30 September 2011

South of the Great Salt Lake is a rallying team, and north exists one that easily loses leads

Last post I picked the Utah State Aggies to beat the Brigham Young Cougars by 7. Unfortunately, thanks to a last-minute touchdown catch off a deflection, BYU won 27-24. (WatchESPN has the game in its entirety here.) Now if you don't get my title, here's why:
- Utah State University is in Logan, Utah, a city about 60 miles north of Salt Lake City and on the north side of the Great Salt Lake. Brigham Young University is in Provo, Utah, around 30 miles south of SLC and thus south of the Lake.
- The Utah State Aggies, a Western Athletic Conference team, played tonight at BYU, a longtime regional rival that became a Division I-A independent after about a decade in the Mountain West Conference. In 2010, Utah State beat BYU in Logan, 31-16. Utah State last beat BYU in Provo in 1978. Today's loss puts Utah State at 1-3, and all three of USU's losses so far have all been of 4 or fewer points and after USU led the other team in the 4th quarter. The other losses came against Auburn (the national champions) and Colorado State.
- In contrast, the BYU Cougars are now 3-2, and all 3 of their wins were decided in the 4th quarter. BYU rallied from a 4Q 13-0 deficit in its opener at Mississippi to win 14-13. Later in Provo, BYU won against Central Florida 24-17 having trailed 10-3 after halftime and drawn 17-17 after 3Q. Tonight, Utah State once held a lead of 24-13 in 4Q before their defense fell asleep and let BYU score 2 TD's.

Utah State kicker Josh Thompson unsuccessfully attempted to fake a field goal since he didn't want to kick from 48 yards (his longest this year is 41). As seen at the 2 hour 53 minute mark of the linked video, the ball bounced off the hands of tight end Tarren Lloyd. After USU lost the ball on downs, 7:51 remained in 4Q. BYU has the ball but fumbles in USU territory and now 3:53 left. USU advances the ball only 1 yard and punts all the way to BYU's 4-yard line with 2:36 left. This drive confirms that USU defense really slacked off in the final quarter as BYU's tight end Marcus Mathews would fetch the ball in the end zone after USU's cornerback Will Davis deflected it (this play is in the 3 hour 17 minute mark of video). ESPN replayed BYU's TD from an angle looking at the uprights, and it seems that Davis probably could've eyed Mathews:

Oh, it seems that J.J. di Luigi of BYU also deflected the ball. Had Davis gotten both hands on it it would've been like when Nevada made a last-minute interception to seal its 17-14 victory over SJSU 2 weeks ago.

The implications for SJSU's games against BYU, USU:
San Jose State plays BYU at Provo on Oct. 8. I'll be able to make a better prediction after SJSU plays Colorado State tomorrow, but for now it looks like BYU will steamroll the Spartans. Meanwhile, SJSU will play USU later in the month, and we'll see if USU can learn how to defend leads (which SJSU has been able to do this year, see last week against NMSU).

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