Bronco Mendenhall: Did He Quiet the Critics with a 47-0 Beating of Hawaii?

Alex StrelnikovCorrespondent IISeptember 29, 2012

PROVO, UT - AUGUST 30: BYU fan's wait for the start of the BYU Washington State game at an college football game August 30, 2012 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
George Frey/Getty Images

First-Half Review

Taysom Hill started for BYU against Hawaii in Provo, Utah. In one half of play, Taysom completed 10 of 15 throws for 78 yards, one touchdown and a QB rating of 124.5. He also ran for 144 yards and one touchdown.

His 222 yards of offense nearly outdid BYU's total game output in either of its last two games.

Against Boise State, the Cougars of BYU had only 200 yards of offense, with 139 yards rushing and a measly embarrassing 61 yards passing. The previous week at Utah, the Cougs had a paltry 106 yards rushing and 205 yards passing. 

And what does Bronco Mendenhall say as he is coming off the field at halftime? "We have a starter and Taysom is the understudy," as reported live on ESPN.

Is this guy awake? He may be a genius defensive coach, but to take a true freshman who is healthy, 22 years old, a higher-quality athlete than any other player on the field and who has just turned in the best half of football that BYU has had this year and say he is "the understudy" to me says he is clueless.

BYU has not only this year to prepare for, but the next four years. Taysom Hill has the potential with the right offense to break every quarterbacking record at BYU.

On the Other Hand, We Have Riley Nelson

Though an above-average quarterback and gritty player, gritty and average doesn't do it against Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, Utah or Boise State. It might not do it against Utah State or even San Jose State the way they played against Stanford.

The cupcakes on the schedule this year are not behaving. They might even be dangerous.

So what does the defensive genius throw out? Riley Nelson will be playing when healthy and get his starting job back. The 5'11" Nelson is injured, slow, throws radically and accounted for eight turnovers in two games. 

Is this deja vu all over again with Riley and Jake Heaps? Isn't this how it went with a 4-star quarterback who came in and outperformed Riley when Riley was hurt? Didn't Mendenhall then pull Heaps and put Riley back in, then out, then in, then Heaps leaves?

Serious Concerns Mount

The handling of this team must be questioned. There is talent in Jamaal Williams and his running ability, and starting the second half, Jamaal Williams had 97 yards rushing. And yet the offense had trouble with fits, starts and running any kind of offense except for Taysom Hill. 

BYU did do better in the second half.

The Second HalfThings Get Better

In the second half, Hawaii gets the ball and through great defense (yes, there is the genius at work) BYU forces a fumble and recovers the ball on the 3-yard line. Jamaal Williams runs to the left, scoring. The "fantastic Freshman duo" of Hill and Williams are giving fans a taste of what they could expect not only the rest of this year, but for the next four years.

On the ensuing possession for Hawaii, the defense comes up big again, snuffing out a fake punt.

But the offense stutters again. This is most notable because two defensive linemen went out of the game in the first seven minutes, leaving Hawaii very thin on the D-line and forcing it to go from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense.

One would think from the success of the first half, BUY would be pounding Hawaii mercilessly. Not so fast, my friend.

BYU instead chooses to run high-risk timing passes with a quarterback in his first start, only three months into the program. Huh? Say what?

No Momentum on Offense

The Hawaii adjustment on defense stymied BYU by rushing five and six, and even seven. It seemed as though the offensive coordinator, Brandon Doman, wasn't watching the same game the rest of us were. Did he notice it? Did he have an answer for it? What adjustments did the O-line coach make? BYU was sacked four times and lost 24 yards to sacks.

What adjustments to the offense did Doman make? BYU ran the ball.

Midway through the third quarter, Hill had three incomplete passes and Williams had three yards rushing on three possessions before connecting on his next pass and Williams breaking loose for 19 yards. Then Williams breaks loose again for 35 yards.

But mistakes abound, as a 15-yard penalty disallows a touchdown pass by Hill. After a seven-yard gain by Hill running the ball, he follows it up with a 12-yard TD pass to sophomore Devin Mahina.

Defense Keeps Making BYU Looking Good

With a little over two minutes remaining in the third quarter, the BYU defense forces another turnover fumble and the offense takes the field. Good job, defense.

However, again, the decision-making of Mendenhall is inconceivable. He sends in James Lark, the third-string quarterback, to run the famous Woody Hayes offense at Ohio State called "three yards and a cloud of dust." That is you run right, run left, run into the middle and punt if you don't get a first down. 

Instead of running the offense and ignoring the score so the freshman quarterback can season with the first and second line teams, in comes James Lark and out go Williams and Hill.

It seems that tenure is not only for teachers, as merely being on the team for a long time earns playing time.

Constant Questionable Coaching Decisions Mar Game

With the game clearly in hand, it becomes very interesting that freshman Hill is pulled along with Williams. If talent matures and improves with game time, why would Hill and Williams be denied the opportunity to get that experience? "Inconceivable." 

It is time to realize that BYU has very good players who can play the game.

At the beginning of the game, it looked very doubtful BYU could match the scoring output of Nevada in Hawaii's previous game. However, as the game wore on, it was clear that given a better offensive coordinator and some experience, BYU could improve enough to be competitive.

However, the players were denied that opportunity by their own coaching staff. It seems as though the coaching staff is more concerned about not hurting Hawaii's feelings with a high score than it is preparing its players for the future.

If Riley Nelson had been in the game and it was 40-0, then I would agree—put the freshmen in. In this case, BYU was playing its freshmen and pulled them for third- and fourth-team players. To what gain? To what advantage? 

If Taysom Hill had gone 15 for 20 and 300 yards, I would agree, perhaps, to pulling him. But the way the offense sputtered, he was only able to go 12-21 for 112 yards. Admirable for a freshman, but not outstanding enough to say he had mastery of the offense. 

Third String Takes The Field

James Lark, a qualified quarterback who could be a starter in his own right, was allowed to throw only two passes in a quarter and two minutes of play. "All hail Woody Hayes." The three yards and a cloud of dust offense takes over, and even at that, sophomore Paul Lasike ran 10 times for 40 yards and two touchdowns while senior David Foote ran 10 times for 38 yards in an effort to just run down the clock. "Inconceivable."

The difference between an adequate coach and a great coach is that a great coach uses every opportunity to teach his players the full offense and defense. He gives them the opportunity to play their best, not run out the clock.

BYU has had problems in the field-goal area, and having an opportunity to practice field-goal kicking in a game, it runs to the left. Yet another symptom of not using opportunities to prepare and practice for the future.

BYU had many opportunities to prepare for the games ahead, not only for this year, but years to come, and instead the coaches chose to let up on Hawaii and clear the bench, missing the opportunity to improve its game, in a game.

All I can say at this point is "inconceivable."

Other writers in other articles have questioned Bronco Mendenhall's decisions, coaching and responsibility for the miserable way BYU is playing. It is quite obvious that, score aside, this game did not redeem Mendenhall from that kind of criticism.


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