Dick Harmon: BYU serves up turnovers, gets creamed in the process

Published: Sunday, Sept. 20 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

So, what happened to that snazzy No. 7 ranked BYU football team that outplayed and upset Oklahoma and destroyed Tulane on the road before dropping its first home game of the season in Provo of all places?


The Cougars met up with an opponent with an offensive line 10 times better than the Sooners and 11 times superior to Tulane. And the defense wasn't ready.

BYU's defensive front seven, who looked so lively in Dallas and New Orleans, were totally neutralized by Florida State blockers. Those guys clamped down and locked like wolverines on a femur.

"They were a better team than we were tonight," said BYU senior QB Max Hall.

In a shootout with the Seminoles, the Cougars imploded with turnovers. Not too complicated, really. In a game devoid of defense on either side, BYU couldn't afford one turnover. But BYU's defense got manhandled by Seminole blockers, who did nothing fancy; they just beat every Cougar in front of them.

BYU defensive captain Jan Jorgensen disagrees with that assessment of the visitors' O-line, however. He told reporters FSU's O-line was outstanding but not that much better than Oklahoma.

"We didn't play how we're capable," said Jorgensen. "When they came out and ran like they did down the field, it takes it out of you. They did it three times. It makes it hard to win when a team does that."

Bronco Mendenhall was more specific. He said FSU had outstanding preparation technically, schematically and emotionally. Mendenhall said BYU could have prepared better, especially for Seminole QB Christian Ponder. "At the point of attack, when engaged, they continued to play on and we didn't."

Mendenhall said his players didn't rally to the ball like the previous two games.

The BYU coach said his team will now learn far more from this loss than if they'd won. "Now we'll go to work and improve this team."

While defensive coordinator Jaime Hill said the Cougars threw everything they had and failed to stop FSU's offense, Jorgensen said BYU defenders could have developed more packages to throw at Ponder, spying him and containing him. "We could have done more."

Trailing 30-14, just when BYU needed scoreboard, Max Hall's pass attempt at Andrew George had FSU freshman safety Greg Reid step in front of the Cougar tight end, snag the gift and run untouched for a touchdown and 37-14 lead.

Hall said he should have looked off George and gone to somebody else, but he thought Reid held George, preventing him from making a break. "It was pass interference, from what I saw."

That play finished the Cougars and the second half just started. From there, BYU had to abandon its draw trap, screens and short passing game. Hall had to look deep and hold onto the ball longer.

BYU left being BYU on offense, despite an 80-yard bomb from Hall to McKay Jacobson to get to 21.

"He was pressing, trying to make things happen," said Mendenhall. Two first-half turnovers snowballed to five.

It was expected. If Ponder and his backs, behind the ACC's best offensive line, could run the football, the Cougars would be hard-pressed to stop Florida State's offense.

That's exactly what happened.

As it turned out, neither defense could stop one another. BYU couldn't get a third-down stop, missed tackles and gave up a whopping 12 of 15 third-down conversions. FSU couldn't cover BYU's receivers, or stay in position on key BYU runs.

The offenses ruled. In the first half, FSU averaged 7 yards on 44 plays.

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