BYU football at San Diego State 1

BYU quarterback Zach Wilson throws a pass during the 13-3 Cougar loss at San Diego State on Nov. 30, 2019.

Here’s what’s going on inside Darnell’s head. I guess this is the part where I’m supposed to say, “Aloha.”

As expected, BYU will play Hawaii on Dec. 24 in the SoFi Hawaii Bowl.

The Warriors lost to Boise State 31-10 in the Mountain West Conference Championship Game and finished the season with a record of 9-5. For only the second time in college football history a team will play 15 regular-season games. Yes, BYU was the last to do it (1996) and went 14-1.

Hawaii quarterback Cole McDonald has thrown for 3,642 yards and 29 touchdowns (along with 14 interceptions) and the Warriors have four receivers with at least 800 receiving yards.

So what I’m saying is get ready for a lot of your favorite “rush 3, drop 8” BYU defensive sets.

Hawaii also allows 31.7 points per game so I’m expecting plenty of points for my Christmas Eve consumption.

I’m also wondering how motivated the Cougars will be. Some of the seniors will probably have already halfway checked out and thinking about life after football. There will be players who are thinking about the transfer portal. There are two juniors – defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga and tight end Matt Bushman – who may have their minds on leaving for the glory of the NFL. The bad performance against San Diego State will be three weeks in the rear view mirror and Hawaii can be very distracting.

I think it will be a real challenge for BYU coaches to keep the players focused. They did it last year but that was Boise and, well, Boise.

By the time Dec. 24 rolls around all three BYU quarterbacks who have started a game – Zach Wilson, Jaren Hall and Baylor Romney – will be healthy enough to play.

Who do you start?

The end

There was a touching moment after the BYU women’s volleyball team beat Pepperdine on Senior Night a few weeks ago when Cougar coach Heather Olmstead was asked about her seniors in the post-match interview.

Olmstead got pretty choked up talking about reserve senior setter Kiani Moea’i, whose ace serve provided the winning point in a tight 3-2 BYU win.

Olmstead knows how much personal sacrifice Moea’i has put into her career and how hard she’s worked. What made Olmstead so emotional was thinking about how the fans at the Smith Fieldhouse responded to Moea’i and her effort.

The Smith Fieldhouse is a special place for volleyball.

It was a little tough for the Cougars to swallow Saturday’s loss in the Fieldhouse to Utah in the NCAA second round match. The Utes were a team on a mission and played at a high level. They seized the momentum in every set and simply never relented. BYU never led in any of the sets and I’ve honestly never seen a Cougar team dominated in that fashion.

But that’s the game, folks.

That brings to an end the brilliant BYU careers of libero Mary Lake and outside hitter McKenna Miller. The two athletes met when they were 13 or 14 years old at a Cougar volleyball camp and have been best friends ever since. Lake finishes as arguably the best libero to ever play at BYU and is the school’s all-time dig leader with 1,898. She was named West Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year three times and may get a shot at playing for Team USA in the 2020 Summer Olympics. Miller won this year’s WCC Player of the Year and ends up with 1,446 kills, just outside the top 10 all-time and sixth in the rally-scoring era (since 2001).

Together they were part of three Sweet 16 appearances and last year’s trip to the Final Four, though Miller didn’t play due to injury.

“They both mean a lot to me personally and they’ve been through a lot together,” Olmstead said. “I’m so grateful for them and all they’ve given the program and BYU. McKenna fought so hard to play with the team this year. She wanted to play alongside Mary and I don’t blame her. There are a lot of little girls out there who want to be like Mary Lake and McKenna Miller and I think that’s pretty cool.”

If you’re looking for two amazing young women who represented BYU with honor and class, that’s Miller and Lake.

Yoeli’s back

The biggest impact of Yoeli Childs returning to the lineup is that seven Cougars made 3-pointers in Saturday’s 83-50 domination of UNLV. BYU has shot 50 percent or better from the 3-point line in five of its past six games, the only outlier being the game against No. 3 Kansas in Maui. That’s not likely to continue but Childs presence in the paint does certainly command the attention of the opposition.

This week presents two really good opportunities to improve the NCAA resume against Top 100 Nevada and Top 25 Utah State. With Childs in the lineup, BYU fans have to be optimistic.

Rivalry message

Let me get this straight: BYU didn’t play well enough against Utah and likely cost the Utes a shot at a New Year’s Six bowl game. In addition, the Cougars played too well against Boise State and likely cost the 12-1 Broncos a berth in a New Year’s Six game.

I guess if you want to know if independence is working, there is that.

No thanks

Unpopular opinion: “Cats” looks like the most ridiculous and self-indulgent movie Hollywood has ever made. I’ve never once said, “You know what’s missing in my life? Idris Elba and Rebel Wilson prancing around in cat suits.”

I must admit, I never saw the Broadway play (nor wanted to) but every time the trailer comes on TV I want to watch the movie even less. It’s not supposed to work that way, is it?

Take it to the court

As the BYU women’s volleyball season comes to a close it’s time to focus on the men’s team, which begins play in less than a month.

The Cougars, who return all but one player from last year’s 13-12 team, was ranked No. 3 in the first AVCA poll preseason. Shawn Olmstead’s team is deep, experienced and very talented. The Fieldhouse will be a hot ticket in January, February and March.

Multi-tasking is tough

The clock operator for the Salem Hills at Timpanogos boys basketball game last Tuesday was also the color commentator for the live-streaming video broadcast. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen that before and it’s pretty amazing the game officials would allow that.

Think about it You know, the Japanese flag could just be a pie chart of how much of Japan is Japan.

Dance fever

I’ve got to thank the Utah pep band which played “Disco Inferno” at the Huntsman Center on Wednesday during the BYU-Utah men’s basketball game. That totally brought me back to my high school days and our own little pep band. The trombone part on that song was the bomb.

That’s it for now, but for this: It’s a small world, so you gotta use your elbows a lot. Have a great week.

Follow Darnell Dickson on Twitter @darnellwrites or e-mail him at ddickson@heraldextra.com.

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