BYU's second-best score of the season did little but leave the Cougars scratching their heads.
Old bugaboos are still there for both teams, who are approaching the time of the season when they should be ironing out all the problems and spiffing up for the march toward the postseason.
Instead, after Utah's 195.825-194.25 victory over BYU in the Marriott Center, both teams are looking for answers.
Utah came close to being able to move back up to No. 2 in the rankings come Monday but will likely remain third, by .01 point in Regional Qualifying Score.
Yet, the Utes had their worst meet since Jan. 13 at Washington with two falls and an out-of-bounds deduction on floor and two more falls on beam.
They also had career-best vaults from freshmen Nina Kim (9.925) and Kristina Baskett (9.975), a Baskett career-best (9.95) on bars, an Ashley Postell season-best (9.975) on beam, a season-best all-around from Kim (39.35) and second-best all-arounds of the season from Nicolle Ford (39.525) and Postell (39.45).
But they had more questions than answers, and so did the Cougars.
"The performance wasn't acceptable, even if we had scored higher," said BYU coach Brad Cattermole.
This wasn't the BYU-Utah rivalry. It was simple survival in some cases.
"It really doesn't feel like we beat them. This is ridiculous," said Utah junior Nicolle Ford. "It's getting to the point where we should have it down by now. Something serious has to change because we can't compete like this at nationals.
"It can't be a physical thing," Ford added, "because we get it done at home."
Ford was one of Utah's bright spots, hitting all her routines and once again saving the Utes on beam on the road with a solid routine to stop the bleeding of the two falls.
But she's getting a little weary of that happening. "I'm turning into Greg," she said.
Coach Greg Marsden stays far away from beam, which is coached by his wife Megan, because he doesn't want his athletes to get worried by looking at him. He wants to stay out of their heads.
Friday night, Ford and Postell tried to put themselves in different places and concentrate on their own coming routines instead of watching the falls. Ford went up the tunnel to concentrate and went through her routine in her head four times while she was waiting.
"That's pretty much what I did," Postell said. "It's kind of nerve-wracking, a little bit," she said.
Postell finally had a meet without a floor fall, though she did step out of bounds for a .1 deduction. Her routine has so much difficulty, and she's had so little training time because of a preseason injury that floor has been difficult for her. Friday she had the added burden of thinking about last year, when her 52-event streak without a fall came to an end on floor at BYU. "Putting bad thoughts in your head," she said.
Last week Postell fell at home when her hand slipped off her leg in a tuck position and she couldn't regrab. The same happened to Gritt Hofmann Friday as she went back to her "River Dance" routine because her 2006 routine didn't seem to score well.
"We definitely had better figure out something," the fifth-year senior said about the team's inconsistencies. "We have to stay focused, stay positive."
"It's not physical," said Marsden. "They've got to decide if they're going to get together as a group and step up and do what needs to be done. We're a totally different team away from the Huntsman Center."
But he also said he's got to come up with something. "I've got to accept the responsibility for not preparing them" to compete in an arena where 12,000 people aren't helping to provide the energy.
"I love this team. They are fighters," he said, thinking of how they get into a hole and, with help from the other team's misses, fight back to finish on top. But, "We're not going to compete with the best teams in the country like this," he added.
BYU, young and injured, has better reasons for inconsistencies, but they don't like it. One meet it's bars, another it's vault. "It's not like we can't do it," said Cattermole. "We aren't doing it. We're too good to be making these mental mistakes."
The Cougars had four career-bests and a season-best on vault for a team season-high 49.00 and career-best from Kylee Draper and Alethea Boone on beam for a season-high 49.075.
NOTES: Ute senior Natalie Nicoloff tore a ligament in her right elbow during Thursday's training, similar to what Postell did in the preseason. For Nicoloff, though, it's likely a career-ending injury since the year is nearly over.
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