Show me a boxer who spends most of his or her fight up against the ropes and I’ll show you a short night. A football team who does the same is in for a long one. In both settings, it’s only a matter of time before they kiss the canvas.
Cougars on the air
Oklahoma (5-2, 8-2)
at BYU (2-5, 5-5)
Saturday, 10 a.m. MST
LaVell Edwards Stadium
Radio: 102.7 FM/1160 AM
In the case of BYU, the 5-5 Cougars have been beaten up in three consecutive games and barring a Rocky Balboa-like resurgence, their postseason hopes will suffer a knockout blow on Saturday. While BYU’s recent effort hardly makes a case for a bowl game, mathematically they remain in the equation.
The Cougars limped off the field Saturday against Iowa State, which left them black and blue in their blue-and-black uniforms, and they have five days to prepare for the Mike Tyson of the league — No. 14 Oklahoma. No team has won more Big 12 football titles than the Sooners (14) and a win in Provo (10 a.m., ESPN/ABC) keeps them right in the mix for another one before they bolt to the SEC.
The question is, do the Cougars have any fight left in them? Las Vegas doesn’t think so. The boxing capital of the world has crowned Oklahoma a 24-point favorite. Looking at BYU’s recent bouts, it’s hard to blame them.
In the last three games, the defense has surrendered 1,364 yards and 117 points. On offense, BYU has mustered just three touchdowns and are a combined 6 of 35 on third down.
The Sooners come to Utah for the first time averaging 41.8 points per game, the most of any opponent BYU has faced all season. Oklahoma just dropped 59 on West Virginia. A week earlier, the Mountaineers stymied the Cougars, 37-7.
Boxing history shows the fighters who managed to stay competitive into the late rounds against Mike Tyson were the ones who beat him (James “Buster” Douglas, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Danny Williams and Kevin McBride).
A similar thread runs through the Sooners wins and losses since Oct. 7. Teams that avoided an early TKO pushed them to the limit. Oklahoma beat Texas 34-30. It held off UCF 31-29 before suffering back-to-back defeats to Kansas, 38-33 and Oklahoma State, 27-24. Last week against West Virginia, the Sooners pounced early and blew them out.
For BYU to keep the game close early will require a significant course correction. The Cougars have trailed at halftime by a combined 72-10 over the last three weeks. They have turned the ball over six times in the last two games. Despite high aspirations, especially after a 5-2 start, they are one game out of last place.
Head coach Kalani Sitake believes there is still some fight in his boys. He and his staff have a few days to find it and then figure out a way to keep the Cougars off the ropes when the Sooners come swinging.
Never mind the last three weeks or the reality that BYU may be in over its head as a first-year member of the Big 12 — none of that matters this weekend. If the Cougars can hang around and give themselves a puncher’s chance late in the game, who knows? Crazier things have happened.
Just ask Mike Tyson.
Dave McCann is a contributor to the Deseret News and is the studio host for “BYU Sports Nation Game Day,” “The Post Game Show,” “After Further Review,” and play-by-play announcer for BYUtv. He is also co-host of “Y’s Guys” at ysguys.com.