I was impressed with the first video I saw of this kid. But it wasn’t on the basketball court. It was in a presentation by the LDS Church General Young Men’s Presidency. Tyler was serving as his wards Teacher’s Quorum President, and their meetings were video taped to show how to correctly work with Aaronic Priesthood Presidencies. Tyler stood up and took control as quorum president and ran things the way they should be run. I know, I know, when you put a camera on a group, they tend to step and and perform. I was assured, however, by Brother Burgess (another great Alpine, Utah name), and uncle to Sam Burgess, that this was how they functioned all the time. I was impressed with his leadership skills.
Numbers on the Court
His numbers on the court would also bare this out.
Points per Game: 21
Rebounds: almost 5 per game
He also brings with him a long string of recognitions.
2 time 5A MVP
2 time 1st team All State
Deseret News Mr. Basketball for the State of Utah
Utah Gatorade Player of the Year
1 of 100 Seniors Nationwide invited to NBA Player Association Camp
Cougar fans everywhere are excited to see him follow in his father’s (Marty Haws) footsteps. I don’t ever remember a kid who has gotten so much fan attention for so long. Coach Dave Rose will be happy to have Haws in the House. I will be looking forward to seeing him on the hardwood in cougar blue!
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The finishing portion of the schedule continues on November 17 with a road trip to San Jose State. The Spartans finished 5-7 overall last year, and went 3-4 in the WAC. Their pre season ranking is somewhere around 95th, depending on whose rankings you are reading. In other words, one wouldn’t think that the Spartans shouldn’t give the Cougars very much trouble.
We have been honest here when saying that some teams are tough and that some don’t belong on the same field as the Cougars. On the surface, this looks like another walkover, but there is a chance that the Spartans are being severely underrated by many observers. While they could very well be as bad as projected, they have some compelling intangibles going for them that may indicate they are ready to have a good year, especially in a mediocre WAC.
So, what are those “intangibles?”
First of all, coach Mike MacIntyre is in his third year, and his program could very well be on the way up. SJSU only won one game in his first year, and five last year. Of their seven losses last year, one was by one point and the last three were by a total of fourteen points. They lost their first two games against Stanford and UCLA, and won their last two against Fresno State and Navy. In other words, they ended the year better than they finished.
Another good sign for the Spartans was that they played tough to the end in all of their games. They are developing a reputation as a well-coached team that doesn’t give up. They finished with 24.5 points for and 30.3 points against, for a differential of a negative 5.8 points per game. For a team with a losing record, especially one that hired itself out as a well-paid tomato can to UCLA and Stanford, it shows that the players are buying into the system and listening to the coaches.
As always, though, intangibles can only take a team so far; some talent is necessary, especially in skill positions. On offense, there are question marks. SJSU lost their starting quarterback and starting running back. Returning backup QB, junior Dasmen Stewart, is the Spartans’ leading returning rusher and passer, but he might not ever get the starting job.
Stewart’s arm is questionable, and with a completion rate of 40 percent for 2.8 yards per attempt, including sacks, he will definitely be pushed for the starting job. Juco transfer David Fales, freshman Joe Gray, and sophomore Blake Jurich will provide the competition. Fales is reported to be in the lead after spring practice, but the situation appears to be quite competitive.
If SJSU finds a QB who can throw, they have a trio of receivers who should help him produce. Junior WR’s Noel Grigsby and Chandler Jones return a total of 150 receptions and four TD’s between them, while senior TE Ryan Otten returns 52 receptions and five TD’s.
The bad news at running back is that last year’s starter is gone. The good news is that he only rushed for 903 yards, even with a passing attack that should have opened up the running game. Instead, the running game was so bad that it allowed opposing defenses to blitz early and often against the passing game last year. Washington transfer David Freeman, sophomore Tyler Ervin, and Minnesota transfer DeLeon Eskridge will compete for playing time this fall. Coach MacIntyre is reportedly thinking about running back by committee this season.
Unfortunately, the OL returns second-team All-WAC tackle David Quessenberry, but not much else on the line, except depth players.
On defense, SJSU plays conservatively; they stay in their gaps and don’t try to force anything. There aren’t really many compelling players on the defense for SJSU, except CB Tyler Ervin, who should also return kicks and may get some snaps on offense.
Ultimately, the Spartans’ defense is a bunch of solid guys who play good team ball. While that doesn’t sound imposing, it reminds me a lot of the Cougars. They might not have a lot of talent on that side of the ball, but they are very well-coached, and would fit into Cougars’ way of doing things quite well.
Look for the Spartans to keep contain and funnel plays into the middle, where they will be solid.
All in all, the Spartans could surprise a lot of people next year. They should improve record-wise just by the WAC losing Nevada and Hawaii, while Texas State and Texas San Antonio, who are both in their first year in the FBS. If a QB and an RB emerge from all of the competitors, the Spartans should ride an easier schedule and deeper roster to a a record which makes them bowl-eligible.
We see their floor at six wins, and their ceiling at nine wins. We don’t, however, see the Cougars as one of those wins. Our guess is that the Spartans will play tough ball through the middle of the third quarter, when the Cougars’ personnel advantage takes over. The Spartans will beat a few teams that have better personnel than them, but a mature, disciplined team like the Cougars won’t be one of them. Right now, it looks like another workmanlike Cougars victory, somewhere in the 35-17 range.
It is looking like a competitive training camp. We won’t have any idea of who is winning positional battles, though, because head coach Bronco Mendenhall said that he won’t reveal the depth chart until game week. It was announced that JD Falslev and Cody Hoffman will be the kick returners this season, though.
Practices have been referred to as “chippy” lately, and coach Mendenhall invited two players to take early showers for not following the protocols in practice.
Kyle Van Noy has been pronounced ready to fully participate in practices by the medical staff. He will probably have limited reps in practice to save him for the season.
All in all, it’s a typical camp so far: business as usual with no earth-shattering revelations on the positive or negative side of the ledger. This year, we see that as a plus.
Cougars win Third Straight Bowl Game
In August, we correctly guessed that anything less than ten regular season wins would keep the Cougars from a BCS bid and put them in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces bowl. Even though the bowl was in Fort Worth, the finish was more worthy of their early 1980’s appearances in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. The Cougars came from behind twice, and would finally win the game in the last minute on a play for the ages.
As has been their habit against good teams, the Cougars started slow. Tulsa started their first drive on their own 24, and Brandon Ogletree was whistled for a facemask penalty, giving the Golden Hurricane the ball on their own 39. The Cougars then allowed Tulsa to drive down the field 61 yards for a touchdown in a little over six minutes. Tulsa would net 19 yards on the ground and 42 in the air. This would turn out to be one more rushing yard than Tulsa got for the rest of the game combined.
As we often see in bowl games against reasonably well-matched teams, most of the game was a defensive struggle. The Cougars scored on a 35 yard field goal by Justin Sorenson with seventeen seconds left in the first quarter to close the margin to 7-3 for Tulsa. On Tulsa’s second offensive drive in the second quarter, the defense went to sleep for four plays, and it would cost them an 86-yard drive for a touchdown that took only 1:16 off of the clock. A seven-yard run was followed by passes of 50, 14, and 14 yards to put Tulsa ahead 14-3.
At the end of the first half, special teams came up big, as David Foote recovered a Justin Sorenson punt that was fumbled by JD Ratliff at the Tulsa 17. If there’s one thing the Cougars have proven this year, it’s that they are able to take advantage of opportunities caused by turnovers. Riley Nelson did what great QB’s and teams do, throwing a 17-yard pass to Cody Hoffman on the first play for a touchdown to bring the Cougars to within 14-10 with twelve seconds left in the first half. On the play, which will probably be in a lot of highlight reels, Matt Reynolds lost his helmet, but then flattened Tulsa DE Cory Dorris, giving Nelson time to make what turned out to be a crucial throw.
In the second half, though, it was more defense. Finally, with 1:41 left in the third quarter, Nelson hit Hoffman with another TD pass, this time for 31 yards, to put the Cougars on top, 17-14. With 10:42 left in the fourth quarter, though, the defense would once again allow a big play for Tulsa, as they took advantage of a short field. They completed a 58-yard drive with a 30-yard TD pass, and would go on top, 21-17.
After failed drives by both teams, the Cougars would get the ball back at the Tulsa 48 with 4:18 and the season on the line. Riley Nelson will never be confused with a classic, drop-back, rifle-armed NFL quarterback, but he is one of the most competitive and fearless quarterbacks in the game. The last drive showed almost everything that is great about the Cougars in four minutes and seven seconds. After three plays for one yard, it was fourth and nine on the Tulsa 47-yard line. Failing to find an open receiver, Riley Nelson tucked the ball and ran 14 yards for a first down.
The Cougars then went to the running game with Bryan Kariya and JJ DiLuigi getting the ball to the Tulsa 13-yard line, and Riley Nelson getting the ball to the eight. Nelson would complete a pass to Marcus Mathews at the two. Then came the play that had the football world paying attention to the Cougars. BYU had no time outs left, and Nelson was yelling the signal to “clock” the ball. As the ball was snapped, everyone on the team did what they would normally do in a “clock” situation.
Everyone, that is, but Riley Nelson and Cody Hoffman. Nelson threw the ball to Hoffman on the right side of the end zone for a touchdown with eleven seconds left on the clock. A Justin Sorenson extra point, and subsequent kickoff into the end zone for a touchback would leave Tulsa with eleven seconds to go eighty yards. Tulsa would lateral the ball twice and fumble it once before Travis Uale would cover the ball up for the victory.
Game balls go to Riley Nelson, Cody Hoffman, and Matt Reynolds on offense. On defense, Kyle Van Noy had another solid game, with nine solo tackles, two sacks, and one QB hurry. David Foote gets the special teams game ball for his fumble recovery, and Justin Sorenson gets one for a very consistent game and for not giving Tulsa a chance to win the game on his kickoff.
In winning the Armed Forces Bowl, the Cougars won three bowl games in a row for the first time in their history. They also wrapped up their fifth 10-win season in the last six years, which they have only done once before, from 1980-1985. At the beginning of the season, we knew the Cougars had a chance of having a special season, but that it would take a few bounces going the right way for it to happen. All in all, though, 2011 turned out to be a very good year for BYU.
On the good side, BYU has found its next great quarterback. Once again, Riley Nelson probably won’t make it to the NFL, but he is the consummate team player, and one of the toughest quarterbacks in college. Most of all, Riley Nelson is a leader. Greatness is often measured in stats. With Riley Nelson, though, it has to be “measured” by the intangibles.
To be a great quarterback, you have to win games. Also, your team has to follow you. Riley Nelson has a very rare talent. He is able to make the team play better when he is in the game. Like a great point guard in basketball, Nelson’s strength is his ability to manage the team and get the job done, regardless of individual stats or glory.
When Nelson lost his job to Jake Heaps, a lesser man would have pouted and complained about “losing his starting job due to injury.” Riley Nelson didn’t do that, though. Instead, he “manned up,” contributed to the team in any way he could, and made sure he would be prepared for his next opportunity. When Nelson finally got the opportunity, he took full advantage of it, and the Cougars showed their respect by the way they responded with Nelson behind center. By the time it was all over, the Cougars had another ten-win season.
Thank you, Riley Nelson, for being such a great leader this season. The Cougars are in good hands for 2012.
Happy Senior Night
Senior day or night, like homecoming, is best done against a tomato can. Seniors play their last home game, fans get to celebrate them, and those who stuck it out but didn’t play a lot often see some time in the fourth quarter. The 2011 version against New Mexico State was a great final home game for the seniors and some of them made great contributions to the 42-7 victory.
If honor of the seniors, we’ll look at some of their contributions first. JJ DiLuigi ran 12 times for 75 yards, for an average of 6.25 per carry. It puts him at 16th on the all time list, which is pretty good for someone who isn’t a burner but maximized every bit of his talent while in Provo.
Bryan Kariya added another 30 yards and one touchdown in 7 carries. Matt Marshall got one carry, but he made the most of it with a two-yard touchdown. TE Matthew Edwards caught a 9-yard TD pass. Terence Brown didn’t show up on any stat sheets, but his contributions on the offensive line have been greatly appreciated by everyone who has played QB during his stay in Provo, and he played a typically solid game.
There were plenty of contributions on defense, too. Jadon Wagner caused a fumble in the first half that was recovered by Jameson Frazier, and Wagner recovered one in the third quarter.
As for the rest of the team, Jake Heaps was solid once again, putting up the kind of numbers we expected at the beginning of the year. He was 21 of 36 for 238 yards with one interception and four touchdowns. For his efforts, Heaps was named Independent Player of the Week. It should be noted that Heaps took his demotion with class and dignity, didn’t complain, never stopped working, and stayed ready in case he was needed. It is great to see Heaps rewarded for doing things the Cougar way.
Ross Apo lead the team in receiving with five catches for 66 yards and two touchdowns. JD Falslev and McKay Jacobson were over 40 yards, JJ DiLuigi had three catches for 31 yards. Cody Hoffman and Kaneakua Friel were over 20 yards.
On defense, Preston Hadley and Brandon Ogletree had seven tackles each to lead the Cougars, while Kyle Van Noy gave a typical Kyle Van Noy performance with 6 solo tackles and two tackles for loss. The only thing missing for Van Noy was another turnover.
All in all, the Cougars were very workmanlike in their methodical dismantling of New Mexico State, with seven points each in the first and fourth quarters, and fourteen points each in the second and third quarters. The defense was also solid, allowing one touchdown in the second quarter but nothing the rest of the way.
Congrats to the Cougars for another fine performance. Next up: Hawaii in two weeks.
Cougars Accept Bowl Bid
We already knew this would happen, so it is no surprise, but the Cougars were officially extended their guaranteed berth in the Armed Forces Bowl against a yet-to-be-named CUSA team. Most of CUSA is similar to Central Florida, who played the Cougars tough but were ultimately not quite good enough.
The only sticking point is that this game is being played on SMU’s home field, and SMU is currently projected to be the opponent. Playing a road game against an up-and-coming team that is angry because it didn’t do better is not exactly a fair deal. On the bright side, SMU is currently 6-5, with four losses in their last five games. We’ll know later, but the intangibles appear to be solely on the side of the Mustangs.
What is Going On with the Big East?
A few weeks ago, it looked like the Cougars to the Big East, along with Boise State, UCF, Houston, and aforementioned SMU, was a done deal. Now, it is reported that the Cougars are holding the deal up, and that San Diego State might get their berth if they don’t settle by the end of next week.
Reportedly, the first snag is money because BYU has a great TV deal. That is negotiable and probably will require concessions on both sides. The second factor, though, may be too much to overcome.
Reportedly, the Cougars want assurances that the Big East will keep their BCS Automatic Qualifier status. They want to be able to return to independent status with no penalty if the Big East loses its AQ status. This is inherently fair because it simply forces the Big East to deliver on what they promise. The problem here is that the Big East doesn’t see it that way.
As it sits right now, the Cougars can realistically get into a BCS game by finishing 11-1 and being ranked higher than Notre Dame. Some years, 10-2 might even be enough. Even with all of the ups and downs this year, the Cougars can still finish 9-3. The point is that they are really close to being able to make it to a BCS bowl as an independent.
Therefore, it is perfectly natural for the Cougars to protect themselves before entering any agreement with any conference. The politics here are very basic: the conferences want to lock everybody in with extreme punitive damages for leaving, while the schools want the flexibility to evolve with the current landscape.
We hope that the Cougars don’t give in on their requirement that the Big East puts its money where its mouth is. The Cougars are a very desirable program, and a move to the Big 12 or Pac 12 would make more sense than one to the Big East.
The only real reason for the Cougars to join the Big East is for the AQ berth. The travel, even in a “Big East Western Division,” will be very demanding. If the Big East’s AQ berth disappears, the Cougars should be allowed to do the same.
After all, what’s fair is fair.
UPDATE: The Big East deal appears to be dead. We’ll see, but BYU appears to really be in this independent status for the long haul.
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