Dick Harmon: Unforced errors killing BYU's offense

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  • SyracuseCoug Syracuse, ut
    Oct. 19, 2012 9:07 a.m.

    Well, I love my Cougs, but the automatic 3+ turnovers will spell their doom in this game unfortunately. Good luck guys, you're going to need it.

    Oct. 18, 2012 6:02 p.m.

    I can hardly wait for the marriage of Riley Nelson and Bronco Mendenhall to be over! After last Saturday, I finally came to accept that the only thing consistent about Riley Nelson is inconsistency. Anyone who threw 15 interceptions and made 11 fumbles in the 5 games he's played in would be riding the pine, Done! Not Riley. Either we don't have any really good quarterbacks or the coaching staff is not capable of coaching anyone to a higher level. Given what we have seen the last 2 years, it is probably both. I hope that some kind of change is coming!!

  • wahului Stockton, CA
    Oct. 16, 2012 11:28 p.m.

    AmenAmenAmenAmenAmen. Couldn't have said it better myself. In fact, I didn't! Riley is in the second half of his senior year. He keeps "learning his lesson" and then giving us more of the same. I like the guy, but I've had it with him. Bronco has apparently abandoned his stated policy of "playing the best players". This does not bode well for future teams or recruiting.

  • Troy06 OREM, UT
    Oct. 16, 2012 11:12 p.m.


    These are not cheap criticisms. The facts speak for themselves.

  • Troy06 OREM, UT
    Oct. 16, 2012 11:10 p.m.


    Andy Reid
    Ben Cahoon

    Happy now? Heck I'd take Brian Johnson at this point.

  • wYo8 Rock Springs, WY
    Oct. 16, 2012 8:59 p.m.

    only a few more games left this season. Then we will have a new QB who may or may not be prone to have the turnovers that our current qb seems to have. maybe no more man crushes on grit.

  • SoCalChris Riverside, CA
    Oct. 16, 2012 1:54 p.m.

    Yes turnovers and a couple of poor decisions made a difference, but so did dropped passes and so did mistakes on defense. I've been following BYU football since the mid 70s. We've always had a tough time with top 10 teams and I thought we held our own pretty well, at least until the disheartening pass interference call near the end.

  • charlie24 Sandy, UT
    Oct. 16, 2012 1:12 p.m.

    If Riley did not take chances, BYU may not pass 100 yards passing per game. Riley, most often, wings the ball all over the field. When it works out, fans give him a pass. When it doesn't they complain. Still, most of the passes are chance throws with a high degree of danger, and do not look pretty.

    Oct. 16, 2012 12:36 p.m.

    Riley has now started 15 games as a BYU Cougar through three seasons (2010-2012). Against teams that have a winning record (7 of those starts) he has completed less than 50% of his passes (49.7%) for a mere 142 ypg. On top of that, he has 7 TDs (1 per) and 15 turnovers. BYU's record in those 7 games? 2-5.

    So, when your QB has a 1:2.1 TD to turnover ratio and a .286 winning percentage against decent opposition and your toughest opponent is next up, it makes sense to possibly try a different QB or, at least, put your current one on a short leash, right?

    From Bronco Mendenhall, "I really don’t [envision a scenario where Nelson would be pulled]." Not a good sign.

  • Blue Chelan 56 Chelan, WA
    Oct. 16, 2012 10:32 a.m.

    No word from Dick H. on Bronco's defense game prep that made an instant "Heisman" Candidate out of a QB who had no game snaps in three years . His conservative soft lay back strategy gave the QB 4-5-6 SECS. to find open receivers all afternoon.

  • Runner Chandler, AZ
    Oct. 16, 2012 9:57 a.m.

    Would just like to comment on how much I appreciate seeing BYU continue to run the option. I especially like to see it run to the short side of the field where we can pick up 1-2 yards anytime, except for when sometimes our gritty, tough, indestructible QB drops the ball just so he can show how tough he is. I hope BYU runs the option every time, every play against Notre Dame, I'm sure they've never seen it. It's not like the option has been around for the past 100 years and just because most teams don't even think about running the stupid play, doesn't mean BYU has to give up on it. It's awesome. It worked for Doman and Staley and therefore I'm sure it will work against today's modern day defenses. Stick with it Doman, don't let anybody tell you that you need another play.
    Now, back to my baked beans and my Skyline high school highlights...

  • wer South Jordan, UT
    Oct. 16, 2012 8:56 a.m.

    Great article.

    BYU's offensive woes don't end with Riley, however. Much of the blame has to be on the offensive line. Watch the replays and compare the amount of time and space Riley had to throw the ball with the OSU QB. Vaz won a Pac 12 award for his game, and while Riley may not have won any awards the chances of victory would have been better had the O line done it's job.

    For those of you who continually call for Bronco or Doman's heads. Forgetaboutit! If you want to vent your spleen about the team's difficulties, suggest three people who could take their places instead of the cheap criticisms.

  • J-TX Allen, TX
    Oct. 16, 2012 8:44 a.m.

    My neighbor in Frisco is right - All is not lost. (Snig)

    Go Ducks! Go Beavers!

  • J-TX Allen, TX
    Oct. 16, 2012 8:42 a.m.

    Parkite1: "could be 7-0...noise at Rice-Eccles...not Nelson's fault that the receiver had the ball pop out for the final killing TD."

    Woulda, shoulda, coulda, if....

    That horrible pass was thrown at the ground. The receiver was lucky to get a hand on it, and unlucky that it bounced into OSU's waiting hands. But that pass was all Nelson. And how about Nelson's inability to deliver the swing pass? And what about Nelson's inability to throw the ball away instead of trying to force a bad throw into coverage? That's all Nelson. What about his insisting on running up the middle instead of making the hand-off or pitch off the read? All Nelson.

    And blaming the NOISE at R-E for causing BYU to lose? Please.

    But you are right about one thing. The responsibility for this shoddy season lies squarely at the feet of the coaches.

  • CougFaninTX Frisco, TX
    Oct. 16, 2012 8:29 a.m.

    @montanacutter - "BYU is now in limp mode for the rest of the year. They will be lucky to make a bowl game now."

    Come on! Do you really think BYU could lose to Idaho or NMSU? Sure, Notre Dame will be tough, and San Jose and Georgia Tech are not gimmes. But our scout team could beat Idaho and NMSU, and it only takes two wins to be San Diego bound.

    If Nelson tries to run the ball like he did against Oregon State, he will not survive the ND defense. He'll be injured again, and for those who are looking to see Lark or Munns - you will get your wish.

  • J-TX Allen, TX
    Oct. 16, 2012 7:58 a.m.

    Sorry to kick a (fanbase) when they are down, but BYU (nor Utah for that matter) just does not have the personnel to compete on an elite level this year. And in "personnel", I include the coaches.

    If y'all couldn't hang with OSU, theyn't no way you can hang with ND. 52-10.

    Goodnight Irene.

  • Parkite1 Park City, UT
    Oct. 16, 2012 7:28 a.m.

    Nope don't buy it, even with the mistakes BYU could be 7-0. Utes victory had Bronco prepared the team for the noise at Rice-Eccles. Boise State victory had Bronco not gone for two. Last week had Bronco or Doman called a timeout to avoid the inexcusable injury to Hill the result probaly would have been different. Not Nelson's fault that the defense tipped the ball up instead of batting it down resulting in one TD, not Nelson's fault that the receiver had the ball pop out for the final killing TD. Not Neslon fault that Jordan Johnson #6 can't cover properly. It is Nelson fault that he is so determined to not be a team player and say coach I'm hurt, that also may have led to wins against both Utah and Boise. In summary the main mistake is Bronco he needs to be relegated to defensive coach how bout it Holmoe start the search for a new head coach ASAP!

  • eastcoastcoug Danbury, CT
    Oct. 16, 2012 6:52 a.m.

    Ty is coaching HS football. He would LOVE a chance to coach our QB's. Groom him for OC. DO IT!!!!

  • dhull Orem, UT
    Oct. 16, 2012 3:47 a.m.

    BYU's problems this year are the same they have had for a couple of decades. In short, their problem is mental - they possess an inability to focus for extended periods of the game. It's not just the players either. Coaches also have this problem. This is evidenced by the multiple penalties, turnovers, wasted timeouts, late getting plays in, etc., that we've seen game after game.

    Some of the best teams BYU has had were ones that had focus, and this focus came from the players. For some reason, the coaches struggle to teach their guys to focus for 60 minutes. Or they don't know how to teach it. Examples of teams with focus: the 84 championship team, the 1996 Cotton Bowl team, and to a lesser extent, the 2006 team.

    I wish I knew the answer to fix the problem. Meanwhile, I keep supporting them and keep hoping for another team that can self-correct. Next year's schedule looks great. It could be a fun year, if they can focus...

  • BlueHusky Mission Viejo, CA
    Oct. 16, 2012 3:28 a.m.

    Nelson made some great plays last week. High risk or not, they were great plays. He moved the offense pretty well. But he's the little girl with a curl, when he's bad he's horrid. We might not have beaten OSU with anybody. And some defensive stops would have helped. But Nelson's high risk offense and consistent 3-4 turnovers would get him benched on any team that has an alternative.

    But can't we just give Lark a try? Let Nelson come in as a wildcat.

  • I Bleed Blue Las Vegas, NV
    Oct. 15, 2012 11:31 p.m.

    Riley is another Tim Tebow only he doesn't have the talent around him like Tebow had at Florida. He just cannot throw a decent ball to safe his life. A lot of heart but not the QB we need. I hope we give Lark a chance. I just want to see a decent pass for once this year.

  • Troy06 OREM, UT
    Oct. 15, 2012 10:53 p.m.

    In the OSU pre-game interview Bronco said he would replace Riley with Lark if Riley didn't perform well. Was that lip service?

    I'd like Bronco to keep his word and play Lark after Riley's third turnover against ND.

    Normally I hate Dick's columns, but not this time. I appreciate Dick devoting a lengthy write up to bluntly ID Riley's weaknesses and call out the coaches on it.

    I've posted this now three times - Doman will be put to pasture in the back office after the season concludes. Bronco has no choice. If we perform like this next year Bronco will be out also.

  • Riverton Cougar Riverton, UT
    Oct. 15, 2012 10:50 p.m.

    If Nelson starts and plays against ND, then we lose. Simple as that. IF (a BIG if) we beat ND with Riley, then I might respect him again. I'd rather not take the risk.

    It's obvious that Doman does not like Lark. Too bad, because he could be good. Better than Riley, the way things are going. If Doman doesn't give Lark a chance, then shame on him and BYU should seek a new OC.

  • Frozen Chosen Savage, MN
    Oct. 15, 2012 9:07 p.m.

    When a team consistently makes unforced errors it is the fault of the coaching staff. Either you are not coaching your players properly or you have the wrong personnel in the game, simple as that.

  • toosmartforyou Farmington, UT
    Oct. 15, 2012 7:18 p.m.

    It's pretty obvious Lark isn't going to play this year. Could we have used him against, say, Utah, Boise State or Oregon State? I appreciate that Nelson is gutsy, but what I don't appreciate is that when he was playing at 65% he wouldn't insist the coaches replace him with a healthy QB. That doesn't speak too well about the welfare of the team as much as one person wanting to play no matter what. And the coaches have bought into it, so now they are 4 - 3 with fans calling for their heads. Sorry, but they have no one but themselves to blame (or credit) for BYU football being where it is this season. I do feel badly for Lark (never playing) and for Hill, thanks to that wonderful finish to the USU game where a tackler led with his helmet right into Hill's knee (and no flag for spearing). Good luck at ND......we'll need it.

  • fan32 St. George, Utah
    Oct. 15, 2012 6:59 p.m.

    Nelson is a div 2 quarterback not div 1. Our problem is Bronco and Doman are also div 2 coaches. Holmoe must be a div 2 AD as well. Aren't we all sick of the mediocrity and no accountability?

  • Uteology East Salt Lake City, Utah
    Oct. 15, 2012 6:47 p.m.

    "The difference between the Cougars being 7-0, 6-1 or 5-2 instead of 4-3 is a simple statistical category. It’s called turnovers." -- DH

    No it's not, the difference between Cougars being 7-0 and 4-3 is the opponents. Considering BYU is now 5-13 in three seasons against good teams, the 5 wins:

    SDSU 24-21 (9-4 2010) +1
    n. Tulsa 24-21 (8-5 2011) +0
    Utah State 27-24 (5-2 2012) +1
    Washington 23-17 (7-6 2011) +0
    Utah State 6-3 (5-6 2012) +1

    So that's 4 wins at home and one at a neutral site by an average margin of 3.6 points with BYU winning the turnover margin (+3).

  • Madden Herriman, UT
    Oct. 15, 2012 5:22 p.m.

    It is interesting that Bronco has always said most football games are not won or lost due to a talent disparity, but by 4-5 plays throughout the game. He's completely right, but that just makes it all the more baffling that BYU tends to lose on 80% of those critical plays. Throw the ball away. Don't toss the option pitch late. Don't try to out-jump a defender for a tipped pass, just knock him down. Switch your defensive scheme to double-cover a top WR threat on a big third-and-long. Make a sound block on your guy in a critical FG or 2-pt conversion attempt. Why BYU players today seem to consistently fail in the big moments?

  • So. Cal Reader San Diego, CA
    Oct. 15, 2012 5:15 p.m.

    @ atlcoug: "To this point, from what I have read of their statements, the coaches seem to have accepted his poor choices as just part of the package you get with Nelson." I completely agree! Looks like an OC is feeling a little pressure. And what message does the head coach send out when he says, after his freshman QB just got a win, "I'm a big Riley fan." Maybe Coach Bronco needs to move Riley over to the defensive side since he seems to like his mental toughness so much. Memo to BYU Coaches: Riley will not change. Atlcoug is correct-- more than a year late in trying to change him. And "change" him for what? If we win-out or simply reach the 6-win minimum, we're headed to San Diego for the Poinsettia Bowl. Come on, Cougs fans, don't let these articles provide a false-sense of unrealistic expectations.

  • Pipes Salt Lake City, UT
    Oct. 15, 2012 5:14 p.m.

    Dick hit the nail on the head as did most of the previous commenters. Unfortunately, Mendenhall is either to obstinate or obtuse to see reason and remove Nelson. Nelson's legacy is now cast in stone and he will be remembered for his many mistakes that cost his team an entire season.

  • So. Cal Reader San Diego, CA
    Oct. 15, 2012 5:05 p.m.

    OK, Mr. Harmon. So my response is "what's the point"? Riley Nelson's been like his for the 2nd season. He's not going to change. Way to go after the low lying fruit. How a similarly critical article about Coach Bronco's overall coaching or Doman's OC play-calling? To think our Cougs had a chance to beat a Tope 10 team is simply not reasonable. I actually thought the team played very well. We've beat 2 Top 10 teams in almost 20 years. Riley performed a typical Riley game, including a 300+ yard passing game.

  • ImaCaMan Oceanside, CA
    Oct. 15, 2012 5:04 p.m.

    He hasn't learned how to slide, why should you expect him to throw the ball away?

  • Ted H. Midvale, UT
    Oct. 15, 2012 4:52 p.m.


    Still upset about the UCLA game? ASU game? USC game? Utah State game? It's ok bud. Both our teams are pretty mediocre this season. And you did beat the team you care most about - byu.
    Unfortuntunately OSU handled byu this last week. I hope they handle your utes this Saturday too. I'm sure they will.

  • montanacutter Kalispell, MT
    Oct. 15, 2012 4:44 p.m.

    Nelson is a nice guy but nice guys finish last. Bronco has this obsession with Nelson for being recless and not thinking before he throws. BYU is now in limp mode for the rest of the year. They will be lucky to make a bowl game now. Everyone remembers the first game this year for BYU. Big expectations and seeing Nelson as a true BYU quarterback. The truth is now out he is not a real BYU quarterback and is hurting the team by his recless play- go figure. Bronco needs to give a shot to the other quarterbacks. They can't be any more recless than Nelson. The seat is getting warm for Dolman now and with BYU not showing well against ranked teams under Bronco his seat is warming as well. Maybe scheduling more WAC teams (if the WAC stays afloat) will make Bronco look better as a coach.

    ND will take BYU to the wood shed with Nelson at QB, mark my words. ND 54 BYU 21

    Oct. 15, 2012 4:41 p.m.

    With Hill being out for the season and Lark being a senior (even though I'd love to see what he could do the remainder of the season), we should get someone else in, like Munns, to get them the experience for next year. I certainly don't think they could do any worse than Nelson right now, with the mistakes he is making. Kiss this year good-bye already and get someone else the experience for coming years. Hopefully we'll be that much further ahead for our killer-of-a-schedule next year.

  • Broom Hockey Champ Scottsdale, AZ
    Oct. 15, 2012 4:29 p.m.

    I, unlike some of the other fans on here, do not care whether Doman likes to shave his head, eat bowlful after bowlful of baked beans, snuggle with a football he bought in HS, or wear sweat pants when he goes on dates with his wife. What I care about is that he is our OC. He is young and learning his trade on the job. Cut him some slack. Bronco chose him because he saw something in him that the average fan might not see.

    This offense is on the brink of something special and only a few plays away from being undefeated and headed to a BCS game.

  • Whoa Nellie American Fork, UT
    Oct. 15, 2012 4:13 p.m.

    If half-way through his senior season, Nelson has "learned his lesson" then he is a slow learner. However, the OSU game was not lost by the offense as much as it was by a player named Bills. When is he going to ever learn his lesson about looking for the ball and not just running out of control into receivers? Game killer penalty when BYU was only down by four.

    Nelson's play is enabled by two coaches whose initials begin with Bronco and Brandon. Therein lies the problem.

  • Bear Somewhere, UT
    Oct. 15, 2012 4:02 p.m.

    Riley is a senior and should be past the freshman mistakes. He has watched to much sportscenter and wants to make the highlight real with every play. The problem is that with Hill done for the year and Doman not willing to adjust the offense for a dropback passer like Lark or Munns we are stuck with Riley's turnovers and more losses.

  • dalefarr South Jordan, Utah
    Oct. 15, 2012 3:43 p.m.

    Riley is Riley and he is not going to change. It's as difficult to criticize him as it is to criticize a lame man for limping. What is difficult to abide is the BYU's coaching staff's investment in him. It should have been apparent from day one that Riley does not have the skills to be a BYU quarterback. Every fan knows it, every opponent knows it. The BYU coaches must know it. So why do we keep playing him and loosing? Three years of BYU football have not been what they should have been because Bronco keeps playing Riley.

  • atlcoug Atlanta, GA
    Oct. 15, 2012 3:25 p.m.

    Nelson says he has learned his lesson, but I don't believe it. There is no reason to believe he will do anything differently. When asked about Nelson in a TV interview, Detmer said that players who try to make something happen on every play are sometimes loved by their coaches, and sometimes hated. He said sometimes gaining zero yards on a play is the best result. Nelson can't get that through his head, for some reason. I saw Doman talking sternly to Nelson on the sideline. I have never seen him do that before. If it it just happening now, it is about a year too late. To this point, from what I have read of their statements, the coaches seem to have accepted his poor choices as just part of the package you get with Nelson. It shouldn't be acceptable.