournament at the UCCU Center in Orem: Whatever you’re telling me, I can’t hear you. I’m pretty much officially deaf after watching 38 volleyball matches — sometimes four at a time — with their accompanying screaming fans.

Who are these guys?

Every week we try to make sense of what is going on with the BYU football team, and every week we pretty much come to a different conclusion.

Good team? Bad team? Average team?

After watching the Cougars hold on to beat Liberty 31-24 on Saturday, I’m going to attempt to break that trend and make a declarative statement.

BYU wasn’t very impressive against the Flames, making critical turnovers and penalties on offense and getting pushed around most of the game by Liberty’s potent offense. The Cougars simply couldn’t slam the door until a late stop.

A win in college football should always be valued, but if I “Animal Farm” that last sentence, some wins and losses are more equal than others.

How did this happen? Wins against Boise State and Utah State the past couple of weeks indicated BYU was on an upward trend.

Here’s the thing: This is where the BYU football program is right now. They aren’t a bad program, they aren’t a great program. They are just a good program with a lot of room for growth.

Feel better now? You’re welcome.

They haven’t reached the point where they can boat race an average-to-below-average FBS independent in the comfy confines of LaVell Edwards Stadium.

As much as I hate the phrase, it appears BYU is “playing to the level of its competition.”

Ugh.

If that happens in the next two games, panic should set in.

The Cougars face the weakest part of their schedule in the next two weeks. Idaho State comes to town on Saturday and the FCS Bengals (3-7) just got drilled by Eastern Washington 42-5, the program’s fourth loss in a row. In two weeks BYU travels to the East Coast to play UMass (1-9), possibly the worst FBS program in America. The season finale is at San Diego State, which lost to Nevada on Saturday, 17-13.

Not exactly a murderer’s row there.

BYU fans would love to see the Cougars set some new offensive records in the first two games and finish off the season with a win in sunny San Diego for an 8-4 record.

If there’s anything we’ve learned about this BYU team, they hardly ever do the expected.

So close

The biggest disappointment about BYU’s 76-71 loss to San Diego State on Saturday is that the Cougars get so few chances to host someone at the Marriott Center in preseason play that can improve the team’s college basketball NET ranking.

The only other significant preseason home game on the schedule is Nevada on Dec. 10, and the Wolfpack aren’t nearly as highly ranked as they’ve been the past couple of seasons.

It’s easy to be encouraged by BYU’s terrific 21-3 run in the second half against the Aztecs, when the Cougars were dropping 3-pointers and scoring in transition. It’s the way they should be playing on their home court.

It’s also easy to be discouraged by BYU’s failure to find a hot shooter (Jordan Schakel) late in the game and how the offense stagnated down the stretch.

One can’t help but think that if Yoeli Childs hadn’t been sitting on the sidelines due to a ludicrous nine-game NCAA suspension and in uniform instead, the Cougars could have pulled this one off.

Ah, lost opportunities. BYU fans know you well.

Next up for the Cougars is another home game, this one against Southern Utah. The Thunderbirds knocked off Nebraska in Lincoln in double overtime on Saturday. Then BYU travels to Dave Rose’s old stomping grounds, against a really good Houston team.

Don’t watch

I consider myself a fairly coordinated person, so why does my wife look so graceful and athletic when we play Frisbee golf and I … don’t? I’m fairly certain I look like I’m throwing a hubcap while stumbling over a bed of hot coals in my bare feet.

Unbeaten and unbroken

I don’t know where the BYU women’s soccer team will end up on Selection Monday — the NCAA Tournament committee is currently rubbing their collective hands together in anticipation of ways it can under-seed the Cougars — but Jennifer Rockwood and her program have had a truly special season.

BYU throttled Loyola Marymount 8-1 on Senior Night at South Field on Saturday to finish the regular-season unbeaten at 18-0-1 and claim yet another West Coast Conference title.

Since a 2-2 tie at Santa Clara to open the WCC slate the Cougars outscored their next eight league opponents 37-4.

That’s domination.

Surely BYU has earned the home field advantage for the first round of the NCAA Tournament, which begins this weekend. Beyond that, it’s up to the committee.

Rockwood and her team will be up for whatever challenges the tournament throws in their way, that’s for sure.

She can dig it

BYU senior libero Mary Lake didn’t just break the school record for digs — she obliterated it.

Lake needed 11 digs on Thursday against Santa Clara to top the record of 1,793 set by Ciara Parker in 2015. Lake had a season high 21 digs to earn her place in history, then added another 11 digs in Saturday’s win against San Francisco. She now has 1,812 digs for her career with four regular-season matches and the NCAA Tournament left to play.

She’s truly an all-timer.

To the rescue

I had a problem.

At the conclusion of Pleasant Grove’s 3-1 victory against Copper Hills for the 6A volleyball championship on Saturday the crowd surged onto the UCCU Center court to celebrate. Unfortunately, I was on deadline and having a hard time finding PG coach Allyce Jones amidst joyous players, family and friends. Jones is all of about 5-foot-4.

So I turned to the Hamson family.

If you follow BYU sports, you are familiar with Jennifer, who is 6-7 and played volleyball and basketball for the Cougars. Sara is currently a 6-7 junior for the Cougar basketball team. Their mother, Tresa, also played for BYU and was a 6-7 All-American in basketball. Younger sister Heather is 6-1 and on the Pleasant Grove volleyball team.

David Hamson, the father of the family who is 6-8, was standing near me and I asked if he could see Jones in the seething mass of humanity. He couldn’t so he got the attention of his two sons, Tim (a 7-footer) and Alan (7-3), who were standing on the other side of the crowded court. They managed to locate Jones for me so I could get the quotes to finish my story before deadline.

Thanks for the assist, guys. It’s nice to have friends in high places.

Photos of glory

By the way, if you are a parent, friend of family member of the Pleasant Grove or Mountain View volleyball teams, make sure you check out the photos from our own Isaac Hale from Saturday’s state championship matches. He completely and totally captures the drama and celebration of the state titles for the Vikings and Bruins.

To quote a former co-worker at the Pizza Deli in Cave Junction, Oregon, I’ve done just about all the damage as I can do today, so I’m going home.

Have a great week.

Follow Darnell Dickson on Twitter @darnellwrites or email him at ddickson@heraldextra.com.

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