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. Key factor in big Boise State football win
1. What was the biggest factor in BYU football beating No. 14 Boise State?
LLOYD: I thought the word that was repeated on few occasions by Cougar head coach Kalani Sitake in the postgame press conference was the most applicable: aggression. I felt like BYU had just been too passive in recent games, trying so hard to avoid big mistakes that it allowed opponents to dictate what happened on the field. The Cougars did an excellent job changing things up for this game and forcing the Broncos to be the ones to respond. Whether it was more blitzing from Dayan Ghanwoloku (the man is a beast when he is healthy) or going for it on fourth down plays, BYU certainly wasn’t passive. The Cougars weren’t perfect but they were better and it paid off with a big win.
DICKSON: I think the most important thing that BYU did against Boise State was make a winning play. It had been a while (USC on Sept. 14) and the Cougars lost two games (Toledo and South Florida) they were leading going into the fourth quarter. That quarterback sneak from the scrum formation only gained a yard, but I think it was the most important yard BYU has gained all season. Going forward, they have to believe they can make winning plays to secure the game.
2. Starting quarterback pick
2. Who should BYU start at quarterback against Utah State on Nov. 2?
DICKSON: If Jaren Hall is healthy, it’s got to be him. Nothing against Baylor Romney, who had a fine game against Boise State. But Hall beat out Romney for the job when Zach Wilson went down and he should be the starter. I am interested to find out how the more aggressive play calling can benefit Hall, who is a very dangerous runner.
LLOYD: This is a challenging question — and not just because both Jaren Hall and Baylor Romney have had impressive moments on the field in the last couple of games. BYU — just like most teams — often determines its depth chart depending on what happens in practice. Since those are closed, it’s impossible to tell which quarterback will win the job. If Hall is cleared to play, I think he will get the nod. His running ability gives the Cougars an extra dimension that opponents have to account for. But if there are any health questions or even if Hall seems to be having a tough time, I won’t be at all surprised if Romney takes the helm. The question will get even more difficult when Zach Wilson gets back from his hand injury.
3. Fourth-quarter struggles
3. The Cougars have been outscored 42-0 in the past three games in the fourth quarter. Solutions?
LLOYD: Part of the reason for the lack of scoring from BYU in the fourth quarter has been that the other team has controlled the ball. The Cougars ran 15 total offensive plays against Boise State and only two of them were passes (both incompletions). It’s a difficult decision for an offense when it has a lead late in the game whether to attempt to go for the jugular and risk a costly error or to look to play it safe and risk letting the other team come back. It’s obvious to me that BYU hasn’t done very well when playing it safe as Toledo, USF and Boise State all made big rallies. The Cougars need to accept the risks and just keep their foot on the gas pedal.
DICKSON: I think the most obvious answer comes from the quarterback position, where the Cougars lost Wilson and Hall deep in the fourth quarter against Toledo and USF. You’d like to think you have a shot at a game-winning drive with your starting quarterback in the game. For me, though, it all comes down to execution on both sides of the ball. The defense can complement the offense and the offense can do the same if they just do their jobs.
4. BYU basketball early season keys
4. What’s the best way for the short-handed BYU men’s basketball team to survive the first nine games of the season without leading scorer Yoeli Childs?
DICKSON: Shoot, shoot, shoot, baby. This team is going to have to push tempo and make 3-pointers in those first nine games to be successful, because there won’t be much offense coming out of the post. I think BYU has some really good shooters but I always thought having a strong post presence gives them just a little bit more time to make the shot. They are going to have to make contested threes because the defenders aren’t going to be worried about the interior game of the Cougars until Childs gets back.
LLOYD: The biggest question I have whenever Childs is out of the game is who will get the rebounds? BYU has guys who can score and guys who can battle on defense, but those characteristics can be significantly minimized if their opponents are getting two, three, even four shots per possession and the Cougars are just getting one. I think team rebounding has to be a huge focus for BYU at the beginning of the season, since I don’t see them being athletic enough to just rely on their physical abilities. I’d rather see five Cougars consistently crashing the boards than having guys trying to get out on fast breaks. If it can manage to keep the rebounding numbers fairly even, then at least BYU will give itself a chance to get some wins.
5. Best NCAA run for soccer or volleyball
5. Who will go further in the NCAA Tournament: The No. 12 BYU women’s volleyball team or the No. 4 Cougar women’s soccer team?
LLOYD: I know the Cougar women’s volleyball team has had greater success in the NCAA tournament recently but I’ve got to go with the BYU women’s soccer team. This is a Cougar squad that has yet to lose a single game (14-0-1), which is an impressive feat for any team. It has dynamic offensive ability, particularly with Elise Flake (13 goals) and Mikayla Colohan (10 goals). More importantly, it has a strong defense and a keeper who can make tough saves in Sabrina Davis (27 saves, only six goals allowed). The pieces appear to be in place for BYU to make another deep run, even though powerhouses like Virginia, Stanford and North Carolina are tremendously talented.
DICKSON: I have to agree with Jared. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a team at BYU with such balance on offense and defense as the women’s soccer. The Cougars can score from multiple positions and the defense is just suffocating. There’s a good chance BYU will go without a loss in the regular season heading into the NCAA Tournament.
I think the 12-ranked Cougar volleyball team is good but they still have too many offensive droughts. Some of it is because of consistency in passing but I also want to see McKenna Miller and Madi Robinson be more aggressive on their swings, especially when BYU is out of system. Make the defense make a play. Put pressure on the passers. Still, the Cougars have the potential to be a Sweet 16 team again.
Darnell Dickson, who has been covering sports in Utah since 1989 (with a detour to Nebraska for three years somewhere in there), is currently the BYU football columnist and BYU men’s basketball beat writer.