The Daily Herald’s BYU sports experts Jared Lloyd and Darnell Dickson weigh in on five of the biggest questions facing the Cougars this week:
1. Impressions from the BYU football loss at Boise State
1. Another trip to Boise for the BYU football team resulted in another last-second failure in a loss to the Broncos. What were your impressions from the game?
LLOYD: I know and understand the disappointment and frustration from the Cougar faithful as BYU lost another game that it could’ve -- maybe should’ve -- won, but I saw something I really liked in that game. The Cougars were in deep trouble in the first quarter with an offense that had limited success, a defense that was getting shredded and a special teams group that had made some costly errors. It appeared to be a blowout in the making. But BYU bounced back from the horrendous start and kept chipping away until the Cougars had a shot on the final play. Yes, BYU has to get in the end zone more (everyone in and out of the program is frustrated with just one TD in the last two games) but the Cougars showed as much heart as they have since the first road games. That’s a good sign for the future.
DICKSON: Boise has been kryptonite for the BYU football team, which has never won there in five tries. There has only been one blowout, and in the other four the Cougars had a chance to win the game. Last week was the same thing. What has got to be most frustrating for BYU is they can’t seem to break through from “good game, good effort” to “victory.” In close games, it only takes one or two key plays to turn a loss to a win. Who is going to make those plays?
2. Cougar football at UMass
2. What concerns you the most about BYU football’s trip to Foxborough, Massachusetts, to play UMass?
DICKSON: A receiver named Andy Isabella, for one. He leads the country in receptions and yards and had more than 300 yards receiving against Liberty last week. The Cougars are without their best cornerback, Chris Wilcox, who is injured and lost for the season. The BYU secondary will be challenged on Saturday by the UMass passing game. Can the offense keep pace? I figure even a good BYU defensive performance would give up 24 to 30 points to the Minutemen. The Cougar offense has only scored more than 24 points twice this year. Zach Wilson and his teammates will have opportunities against a weak UMass defense and will have to play cleaner than they did last week.
LLOYD: The Cougars are traveling across the country for an early game, which is a situation where BYU has struggled in the past. My biggest doubt when it comes to the Cougars in this game is ball security. I think BYU will rely heavily on the offensive line and the run game, using quarterback Zach Wilson to change things up occasionally. I also am confident that the Cougar defense will make some plays, but if the BYU offense gives the Minutemen some good field position with turnovers, UMass will take advantage. The Cougars have to make the home team drive the length of the field as much as possible.
3. BYU men's hoops loss at No. 7 Nevada
3. What did the BYU men’s basketball loss at No. 7 Nevada tell you about the Cougars?
LLOYD: I’m going to take the obvious answer here and say BYU has to learn to play without drawing whistles, particularly inside. The Cougars ended up getting called for 27 fouls and while it is easy to blame whistle-happy officiating (Nevada had 20 fouls assessed), BYU can’t control what the referees do. They have to rely on footwork and positioning to limit opponents or the Cougars are going to find themselves needing too much from their bench. The Wolfpack ended up taking twice as many free throws as BYU and that’s a recipe for disaster for anyone, so the Cougars have to change that moving forward.
DICKSON: I like the depth on this team. The three freshmen came in and didn’t look out of sorts against the No. 7 team in the country on the road, and that’s a big plus. When Nick Emery gets back from his suspension that will add even more versatility to the BYU lineup. The Cougars need him, though, because so far only Yoeli Childs and Jahshire Hardnett look consistently dangerous on offense.
Also, we’re told (because we aren’t allowed to watch practice) that BYU makes a lot of their 3-pointers in drills. That has to translate to games and soon.
4. Cougar men's hoops hosts UVU
4. Cougar hoops hosts UVU on Friday night in the Crosstown Clash. How big of a matchup is this for both teams?
DICKSON: It feels like a really good rivalry. Not as good as BYU-Utah, or BYU-Utah State, but still good. It probably means more to UVU to get a win because the Cougars would be expected to win on Friday. All the BYU players know what happened two seasons ago in the Marriott Center when the Wolverines won 114-101. The MC has to be where the Cougars play their best so protecting the home court is key.
LLOYD: BYU went to the UCCU Center in Orem last year with plenty of question marks but managed to handle the Wolverines -- which might mean this year’s contest is more dangerous. When you look at the experience level and talent that the Cougars have, it’s easy to say that BYU had home should be a lock. But these are the types of games where a team like UVU playing with nothing to lose can get hot and put the pressure on the favorite. The Wolverines will treat this as a huge opportunity to establish themselves early in the 2018-19 season and the Cougars better find a way to match the UVU intensity.
5. BYU women's soccer in NCAA first round
5. BYU women’s soccer travels to TCU Friday in the first round of the NCAA tournament. How good of a shot do you give the Cougars to beat the Horned Frogs and why?
LLOYD: I like how BYU has come on strong late in the season, winning five straight and nine of its last 10 games. This Cougar team has found a lot more scoring, which they will need against TCU. The Horned Frogs have speed and talent, so I expect TCU to get on the board. BYU needs to match the home team and keep the pressure on. Even being on the road, I like this Cougar team. I give BYU a 50-50 shot of getting the victory and advancing to the next round.
DICKSON: TCU plays in a really good conference. The Big 12 sent five teams to the NCAA Tournament. I think the WCC is an undervalued league and better than its RPI. And there is this: BYU beat Santa Clara 2-0 and TCU lost to the Broncos 3-0, its worst loss of the season. I’m not sure the Horned Frogs have faced the kind of offensive pressure the Cougars can apply and I think that can prove to be the difference.