CFN Bowl Analysis ... New
BYU 52 ... UTEP 24
And here’s why bowl games matter (forgetting for a moment that those who spend their idle time trying to convince the world that it needs bowl games gloss over the fact that you can have a playoff and keep the bowls intact).
BYU isn’t that good. It’s fine, but it’s rebuilding as it took its lumps this year with a true freshman quarterback and several key replacements on both sides of the ball. The offense stunk it up for the entire year against the defense that could actually play, but it looked good on paper when it got to roll up bad teams like Colorado State, New Mexico, UNLV, and now, UTEP. But almost all the offensive starters are back (depending, as always, on Church missions), and now the last impression future poll voters will have will be the Cougars rolling at will in a four hour infomercial for next year. BYU finished the season winning five of its last six games, and even though there weren’t any wins of note, the 2011 preseason ranking won’t care.
Going rogue, this is the way the program wanted to leave the Mountain West, and if the offense is going to do this against the week and the sad, this will be a team worth watching. But it’s one thing to blow away UTEP, and it’s another to go on the road to face Ole Miss and Texas to start next year.
- BYU’s Jake Heaps looked great in his national breakout game, but I’m still failing to see why everyone was so in love with him coming out of high school. He was ranked the No. 1 quarterback by many services, but he’s small, doesn’t have the biggest of arms, and has mediocre touch. However, he’ll work his tail off and could become a major playmaker in a hurry if he can be more consistent and more accurate.
- Don’t assume that UTEP didn’t want to play. That was a fired up team after the first of three Kris Adams touchdown catches, but the momentum never lasted and BYU was too good.
- The UTEP offensive line got destroyed by the BYU defensive front, and that ended any hope of a monster comeback.
- BYU OT Matt Reynolds is a decent pro prospect, and he showed why by keeping Jake Heaps clean and looking agile on the move. He’ll have to be in the right system, though.
- The unsung stars of this game: the punters. BYU’s Riley Stephenson was terrific on his three punts, averaging 53.3 yards per boot, while UTEP’s Ian Campbell average almost 48 yards per kick.
One win over .500 never looked so good.
Hey, at 2-5, BYU was done. Finished. In full rebuilding mode. Few expected there to be a postseason, but to the credit of the Cougars and head coach Bronco Mendenhall, the program rallied for the kind of finish that’ll pay dividends in 2011 and beyond. It went 5-1, capped by Saturday’s wire-to-wire, 52-24 rout of UTEP. Best of all, BYU turned the corner with a true freshman behind center. Jake Heaps, one of the nation’s top quarterback recruits of 2010, got markedly better as the season unfolded, throwing four touchdown passes in Albuquerque and serving notice that he’s one of the better young hurlers in America. At 7-6, with a full season of experience for Heaps, the Cougars turned this potential disaster into a surprisingly uplifting campaign.
- Opponents of the bloated bowl system, you have an early poster boy to point to. And its name is UTEP. Bowl-eligibility or not, the Miners had one quality win all year and had no business playing a bonus game.
- In case you haven’t noticed, the game has passed Mike Price by. UTEP won’t find a more experienced head coach, but it sure can do better in El Paso.
- Heaps to Cody Hoffman. Get used to hearing it a lot over the next three years. Both are freshmen, and Hoffman showed on Saturday with his three touchdown catches that he has a great future in Provo.
By Matt Zemek
Here’s what a lot of people didn’t understand or appreciate about the 2010 New Mexico Bowl: BYU was happy to be here. That, in a nutshell, explains why the Cougars went out and blasted a UTEP team that didn’t deserve to be in a bowl game.
If this was the 2009 version of BYU – with a senior Max Hall and other veteran players on the roster – a New Mexico Bowl bid would have been a complete disappointment, an embarrassment of sorts. That’s when the grumble factor – the “I don’t want to be here” syndrome – rears its ugly head in a bowl game. This dynamic was never in place (or at risk of being in place) for a young BYU team that, at 2-5 midway through the season, didn’t know if it would make a bowl game. It did, and that made the 2010 regular season a source of hope, not disappointment. BYU got undressed on national television against Utah State roughly one month into its season; anyone who saw the Cougars that night had good reason to think that Bronco Mendenhall’s team wouldn’t make a bowl. Was BYU going to be happy to take part in a bottom-rung bowl game? Absolutely, and without a second thought. UTEP felt the full force and fury of an opponent that learned how to play together in November. The “grumble factor” never should have been an issue. UTEP’s credentials – which pale in comparison to 8-4 and non-bowling Temple – should have been the main point of focus in the days before kickoff in Albuquerque.
-- If I’m UTEP Athletic Director Bob Stull, I place a call to either Mario Cristobal of Florida International or Robb Akey of Idaho as my next head coach. Mike Price’s time is up in El Paso, and either Cristobal or Akey would provide a high-energy replacement who could build something better in the shadows of the Sun Bowl stadium.
BYU will be solid in 2010, but let’s not engage in too much hyperbole: The Cougars didn’t beat Boise State; they beat UTEP. Remember how Denard Robinson and Taylor Martinez got touted as all-time-great players after beating the likes of Indiana and Kansas State? Just slow down and wait if you want to praise BYU in a particularly lavish way. Wait until October of 2011 and then render a verdict on the short-term future of the Cougars.