The good feelings and optimism about Year 1 as an independent have turned to concern and consternation for BYU following a disastrous loss to Utah last week.
The Cougars (1-2) have managed 13 points in their last six quarters. They have committed nine turnovers in the last two games - a whopping seven in a 54-10 defeat to their bitter rivals. They turn their attention to UCF on Friday night -- another team that is coming in off a disappointing loss. The Knights, ranked for the first time last season, fell to FIU last week thanks in part to two costly fumbles that the Panthers turned into points.
So the luster is a bit off what should have been a high-quality matchup of two top non-AQ programs. It is hard to imagine another program needing a win as badly as the Cougars, who are in danger of seeing their season spiral out of control.
"If we don’t respond, it can set us back," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "If we are able to respond and finish with a strong season, and with how many wins, certainly increases your chances. That is something I have to acknowledge as we prepare for UCF. The more wins we can get our first year of independence the better."
BYU is going through some of the same struggles it did at the beginning of last season, when it failed to generate much on offense. Mendenhall made a change at offensive coordinator, but that has not really helped. The running game has stalled. The offensive line is playing poorly. Jake Heaps is not doing a good enough job making plays or protecting the football. BYU could very well be worse offensively than it was at this point a season ago.
Of the change to Brandon Doman as coordinator, Mendenhall said: "The results haven’t shown yet. The day-to-day function of the organization and the way the players have responded, the way they are being treated and being coached, I am very comfortable with and at some point that is going to show on game day. It is certainly taking longer than the fans would like but I am confident it is going to happen. I like the decision and the results will be forthcoming."
Meanwhile, BYU cornerback Corby Eason lit up the UCF message board earlier this week when he said this about the Knights and their quarterback, Jeff Godfrey: "They have a great quarterback, like, it's the staple of their offense. If we stop the quarterback, like, they have no offense. He's a great player. He can run the ball and he can pass the ball. We just have to stop him. Once we stop him, I don't believe nobody else can beat us."
UCF actually has a solid running game and depth at the position. But Godfrey had a costly fumble that was returned for a touchdown in the FIU game. The Knights' defense has played well, too, and ranks No. 3 in the nation in scoring defense. That should make it an even more daunting challenge for the BYU offense to get back on track.