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. Should BYU football fans be that excited about the 2OT Cougar win at Tennessee, since the Volunteers are now 0-2?
LLOYD: Heck yeah, BYU fans should be pumped! I get so tired of people trying to dampen enthusiasm. Does the Cougar win mean BYU is an elite team or on its way to a phenomenal year? Not at all. This is one win — but a win that required a lot of character and heart. This was a bunch of young men who battled through their mistakes and errors, overcame the odds and never stopped believing they could find a way to come out on top. The fact that is was a road game against an SEC opponent in one of the biggest, loudest stadiums in the country are all nice but to me the best part was how the Cougars did it. So enjoy it, Cougar fans! Savor getting national attention (even if much of it is negatives directed at Tennessee). Smile when you see the video of Micah Simon’s big catch and Jake Oldroyd’s big field goal and the “Big Push” at the goal line. This is a moment of delicious, dramatic victory and those only come around on rare occasions. So enjoy every moment of it.
DICKSON: I’ve heard this from coaches enough over the years to believe it: Wins aren’t ever easy to come by, so you should never devalue them for any reason. Yeah, Tennessee is 0-2 and struggling this season. But if the Cougars want to improve as a program, getting a win against an SEC team like Tennessee is vitally important. BYU was just a few seconds from starting 0-2 themselves, so Cougar fans should be excited because wins build confidence, no matter how they occur. There is plenty for BYU to work on and many areas to shore up, but a win is always a step in the right direction.
2. Who do you believe was most deserving of the game ball after the Cougar win over the Volunteers?
DICKSON: So many to choose from, but I’m going with Micah Simon. It was his best game as a Cougar and I was almost as impressed with his other six catches than I was with his 64-yarder to set up the game-tying field goal. Simon caught every pass thrown his way against tight coverage and provided a key block to spring Ty’Son Williams for a third quarter touchdown. He’s a team leader than truly only cares about winning, not stats.
LLOYD: Darnell elected to go on the offensive side of the ball but I’ve got to go with one of the leaders on a BYU defense that has given up just 33 total points in regulation in two games. In my opinion, Cougar safety Austin Lee was the biggest contributor for the team in Saturday’s victory and his stat line (six tackles, one tackle for a loss, two pass breakups) is only part of the story. He is an athlete that the others look to for leadership and he never failed to come through. He gave everything he had while keeping BYU upbeat and believing that they could make the plays they needed to. His pass breakup in the end zone in the first half on a guy who wasn’t his responsibility was monumental. My close second? The 10-15,000 Cougar fans in attendance to create a phenomenal road atmosphere and deeply impressed many of the Volunteer faithful.
3. BYU football already has one home loss and one road win. Why do you think BYU football has had such a tough time protecting ‘The House LaVell Built’ in recent years?
LLOYD: When I watch BYU football playing good opponents at LaVell Edwards Stadium, all too often it feels like every little issue is exacerbated. It feels like the Cougar players want so badly to do well in front of their home fans that miscues snowball into more miscues. BYU wants it loud and energetic, but the thing about the Cougar crowd on the road is that it feels like those fans are behind the team no matter what. Home fans need to have the same mentality. The bottom line is that BYU players need to have the maturity to stay confident in themselves and each other no matter where or who they are playing. That will be the key to regaining true LES home-field advantage.
DICKSON: It’s a good question and there are several layers to it. Obviously, playing against good teams matters. There have been some very good teams that have come to LES. The theory I’m going with is that at home, the players feel like they have to be perfect and maybe that causes them to press. You know, try to do too much. Players talk a lot about just having fun and playing loose. I think the offense needs to do that more and the big plays will come. Protecting the home field is a very important step to progressing as a program and Saturday is a very good opportunity to do that.
4. BYU women’s soccer team beat Utah for the fifth straight time and is 4-0 on the season. What has impressed you about this team?
DICKSON: I think the most impressive part of the Cougars’ game is that they can score from a lot of positions. Or at least, be dangerous from a lot of positions. Look, this is soccer and goals can sometimes be hard to come by. But BYU has several good offensive players that have to be accounted for and that puts tremendous pressure on opposing defenses. All of that pressure is important because often times it eventually leads to goals. It’s like a dam that’s about to burst because of all the water continually bashing up against it. The Cougars are facing a very good defense (Texas A&M) on Thursday and will need to keep that pressure up to break through and score.
LLOYD: I love what this BYU team is becoming defensively. Great soccer teams usually build from the back forward and this Cougar squad is very capable of doing this successfully. BYU has only surrendered a single goal in 2019 and has had some dynamic saves from goalkeeper Sabrina Davis. The Cougars face some tough tests that will show if this defense is as good as I think it can be.
5. Wednesday was the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001. Looking back now, what do you remember about how that day impacted the sports world?
LLOYD: 2001 was the last year that I wasn’t professionally working in the sports industry, so I remember that fateful as a college student and sports fan. That BYU football team was rolling at that point and I desperately wanted to see the Cougars continue, since they had a big game against Mississippi State on the schedule that week. The postponement of the game ended up damaging BYU’s momentum — but that paled in comparison to the true impact of those terrible, shocking hours. I remember being so stunned that something like that could actually happen on American soil. But most of all, I remember people coming together. It is probably the best perspective the USA has had in my lifetime about the importance of unity, I believe sports played a role in that, reminding us that we can compete without resorting to violence.
DICKSON: I remember going to my daughter’s soccer game and bonding with other parents who were just trying to keep their kids focused on normal things, even though they were aware of the events of that day. Also, I cover sports for a living and I never felt so worthless. It seemed to me that anything I wrote simply didn’t matter that week. But it did matter, because it helped people to realize that life would go on. I was so touched by all the firefighters, policemen and emergency workers that so selflessly helped those who were caught up in the tragedy. I was amazed that even though I personally didn’t know anyone in either of the towers or on the airplanes, I was affected by their loss in a very real way. And I loved the way that Americans came together and helped us all deal with the tragedy.