To say BYU lost a game it deserved to win would be wrong. The victorious team always did enough to score the points necessary to win the game.
To say BYU lost a game it should have won would be a matter of subjective opinion, but closer to the truth.
The Cougars put themselves in favorable positions throughout Saturday's 17-16 defeat at Utah, only to see misfortune prevail over good fortune. With a nod to Lemony Snicket, the story of BYU's day could well have been titled "A Series of Unfortunate Events."
The list of those events has already been well-enumerated, but serves to underscore just how unusual it was that BYU failed to come away with the win on the weekend.
Consider that BYU's four turnovers were the most in any one game this season, and the most in the last 22 games.
Consider that BYU last lost a game it led at halftime on September 15, 2007, in a 55-47 setback at Tulsa. Since that day, BYU had won 30 straight games with a halftime lead.
Consider that BYU last lost a game it led after three quarters on September 24, 2005, in a 51-50 overtime loss to TCU. Since that day, BYU had won 47 straight games with a three-quarter lead.
Consider that BYU has excelled in close contests. The last time BYU lost a game decided by seven points or fewer was on September 16, 2006, in a 23-20 overtime loss at Boston College. Since that day, BYU had won a nation's best 14 consecutive games decided by a touchdown or less.
Consider that BYU has won games with defense. The last time BYU lost a game in which the opponent scored 24 or fewer points was that same game at Boston College. Since that day, BYU had won 42 consecutive games when holding the opponent to 24 points or fewer.
Consider that BYU usually capitalizes on positive field position. Saturday's game was only the second in the last 29 games that BYU lost while holding the average field position advantage.
You get my point. For BYU to lose the game it lost at Utah took a confluence of both mishap and happenstance. From iffy play calls, to implausibly bad bounces, to a baffling video review, considerable damage was done to BYU's chances for victory. Yet, the game-winning field goal block by Brandon Burton and the stirring BYU drive that preceded it are reminders that regardless of the circumstance, there is always another play to be made, until zeroes show on the clock. Utah made the plays, and Utah deserved the win.
The next game and the next season can't come soon enough for the BYU football team. Saturday's stomach punch needs to be forgotten, discarded and replaced by promise that became increasingly evident at the regular season's end.
Freshman quarterback Jake Heaps will lead BYU into a bowl game and into next spring as the Cougars' battle-tested leader. Heaps is on his way to a place in the pantheon of BYU's all-time great passers, and the only real competition is to be his backup.
Heaps will be at front of an impressive group of returning players and a talent-laden crop of redshirts, return missionaries and newcomers as they forge ahead into BYU football independence. There is no reason next season can't be a return to the double-digit win campaigns of 2006 through 2009. The fact remains that the "dip" in 2010 will still include postseason play and a chance at a winning record, and there are a lot of nationally known programs that have dipped right into a sub-.500 postseason vacation including Ole Miss and Texas, BYU's first two opponents next season.
For the Cougars, the future is as bright as it is uncharted. After Saturday's game, coach Bronco Mendenhall was clearly looking ahead. "This is just the beginning," Mendenhall said on KSL Radio. "Seven weeks ago was the start of the next three, or four, or five years."
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