Dick Harmon: BYU got a tune-up, just in time for Horned Frogs
In what ways did BYU's 56-3 blowout of Idaho State advance the Cougar program in late October?
Obviously, the sixth win made the Cougars bowl eligible at 6-2. Did it prepare BYU for TCU this week?
I'll try answering that.
Putting Riley Nelson on Idaho State's defense is akin to pit-fighting a Rottweiler against a wiener dog. Setting loose linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jordan Pendleton on Bengal QB Kevin Yost is like Barack Obama without a teleprompter.
How did Saturday help the Cougars prepare for next week's showdown against TCU in Texas?
Well, first of all, a win is a win is a win. Wins breed confidence any Saturday and BYU's now got five in a row.
Bronco Mendenhall played a lot of guys who don't normally get on the field.
He called it a "unique challenge" to prepare for, a "step forward" afterwards and his squad "gained momentum" heading into the next game.
Here's a rapsheet on action versus reality in LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday:
Running free in space: ISU yielded 572 yards, 290 on the ground to BYU.
Rolling pumpkins is fun but BYU's rush game started slow and many power plays were weak. Put that against Utah or TCU and it is stuffed.
QB running unencumbered past linebackers and safeties: Riley looked pretty.
On this kind of day, Nelson should look like a Tim Tebow clone (11 of 17, 215 yards, 3 TD, pass rating of 229.2. with 62 on the ground. Pretty gets tougher Friday in Arlington.
BYU blitzes against smaller, slower blockers? Fantasyland. BYU gained six sacks Saturday when they'd registered six in seven previous games.
Nesting a 14-3 first quarter lead without time of possession (1:51 to 13:09). This is likely delusional against a Top 40 team or upper echelon of the Big 12 or Pac-12.
Apologetic Kyle Van Noy's sucker hit on ISU's punter? Well, it happens when aggression is your motto. It is like beating up on a little brother because you can. But smacking a punter when he isn't looking is akin to bumping a nun in a hunger line. Reality is Van Noy is not a dirty player; he doesn't have to be.
Creating a 35-3 lead at half: Like the tooth fairy leaving her charge card under your pillow. Nice, but it has no application for the Horned Frogs except feel-good hugs in Provo.
Having Nelson gain 68 yards and average 11.3 yards per carry at halftime? High school script stuff for episode of "Friday Night Lights." He does that against TCU and he is Tebow.
Knocking around ISU by 53 — Mendenhall's second-biggest win margin since the UCLA win? The Cougars mirrored TCU beating New Mexico 60-0. Both Cougars and Frogs got to rest plenty of starters — a draw.
Playing a lot of two down linemen fronts on defense? It was a timely mulligan to get injured starting tackles Romney Fuga and Hebron Fangupo rest. This is perhaps the biggest benefit for BYU on Saturday.
Going with nickel coverage? Sorely needed as another choice of operation.
Resting Riley? By relieving Nelson shortly after halftime, Brandon Doman protected his starter from unnecessary bumps and bruises that always add up.
Getting Jake Heaps some QB time? Call it smiles and that's always good medicine for the aching soul.
Drawing 60,043 fans for Idaho State? And this was the opening of deer season and UEA weekend. It is a statement BYU's athletic department should be eternally grateful to experience.
BYU's excursion into playing a lower-division opponent Oct. 22 is actually a frequent ploy by many of the nation's top programs, albeit usually the first week or two of the season. It's called tune-up games or kink fixers.
You are supposed to do it early. Alabama scheduled Kent State and North Texas; Florida got Florida Atlantic and Alabama-Birmingham; Stanford scheduled San Jose State and Duke; Washington invited Eastern Washington; the Utes got Montana State; Oklahoma picked on Missouri State; Ohio State played Akron and Nebraska had Chattanooga.
As an independent, BYU will end up with similar Saturday opponents in October and November. It really does need these kinds of games right out of the chute.
Bottom line? Regardless of who BYU's opponent was on Saturday, the Cougars are a better, more mature team than the one that ran on the field in Oxford, Miss.
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