OK, BYU lost a football game. So what does that mean?
Not much. Sure, the Cougars probably lost a shot at a national title, but that was a distant prospect anyway. It's tough to go 11-0 or 12-0 and then win a bowl game against a foe determined to knock you off that lofty perch.This loss doesn't knock BYU out of the WAC title (and Holiday Bowl) picture, and it only dropped them to No. 10 on the UPI poll and No. 11 in the AP, which means they will probably be in the top five come bowl season if they win the rest of their games.
When it came right down to it, this game didn't mean as much to the Cougars as it did to the Ducks. Oregon craved national recognition; they felt they had a good program that had gotten little respect. Like BYU against Miami, Oregon was a team on a crusade. BYU, meanwhile, came into the game after three weeks of being the nation's media darling; they had more national recognition than they could handle.
The fact is, the Cougs could end up a better team for figuring out what the Ducks did to beat them. Chances are they will have to, since the Oregon game film will become a primer for future teams preparing for the Cougars.
If Oregon proved one thing, it's that good preparation is the key to beating BYU. That may sound simplistic, but Oregon Coach Rich Brooks realized after last year's loss to the Cougs that you can't just step into the ring with them and trade punches, Rocky Balboa-style, until somebody drops. Because BYU has enough weapons that it's usually their opponent that drops first.
At the end of last season, Brooks told defensive coordinator Denny Schuler to spend the summer developing game plans to beat Arizona, Washington and BYU. Schuler obviously did his job. How else to explain why the Duck defense, after looking barely adequate in their first two games (against non-powerhouses Idaho and San Diego State), suddenly turns in spectacular performances in a narrow loss to Arizona and in the BYU game.
One thing that was particularly effective against the Cougars was the Duck effort to stop Detmer from rolling out. Oregon used its outside linebackers to pressure Detmer when he tried to get outside, on the theory that it was better to keep him in the pocket, where he had to throw passes over the heads of those tall offensive linemen.
Another tactic that worked was a switching man-to-man defense on BYU's receivers. It started with a bump of the receivers at the line, an effort to slow them up and give the defensive line more time to pressure Detmer.
Another thing BYU may learn from this is that it may be wise to, well, be more discreet in comments to the media. A quote by Smith, something to the effect that BYU would score more points against Oregon than the 62 it scored against San Diego State, ended up being posted on the locker of every Oregon defensive player.
And if nothing else, this loss may convince a few people that Ty Detmer is, after all, human. He's been getting more attention lately than a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, and that has to take its toll on a 22-year-old. Sure, it was nice for a while for BYU fans to believe that he was some kind of sorcerer-quarterback, with magic in his throwing hand and spells to mystify any defense. But Detmer's career-high five interceptions showed that even he can have a bad day.
This is not to say Detmer isn't a great quarterback and a genuine Heisman-Trophy candidate. He is both, so let's not have a flood of letters to the editor in his defense. This game merely underscores the cliched fact that Detmer can't do it alone. Especially on a day when his offensive line isn't that efficient.
The Cougars may also learn from this that they can't wait for second-half heroics to pull out a game against a talented, motivated, properly prepared team. Especially on the road. You spot any decent team 12 points in its stadium, and get the crowd in a frenzy, and you're in trouble.