There is no nice way to put it: Unless you have a fetish for solid defensive football and offensive ineptitude otherwise, the first 57 minutes or so of Thursday night’s showdown between BYU and Boise were a little bit boring.
Ok, a “little bit” boring is a bit of an understatement. The first 57 minutes were awful. They were painful. They turned normally rational men irrational, and basically set all of offensive football back a decade or so.
Thankfully though, we did get a pretty exciting final few minutes of the game.
That’s because after 57 minutes of a highly forgettable back and forth defensive battle that saw Boise State lead 7-0 on an interception return for a touchdown, it appeared as though BYU would tie it up with just minutes to go. Back-up quarterback Taysom Hill capped a 13-play, 95-yard touchdown drive with a four-yard scoring run, to cut the lead to 7-6. At that point it appeared that for all intents and purposes, we were headed to overtime.
Only BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall thought differently, and elected to go for the two-point conversion and win.
Why? Well, at the time of print for this article, we’re not quite sure.
Maybe it was because he trusted hill to find his way into the end zone. Maybe he was playing for the win on the road. Or maybe, like many fans, he couldn’t bear the thought of overtime. Whatever the case, BYU went for two, a play which was doomed from the beginning. A strong pass rush caused Hill to scramble from the pocket and throw an off-balance pass to the end zone. It fell incomplete, nowhere near any of BYU’s receivers.
And just like that, the game was over.
Beyond the frantic few minutes, the real story was the otherwise anemic offense on both sides. The two teams combined for just 461 yards on the night (for comparison’s sake, Boise averaged 481 a game last year), converted just seven of 27 third down attempts, and saw Boise stuffed on the one-yard line on their only real offensive scoring opportunity of the night (again, their sole touchdown came on an interception return). An offensive masterpiece, it was not. But both teams proved up that they have defenses to hold up for the long-haul.
For Boise, they’re obviously not at the level of years past, but at the same time, it was a gutty win at home, against a solid team, with one of the most underrated defenses in the country. They showed flashes of offensive firepower with running back D.J. Harper (112 yards on 31 carries) and Joe Southwick did seem improved from a Week 1 loss at Michigan State. Most importantly, looking at their remaining schedule, incredibly there isn’t a single game left that the Broncos can’t win and also not one they likely won’t be favored. That doesn’t mean Boise will win them all, but given how much they lost off last year’s club, it really is a testament to Chris Petersen that this team is somehow in the Top 25.
Unfortunately, things aren’t nearly as rosy in Provo.
After opening the season by throttling Washington State, there was real talk (especially coming from this dumb writer) that the Cougars could be a true BCS-busting threat. But after having lost their last two games and with others ahead against Oregon State, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech, they’ll be lucky to get past seven wins. More importantly, there could be another quarterback controversy brewing in Provo. After Riley Nelson took the job away from Jake Heaps last year, it looks as though Hill may now do the same to him. There’s no doubt that the offense looked much more fluid, with the much more athletic Hill under center.
It was an ugly night in Boise, but at least the Broncos have the reassurance of a win.
For BYU it’ll be a long trip home, with a lot of questions ahead.
For all his opinion, insight and analysis on college football, be sure to follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.