It would be easy to blame Brigham Young's lack of offense in Saturday's 19-16 loss at Virginia on a 2-hour, 9-minute weather delay and the soggy conditions from the torrential storm that hit Scott Stadium near the end of the first quarter.
But the truth of the Cougars' pratfall in Charlottesville was that the offense played better after the monsoon than before. Running a new spread offense under offensive coordinator Robert Anae, BYU looked rusty throughout especially when sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill was called on to throw.
Hill, who showed great promise last fall before suffering a season-ending torn ACL, completed only 13 of 40 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown, looking nothing like the player who had a 122.4 passer rating in 2012. Hill was under a heavy rush much of the game and often scrambled to safety, but rarely turned his escapes into big plays.
A fourth-quarter interception, which set up the Cavaliers' winning score, wasn't all Hill's fault. His throw to running back Jamaal Williams was higher than designed and the wet ball slid through his fingers and into the hands of Virginia defensive back Anthony Harris. It was emblematic of a day when Hill threw too many passes that sailed out of the reach of receivers.
The performance was a major letdown for a team that has been fixated on offense since losing four games last year by a combined total of 13 points.
Anae was brought in to apply what he learned last year at Arizona under Rich Rodriguez. But Saturday's defeat was a continuation of what haunted the Cougars in 2012. The lone positive on offense was the running of sophomore Williams (33 carries, 137 yards).
"We certainly need to clean up execution wise," said head coach Bronco Mendenhall. "We had a great chance to win the football game all the way from the beginning to the end."
FIVE BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS FROM INDEPENDENTS IN WEEK 1
1. The tiny defense of Army, which ranked No. 117 in the FBS in rushing yards (232 per game), will again be stretched thin. In Friday's 28-12 win over Morgan State, the Black Knights yielded 52 rushes for 185 yards and allowed touchdown drives of 81 and 82 yards in the middle periods. With nine offensive linemen who weigh 300 or more pounds, Morgan State had a big advantage against an Army front seven that includes only one starter heavier than 240 pounds. One indicator that the Black Knights weren't getting sufficient push: Geoffrey Bacon, who led Army in tackles last year as a linebacker, had to make 16 stops on Friday from his free safety slot.
2. First-year head coaches Doug Martin (New Mexico State) and Paul Petrino (Idaho) showed a knack for getting their inexperienced quarterbacks up to speed for their respective starting debuts. Aggies junior Andrew McDonald had 292 yards rushing and passing and Vandals freshman Chad Chalich had a quarterback rating of 154.2. But neither team is going to take steps toward respectability without better defensive work. While New Mexico State yielded 715 total yards at Texas, a program record for the Longhorns, the Idaho secondary was riddled by Derek Thompson (23 of 27, 349 yards, two touchdowns).
3. Old Dominion knew what was coming, Saturday at East Carolina, but was powerless to stop it. All-Conference USA wide receiver Justin Hardy entered as a marked man, but he still grabbed 16 passes for 191 yards, both program records, helping the Pirates to a 52-38 win. Offensive fireworks and defensive struggles are nothing new for the Monarchs who averaged an FCS-high 45.1 points per game last year, but yielded an average of 30.5 ppg. Next week, Old Dominion and new defensive coordinator Rich Nagy face a similar challenge against Maryland wideout and long-shot Heisman Trophy candidate Stefon Diggs.
4. One negative for Notre Dame in its victory over Temple was the defense, which surrendered 25 first downs and 362 yards. Coach Brian Kelly explained that the inside linebackers struggled with their run fits, but he didn't seem concerned with Temple parading up and down the field. "I was okay with the dink and dunk they were going to exhibit on offense," Kelly said. "Our defense does not surrender big plays and keeps the points down, and really makes you work to sustain drives and get in the end zone."
5. BYU's disappointing loss at Virginia wasn't so much an indictment of the Cougars' new spread offense as it was a bad day for quarterback Taysom Hill. BYU ran effectively and plays were there to be made in the passing game. But a combination of wet conditions, an inspired, fast Virginia defense, and poor execution by the Cougars' quarterback and receivers undermined the BYU passing attack. Look for improvement next week when BYU faces Texas.