Here’s what’s going on inside Darnell’s head on the day after a wild double overtime game in Tennessee.
I want you to know that my wife and I went on a bike ride to Provo on Saturday morning and she insisted we stop at LaVell Edwards Stadium so she could touch the Cougar statue for good luck.
I must have absorbed all the bad luck for BYU because I got a flat tire immediately after and had to call my son to come pick us up.
A big relief
I don’t know that I remember a recent BYU football win that required as much grinding and overcoming adversity as Saturday’s 29-26 double overtime classic in Knoxville.
Sure, the final 30 seconds and the overtimes were spectacular. But man, did the Cougars struggle through the first 59 minutes and 30 seconds of that game.
Actor and Texas fan Matthew McConnahey picked BYU to beat Tennessee on Saturday morning — the only one on the “ESPN College Game Day” panel to choose the Cougars — and he was all right, all right, all right, but just barely.
Funny how one play — a broken coverage by Tennessee that resulted in a 64-yard pass play to Micah Simon — might end up defining the season for BYU.
A victory against an SEC team on the road is a good one. BYU found a way to win in a very unforgiving place for non-Power Five teams. Yeah, I know Georgia State beat the Vols last week, but Tennessee played a lot better against the Cougars in Week 2. Still, the home team made some critical mistakes and it’ll be another tough week for Coach Jeremey Pruitt and his team as they face an unhappy fan base.
BYU, meanwhile, gets a new lease on life. I co-hosted on ESPN 960 with Ben Criddle on Friday and we agreed that whoever lost this game was going to have a very difficult time getting enough wins to be bowl eligible. If the Cougars had lost, they would be 0-2 and still have to face USC, Washington, Boise State and Utah State in addition to difficult road games at Toledo and South Florida.
There is still a whole lot of work for BYU to do. The Cougars had three touchdown drives against Tennessee but all three were short fields — one after Kavika Fanua’s interception in the third quarter and the one in each of the overtimes. Zac Wilson and his offense must find a way to drive the length of the field and get the ball in the end zone once in a while. One way to do that? Show the commitment to the run and Ty’Son Williams, which was key in the second half and overtimes.
Defensively, the Cougars surrendered more than 150 yards rushing by one back for the second week and 242 yards on the ground total. But Ilaisa Tuiaki and his crew somehow figured out a way to manage points and keep BYU in the game until the offense woke up. The Cougars surrendered just 16 points in regulation and that will keep you in a lot of games.
USC is next. How talented are the Trojans? They trounced Stanford 45-20 with backup freshman quarterback Kedan Slovis — replacing injured starter JT Daniels and making his first career start — finishing 28 of 33 for 377 yards and three touchdowns. The Trojans have athletes at every position and will test the BYU secondary in a very real way.
You would expect the Cougars to prepare with a little bit more confidence after beating Tennessee.
The big guys
The whole offensive line pushing Williams into the end zone for the game-winner was appropriate. The offensive line was deemed a strength for BYU coming into the season but there were times against Utah and Tennessee where I thought they were a bit overwhelmed and overmatched. The Vols brought pressure early and often against the Cougars and there were some sacks. But I think the line got better as the game went on, helped establish the running game in the second half and came through in the end.
That’s gotta hurt
In honor of FanX in Salt Lake City last weekend — two of my young adult children attended — here’s a joke for you fan boys of the classic space drama “Serenity.”
“How do Reavers clean their spears? They run them through the Wash.”
I’d explain the joke, but I don’t want to spoil the movie if by chance you haven’t seen it.
By the way, my oldest son went through the autograph line for Katie Sackhoff, who played Starbuck on the TV series “Battlestar Galactica,” one of my favorite shows ever. He got her to sign the autograph to both of us.
I may or may not have made the fan boy “squeee!” noise when he texted me a picture of it.
No power in the ‘verse can stop me.
Leaving a legacy
A trying week for BYU basketball, wasn’t it?
First the NCAA upholds its ruling that wipes 47 wins from Dave Rose’s record due to the improprieties of Nick Emery and his saga with way-too-generous boosters. Then the Cougars finally release its non-conference schedule, which allows Yoeli Childs — another NCAA casualty with a nine-game suspension due to a paperwork error when he was deciding about his pro career — to come back for the Utah game in Salt Lake City.
Then Friday night, Emery sends a tweet to BYU recruit Maddy Sissoko, who placed the Cougars in his top four with BYU, Memphis, Kansas and Michigan State. Emery told Sissoko that he’d be playing with some of the greatest teammates if he chose the Cougars but called the new BYU coaching staff “Super sketchy and dishonest.”
Social media predictably blew up and Cougar fans voiced their disapproval. It seems an odd choice for a former player whose actions cost the program 47 wins and other NCAA sanctions.
On Saturday morning, Emery apologized — sort of — but the damage has been done.
What I’ve been thinking about lately is the word “legacy.” Danny Ainge, Jimmer Fredette, even Emery’s brother, Jackson — all former Cougars who are always and forever held in high regard by BYU fans.
It hardly seems that Nick Emery is on his way there.
Even though Dave Rose lost those 47 wins, his legacy as one of BYU’s best coaches and a true gentleman remains intact. Rose and BYU went out on a limb for Emery and welcomed him back to the team. I’m not sure that would happen in other programs. There are rumors that Emery’s scholarship was pulled by the new coaching staff when former Arizona guard Alex Barcello joined the team, but many BYU fans were wondering if Emery deserved a scholarship at all.
What is Emery’s legacy? It’s unfortunate that his personal drama played out in the public and on social media. Lots of people go through messy divorces or troubled times, but only their close friends and family are aware of what’s going on. Public figures — especially politicians and athletes — get their dirty laundry aired for all to see. BYU fans will see Emery as a cheater and a quitter, and now, a malcontent taking shots at his former program. Fair or not, that’s the perception.
I’m not making excuses for Emery. He’s made some poor choices and he’s suffering the consequences. We can only hope he gets the right kind of help to make his life productive. For athletes — and politicians — someday the public adoration ends and the real life begins.
Beating the Utes
BYU gained a measure of revenge on the University of Utah on Friday. The Cougar women’s soccer team blanked the Utes 2-0 in front of 5,036 fans at South Field. This BYU team is as good as I’ve seen with multiple scorers and a really good defense. A really big match coming up on Thursday with Texas A&M should also fill up South Field.
By the way, my new favorite interview is BYU goalkeeper Sabrina Davis. Engaging, honest and well, she remembered my name from when I interviewed her earlier in the week. Honestly, there are guys on the BYU football and men’s basketball teams that I’ve interviewed dozens of times but I feel like I have to introduce myself to them each time.
That’s it for now, but for this: I was thinking the other day that we have enough youth. How about a Fountain of Smart?
Have a great week.