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. Loss to Utah
1. What did you learn about the BYU football team in its 30-12 Week 1 loss to Utah?
LLOYD: The stark reality for me is that the Cougars at this point aren’t mentally tough enough to overcome added pressure. BYU really wanted to beat Utah, so even though the Cougars were the underdogs they felt the weight of that desire heavily. Yes, that may have been useful during the offseason — but during the game it resulted in miscues that turned into more miscues. I think once this BYU team really gets rolling, that could snowball into a lot more success. If the Cougars continue to struggle, however, that will be a dangerous position to be in.
DICKSON: I learned that despite all the preseason promise, this program is still pretty far behind its rivals from up north. There are a lot of reasons for that and talent is just one of them. Utah was much more disciplined and had an offensive identity. BYU doesn’t have either right now, at least based on the first game. Moreover, the Utes made big plays at critical times and the Cougars didn’t. There are still 11 games (and maybe a bowl game) left to play and BYU can get better. This is an interesting week to see just how mentally tough the Cougars are after such an emotional and bitter loss.
2. Rivalry talk
2. Ute quarterback Tyler Huntley added another chapter to the book of rivalry smack-talk after the game, although BYU players and coaches publicly brushed it off. Did you like how they handled the situation?
DICKSON: The comment by Huntley was childish and immature and the Cougars are probably doing the right thing to ignore it. But I do feel like Kalani Sitake could have addressed it a little differently. Stating that Huntley was “a good kid” and praising Utah so much is just becoming a little too much vanilla in what should be a rivalry. The Utah quarterback just said your program was “poo poo.” That should make guys in the locker room a little ticked off and focused on creating a great season.
LLOYD: I just shake my head when I see Ute fans try to compare Huntley’s “poo poo” comment to Max Hall’s famous “I hate Utah” response. I’m not aware of any BYU fan ever pouring beer (or Coke, for that matter) on Huntley’s family like happened to Hall’s family. Every time I see a Ute fan wearing a “Max Hall hates me” shirt, part of me wonders if they realize they are condoning such reprehensible behavior. While not at that level, Huntley certainly has provided new bulletin-board material for the rivalry. I don’t know if the Cougar players waste time talking but they definitely need to feel disrespected. And the next time BYU faces Utah, the Cougars need to make the Utes pay for that dismissive attitude.
3. BYU football facing Tennessee
3. The Cougar football team now goes on the road to face a Tennessee team that was stunned by Georgia State in Week 1. Do you think the Volunteer loss makes things easier or more difficult for BYU?
LLOYD: I think that stunning upset in Knoxville will make things easier for the Cougars because BYU should go in even more confident. This Tennessee team is not a powerhouse this year and the Cougars have every reason to believe they can be successful. The Volunteers, on the other hand, have to feel the pressure of dropping two straight home games to non-SEC competition with a daunting conference slate on the horizon. Even if they say the right thing, that has to be on their minds. BYU knows this is still a very dangerous Tennessee team that could play a lot cleaner game in Week 2, but this is still a winnable road game for the Cougars.
DICKSON: It was going to be difficult either way. No matter Tennessee’s record last season or the opening game loss, the Vols still have SEC talent on both sides of the ball. I would imagine emotionally Tennessee is a little more vulnerable right now because of the loss. If BYU is able to jump on the Vols early that might provide the right kind of atmosphere for a victory.
4. NCAA appeal for men's basketball
4. The NCAA refused to make any changes to the harsh punishment it meted out to the BYU basketball program for the Nick Emery situation. What impact does this have on the Cougars?
DICKSON: I think BYU has moved on from Emery but it’s a definite blow to an athletic department that builds its programs on the moral high ground. I don’t think Dave Rose’s image is tarnished at all among Cougar fans. He really fell on the sword by sticking with Nick and taking him back in the program. But the legacy of Emery is always going to be “he cheated and quit.” It’s probably unfair because only Nick’s inner circle knows the real story, but it’s what most fans will remember.
LLOYD: What is so laughable to me is that the NCAA seems so determined to hand out as harsh a punishment as it can get away with to an institution like BYU that is driven both internally and externally to be rule followers. For some reason, the governing body seems to take fiendish delight in really hammering a program trying to follow the guidelines while other programs that have much more institutional knowledge of violations get off easier. That feels backwards, since it appears the NCAA is incentivizing teams to try to cut corners. The silver lining to this whole debacle is that all of the Cougar programs will be paying much closer attention to what athletes are doing with family friends to try to avoid similar situations in the future.
5. Women's volleyball's home loss
5. The BYU women’s volleyball team saw its 26-match home winning streak snapped Saturday night by Marquette. Should Cougar fans be worried?
LLOYD: Isn’t it fun to talk about a team that loses one home game to a really good opponent as a potential concern because that team has set such a high standard of success? Yes, the BYU team in 2019 might not put together the same phenomenal run as the 2018 team did but I have complete confidence that this will be another very, very good Cougar women’s volleyball squad. Losses happen to every team at some point. I’m looking forward to seeing what BYU learns from this defeat and if it makes them better in the weeks to come.
DICKSON: With seven true freshmen, this is one of the youngest teams BYU has had in more than ten years. With a 17-year-old starting setter, there were bound to be some growing pains. Marquette is a very good team and they really spanked the Cougars in the Smith Fieldhouse. It will be interesting to watch this group respond. There are some very difficult matches ahead (Utah, Texas at a neutral site, at Stanford) and BYU is going to have to be much more mentally tough to compete against those teams. I believe Heather Olmstead is one of the nation’s best coaches and the Cougars will get better. Last year’s group was special. It’s too early to tell if this year’s team can get there.