So often in sports our moods swing from play to play and game to game. In a flash a beloved athlete or coach can be reduced from GOAT status to a scapegoat and vice versa. Seasons can be ruined and redeemed in the same quarter. It’s madness and we love it — even when we can barely stand it.
Cougars on the air
BYU (2-3, 5-3)
at West Virginia (3-2, 5-3)
Saturday, 5 p.m. MDT
Milan Puskar Stadium
TV: Fox Sports 1
Radio: 102.7 FM/1160 AM
BYU’s 35-6 loss at No. 7 Texas is fodder for the frustrated, and that includes the head coach. There are plenty of targets to question, ranging from preparation to play calling to performance. Texas didn’t expose any new weaknesses; it just took advantage of the ones that showed up in the season opener against Sam Houston that haven’t gone away — especially on offense.
To their credit, the Longhorns were the media’s preseason pick to win the league. BYU was tabbed 11th. Texas (7-1, 4-1) is playing for a shot in the College Football Playoff. The Cougars (5-3, 2-3) are trying to get bowl eligible during their unprecedented run against 10 consecutive P5 opponents. So far, they are 3-3.
The fact that the home team was the better team Saturday was no surprise; however, the way BYU was stymied on national television at this stage of the season certainly was. The outcome left the Cougars with a laundry list of things to clean up and it has the invested fan staring at a two-pronged fork in the road pointing toward optimism and pessimism.
Which one are you? As October gives way to November, is BYU’s glass half-empty or half-full?
Half-empty: The Cougars are No. 107 in third-down defense.
Half-full: BYU is No. 13 in red-zone defense. Twice on Saturday, the Longhorns turned the ball over on downs at the goal line and BYU forced a fumble at the Cougars’ 10-yard line.
Half-empty: The Cougars are No. 127 in rushing offense (81.2); No. 125 in third-down offense (.29); No. 123 in total offense (300.6); and No. 85 in scoring offense (24.9).
Half-full: BYU has scored on 23 of 26 trips inside the red zone (No. 39) and the Cougars have scored enough to beat five of their eight opponents, including Arkansas, Cincinnati, and Texas Tech. Getting Aidan Robbins back healthy at least gives the ground attack some hope.
Half-empty: In BYU’s three Big 12 road losses, the Cougars have eight turnovers that have led directly or indirectly to 56 points. In BYU’s two conference home victories, the Cougars were turnover free.
Half-full: The Cougars are tied at No. 3 for turnovers gained (18) and tied at No. 5 with 12 interceptions.
Half-empty: The Cougars offense is progressively getting worse. The running game remains an unsolved mystery, third-and-long scenarios are suffocating, play calling creativity is limited and without the mobility of his BYU predecessors, quarterback Kedon Slovis is left with few options when under duress.
Half-full: The Cougars are one victory shy of bowl eligibility with four games to play, including Iowa State and No. 10 Oklahoma in Provo, where BYU is a different team. The defense is better than it was a year ago and special teams are solid, except for two coverage mistakes on punt returns. Slovis has experience at this level that no teammate can match. In addition, the game at West Virginia on Saturday (5 p.m. MDT, FS1) is at night and BYU is 20-1 in its last 21 games under the lights.
Reality and actuality are at odds here because, whether they deserve it or not, the Cougars are one win away from beating the odds as a newcomer in the Big 12.
There is power in optimistic thinking and a variety of studies indicate optimists live longer than pessimists. Those who live longer have a better chance to see BYU figure out third down. Texas no longer matters. The keys to victory in Morgantown remain the same — take care of the football, force turnovers and score touchdowns in the red zone — no matter how you manage to get there.
What’s maddening is how it can all become so complicated so quickly, but to the fan who sees the glass as half-full, the highs and lows are just part of a magical journey that has been dreamed about for a lifetime. The understandable fan, whose glass is half-empty, probably stopped reading this article five paragraphs ago.
No one liked what happened at Texas and everybody has the right to be disappointed about it, but all that matters now is what is going to happen at West Virginia.
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.