BYU players, coaches and fans have some hard truths to deal with after the Cougars' 20-13 loss to Utah. The most painful of those truths for BYU fans to admit is that Utah has the superior football program.
There's no denying that fact. The Utes own a four-game winning streak going into the break in the rivalry, and Kyle Whittingham has a 6-3 advantage over Bronco Mendenhall. The Utes have earned bragging rights over the Cougars until BYU makes the trip to Rice-Eccles Stadium in 2016.
As much as that harsh reality stings, there's only one logical thing for BYU to do now:
As much as it may feel like it to some fans, the season didn't end Sept. 22. There are still nine more games on BYU's schedule against exciting opponents like Wisconsin and Notre Dame. The team can't dwell on losing to Utah because it has Middle Tennessee State to worry about.
It's no use wondering now what might have been if BYU had stepped up against the Utes. All the hand-wringing and second-guessing won't magically allow Taysom Hill to make a critical touchdown pass. So it's time for the Cougars to put all this behind them.
Yes, there are critical things that BYU needs to improve on that were obvious in that loss.
Hill's passing game must improve. His 35.1 percent completion rate, one touchdown and three interceptions are simply unacceptable at what used to be known as the quarterback factory.
However, Hill is still a sophomore. He wasn't 100 percent during the offseason, and he's had to learn a new offensive scheme. Anyone expecting Jim McMahon, Ty Detmer or Steve Young to trot onto the field wearing No. 4 was deceiving himself.
It's also true that Hill needs more help from his wide receivers. There were too many dropped balls from an experienced receiver core. The offensive line, too, needed to do better at protecting the quarterback and opening holes for the running game.
And while the defense did a decent job, the Utes nailed the inexperienced secondary at critical moments.
The coaching staff also has to improve its efforts. Whittingham prepared his boys better than Mendenhall did his for this game. The buck stops with the head coach.
All of these facts are undeniable, but that doesn't mean the Cougars are doomed to remain the same team that lost to Utah on Saturday.
Hill can learn to put more touch on his passes. The wide receivers can learn to make the catch. Coaches can learn to manage the game better. The secondary has gained some valuable experience, if nothing else, against Utah.
This loss can and should be a turning point for this program. BYU's players and coaches can use this as a true teaching moment. They can double down on working on their weaknesses and prepare their team for the difficult road ahead. Wallowing in the pain and humiliation of losing to their biggest rival won't put more points on the board or wins on the schedule.
Real change and improvement will.
As for the fans, let Utah glory in its victory. It was the better team, and the Utes have proved they have the better program right now. That said, focusing on the win over BYU won't help Utah win Pac-12 games. It, too, needs to move on and prepare for the brutal road ahead.
After all, while Utah's effort on Saturday was good enough to down the Cougars, it will have to step it up to beat the likes of UCLA, Oregon and Stanford. The heartbreaking loss to Oregon State in overtime clearly demonstrated that Whittingham and the Utes should be too busy preparing for the Bruins to celebrate their win over the Cougars.
Yes, Utah beat BYU and owns the rivalry until 2016. However, until rivalry week arrives in three years, the time for mourning is past and it's time to move on.
The rest of the 2013 season depends on it.
Lafe Peavler is a Deseret News sports intern and a National College Football Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow me on Twitter @MasterPeavler
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