BYU football at UMass 12

BYU sophomore wide receiver Neil Pau'u makes a catch on a long pass during the 35-16 win over UMass at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., on Nov. 10, 2018.

Here’s what’s going on inside Darnell’s Head. You know, I really enjoyed having my Saturday afternoon free since the BYU football game started at 10 a.m. Mountain time. More like that, less 8:30 p.m. starts, ESPN. I would appreciate it.

Back

on track

BYU’s offense earned some momentum in Saturday’s 35-16 win at UMass, scoring 35 straight points after falling behind 10-0. It will be interesting to see if the Cougars can carry that momentum into this weekend’s home game against New Mexico State. BYU has not been good at home — just 2-3 this year and 9-8 in Kalani Sitake’s three years at the helm. It’s bound to be a smaller crowd anyway, even though it’s senior night. The late start and chilly weather will keep some BYU fans watching at home on their big screens, but that’s OK. If the Cougars provide good entertainment, they’ll be back for next year’s challenging 2019 home schedule that includes Utah, USC, Washington and Boise State.

Top

of the list

Going into last weekend, the BYU athletic program had five teams ranked in their respective Top 25s: women’s volleyball (1), men’s cross country (2), women’s cross country (9), men’s golf (16) and women’s soccer (23). The football team was also ranked for two weeks this season; the highest was No. 20.

Rankings aren’t worth much, but they do indicate how certain groups (sports writers and coaches, mainly) view BYU. There is a lot of respect in those rankings.

Movi

ng forward

I would think both BYU and Utah Valley coaches and fans should be encouraged by what they saw on Wednesday at the Marriott Center.

The Cougars won 75-65, closing strong and getting a terrific performance from T.J. Haws. The junior guard found his range in the second half and finished with 23 points. As Dave Rose searched for the right rotation, he’s getting a good look at some young players who will play key roles.

Utah Valley would have made this game really interesting if their big men had been able to hit more shots in the paint, but newcomers Isaiah White (a transfer from Salt Lake Community College) and Wyatt Lowell (the first four-star recruit to come to UVU) looked explosive and will be matchup issues down the road.

Let’

s talk about it

I do sports talk radio occasionally and I’m amazed how much it’s changed over the years. Sports talk radio used to be a place where the average Joe Fan could voice his opinion. Now, most sports talk shows are nothing more than platforms for egocentric blowhards to yell about something. It’s been nice to see ESPN 960 start taking more phone calls. Ben Criddle and Mitch Harper do a fine job of telling BYU’s story every day, but they are mixing in callers more often and it’s a good thing.

You never know who you might hear from on the show. Last week, a former BYU quarterback called in and had some good points to make about football and men’s basketball. I won’t “out” him, but I recognized his voice because I ran into him at a high school event a couple of weeks ago.

Bad

luck

Injuries are a part of sports and BYU has had its share of bad luck over the years. Taysom Hill’s three season-ending injuries come to mind, especially when watching him having a great season with the Saints as a jack-of-all-trades. What might have been, eh, BYU sports fans?

The top-ranked Cougar women’s volleyball team suffered a tough one last week. Junior outside hitter McKenna Miller went down after taking a swing against Santa Clara and is lost for the season with an ACL injury. Senior Roni Jones-Perry is a legit national player of the year candidate, but Miller was quietly having the best season of her career with 3.25 kills per set and hitting .307.

It will be a difficult challenge for Heather Olmstead to replace Miller’s output. It’ll likely be a combination of senior Lacy Haddock, freshman Madi Robinson and sophomore Taylen Ballard. The Cougars are fortunate to have Haddock’s experience to step in. She’s started 46 matches over her career and has 376 kills. Haddock isn’t as explosive as Miller on offense, but she’s crafty and a good all-around volleyball player. Robinson has a live arm but will have to step up in terms of consistency. Ballard, who suffered her own season-ending injury last season, is 6-foot-3 and will help out with blocking. I have a feeling Olmstead will need all three before this season is over.

It’s all very important because BYU wants to be one of the top four seeds at the NCAA Tournament. The Cougars have two weeks and three WCC matches to get the rotation worked out.

That

’s the end

A really nice season came to an end on Friday for the BYU women’s soccer team, which lost at TCU 2-1 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. After missing the postseason in 2017, it was a great bounce-back year for a really good program. With only one senior (Madie Gates) and one freshman leaving on a mission (Olivia Wade), the Cougars should be a really good club next year as well.

I missed the first 15 minutes of the BYU-TCU match because the live video link wasn’t working. You’d think they would have checked the connection before the game, right? Probably should have just listened to the radio broadcast, but I was covering the BYU-UVU men’s basketball game at the Marriott Center. Multitasking is a challenge.

Fina

lly …

While waiting at a stop light on University Avenue, I looked to the side of the road and there were some lights out in the crosswalk indicator. Instead of a red hand raised in the “stop” signal, it appeared to be a telling me to “hang loose.”

Don’t mind if I do. Have a great week and stay warm.

Follow Darnell Dickson on Twitter

@darnellwrites or e-mail him at ddickson@heraldextra.com.

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