Over the years the most reliable statistic to gauge the success of the BYU football program has been the quarterback rating. Valiant BYU fans will go to great depths to analyze every possible factor to determine the program success or lack thereof. Extensive rehash of recruiting classes, coaching performances, discipline, players making NFL rosters, and team chemistry is the norm.
When the smoke clears, it is obvious that an upgrade in the QBR would do wonders for a team that underperformed in the 2017 season. Three BYU QBs got the heavy majority of the snaps last season: Tanner Mangum, Beau Hoge, and Joe Critchlow. Their QB ratings were between 106 and 111.
Injuries and lack of experience could have played into those mediocre stats, but they are far from the ratings of recent BYU great quarterbacks. In John Beck's senior season of 2006, his QBR was 169, and the team ended with an 11-2 record, nationally ranked, and trounced Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl.
In Max Hall's senior season of 2009, when his QBR was 160, the team finished with an 11-2 record, a national ranking, and a dominating performance over nationally-ranked Oregon State in the Las Vegas Bowl.
There could be unique circumstances with a QB who has a penchant for running like the extraordinarily talented Taysom Hill, that would not require a high QBR to attain success. Over the long haul, though, the passing game has to succeed to ensure future productive seasons.
It is hard to imagine what a difference there would have been in 2017 with a cumulative QBR of 160 or 169. At one point during the Utah State game last September, Beau Hoge seemed on his way but untimely injuries took their toll.
The second significant statistic is the one for the BYU men's basketball team: 3-point shooting percentage. One does not have to look past the recently completed season to see that a good year could have been parlayed into an outstanding one.
A quick look at individual stats on the BYU basketball website shows that two key players, T.J. Haws and Zac Seljaas, shot a significantly lower percentage in 3-point accuracy than in their previous year.
However, this isn't the full story. It was not necessarily the overall yearly stats that indicated the success of each game, since star swingman Elijah Bryant had an outstanding year from the 3-point line.
The answer is found quickly when assessing the Cougar losses during the year. Although five of those losses were against Gonzaga and St. Mary's, an instant stat jumps off the page. In the six non-"SaintZaga" losses, only once did the Cougars shoot better than 24 percent from 3-point territory. That is not a winning formula.
Maybe the simple answer is not to shoot as many threes. However, the more obvious answer is that the shotmakers on the team — those that have shown great shooting prowess in the past — just need to do it again.
Sometimes it simply comes down to putting the ball in the basket more frequently, whether it is good shot selection, technique or concentration. No matter what the cure is — more practice, better preparation, better looks at the basket — the proof will be in the pudding next season.
Revisiting this issue after the upcoming football and basketball seasons will be interesting. A combined QBR of 150 in 2018 could provide significantly different results, as would 40 percent 3-point shooting in 2018-19.
Nice to dream.
Ken Driggs of Mesa, Arizona, is a BYU graduate and served as Cosmo in the '60s. Contact him at [email protected].