BYU football vs. San Diego State

BYU players make a tackle during the 28-14 Cougar win over San Diego State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020.

Here’s what’s going on inside Darnell’s head as the Christmas season moves into full swing.

The secret of their success

A few weeks ago American Fork lost to East in the state football quarterfinals. I remarked to AF coach Aaron Behm that he’s probably better at making the “it’s been a nice season” speech to him team than the “we just won the state title” speech.

That’s not a knock on Behm. He’s a great coach. It’s just the stark reality of sports: Only one team gets to call themselves champions at the end of the season. All of the other teams have to look for other ways to decide if they had a successful year.

So has BYU’s football season been a success?

Everyone will have an opinion, and mine is that 2020 has been an incredible year for Cougar football.

It almost didn’t happen because of COVID-19 but a fantastic effort, all way from director of athletics Tom Holmoe to the grounds crew at LaVell Edwards Stadium, created a pretty fun season.

The Cougars are 10-1 after Saturday’s 28-14 win against San Diego State with the probability of a bowl game in the coming weeks. The national attention BYU and quarterback Zach Wilson garnered over the first three months of the season was unlike any Cougar team in a decade. The roster is still pretty young, recruiting is solid and it appears Kalani Sitake has the program on an upward trend.

If you can get over the fact that BYU lost its opportunity to make it really, really special with a first-ever New Year’s Six bowl game by losing at Coastal Carolina, you’d have to admit it was a really successful season.

Do the Cougars need another game before the bowl? I say “no.” Well, unless it’s in Florida or something. Saturday’s game against San Diego State was the latest a football game has been played in BYU history. December football in Provo is not and should not be a thing.

I saw what you did

A police officer friend of mine passed me in his personal vehicle on Sunday doing 60 in a 45. It’s nice to know I’ve got that in my back pocket should I ever need a favor from him.

A win is a win

San Diego State was an incredible 10 of 17 on third downs against BYU on Saturday.

They converted 3rd and 5, 3rd and 7, 3rd and 8, 3rd and 5, 3rd and 10, 3rd and 9, 3rd and 2, 3rd and 3, 3rd and 6 and 3rd and 4.

Somehow, the Cougar defense kept the Aztecs from scoring after giving up 14 points in the first quarter. This is some kind of wizardry and I’d like someone to explain to me why this works.

I know there was a lot of complaining on social media during the game (including some from me on Twitter) about the defense and its inability to get off the field. The truth is San Diego State made some pretty good plays to convert those third downs and you have to tip your hat to them.

Wilson had a really nice game throwing the ball. Remember that the most points San Diego State had given up this season previous to Saturday was 26 (in a loss to Nevada). The Aztecs defense is really good and Wilson finished 26 of 35 for 303 yards and three touchdowns without two of his top weapons (both running back Tyler Allgeier and wide receiver Gunner Romney were out).

Don’t let him go

I’m seeing the usual movement of college and pro coaches being fired. Personally, I don’t think any coach should lose his job during a pandemic. Just keeping a program operational is much, much more important than wins and losses right now.

Long nightmare is over

Those who read this column regularly may recall how my Honda Pilot was totaled back in July. Thanks to the glacier-like movement of the insurance companies and the lying liar who lied about what really happened in the accident before finally confessing (the other driver) and my own procrastination, it’s taken me until December to get another car.

My wife is an impulse buyer. I am not. I definitely took my time in deciding.

But here’s my problem: My new car is gray and mid-sized so it doesn’t stand out. I’ve been having trouble recognizing my new vehicle in big parking lots.

Any suggestions?

Making money

BYU announced a few weeks ago a $20 million shortfall in the athletic department and have tried to come up with ways to create revenue. One way was an auction of BYU items. “Big Mike” — the mannequin from the football office that is dressed up in the uniform of the week — was sold for $5,500. A football signed by Kalani Sitake went for $3,000.

Top 100

Watching BYUtv’s “Top 100 BYU Football Plays” program on Saturday was kind of fun. I felt like the majority of those plays I was actually there in the stadium or in the press box, while others I only faintly recalled or happened before I became aware of Cougar football. The No. 1 play was a no-brainer — the Holiday Bowl miracle back in 1980 — and it turns out former tight end Chad Lewis and return man Vai Sikaheima had multiple entries.

Surprised not to see Ty Detmer swearing at an official over the PA system or the “shh” incident against Air Force back in the early 1990s as one of the top plays.

Growing up

BYU men’s basketball looked pretty good in Saturday’s 82-64 victory against Utah in front of dozens of family members. It was weird to have a Cougars-Utes matchup without a crazed crowd in the stands. I can’t help thinking that had there been 12-15K in the MC against Boise State on Wednesday, BYU would not have started so slowly and would have completed the comeback to win. But I do think the Cougars learned a lot from that loss.

BYU coach Mark Pope told a great story on Saturday explaining why he started Kolby Lee against the Utes. To paraphrase, he talked about how Lee started last for a nationally ranked team but had played only a few minutes in each of the two games before Utah. Pope admitted that it’s been difficult figuring out minutes with such a deep roster.

So Lee had to be super frustrated. But Pope noticed this week in practice, down on the other end of the court, Lee in deep conversation during a drill with junior college transfer Gideon George. He was explaining to George how a certain footwork drill was supposed to work and coaching him up pretty good.

“Kolby didn’t know I was watching,” Pope said. “He’s coaching Gideon George like he’s one of the assistant coaches. You just don’t see that very often. Kolby is an extraordinary young man and to be honest with you, that’s why I started him tonight. He actually makes us function better on the offensive end, too. So those are the two reasons I started him. He stepped up and was tremendous tonight.”

Lee finished with seven points and four rebounds in an effective 17 minutes of play.

That’s all for now, but for this: I saw a sign in a neighborhood that read “watch for children” and I thought, “That sounds like a fair trade.”

Just joking, kids. Love ya. Let’s have a great holiday season.

Stay safe, mask up, virtually hug your loved ones and have great week.

Follow Darnell Dickson on Twitter @darnellwrites or e-mail him at

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!