Three games into BYU's football season, the outlook is disheartening. The Cougars are 1-2, with a tough schedule ahead. Forget about an amazing comeback, a WAC title and a Holiday Bowl berth - these guys will do well to get a berth in any bowl.
Their remaining schedule shapes up this way: Probable losses - Notre Dame, Penn State; Probable wins - Utah State, Fresno State, Wyoming, New Mexico; Up for grabs - Hawaii, Air Force, Utah.What has always made the Cougars tough is that they rarely lose the games considered "up for grabs," and they have usually won the close ones. This season they have already lost two. Their only win was a 10-pointer over UTEP, which has since lost to perennial Big West also-rans UNLV and New Mexico State.
Hawaii, which looked before the season like a definite BYU win, is 2-0 after coming to the mainland and beating Oregon and Air Force. The Rainbow Warriors had a bye Saturday, which means two weeks to prepare for BYU - a team they have had no problem getting motivated to play in recent years. And this year, the 'Bows have the extra incentive of having a chance to play in their hometown Aloha Bowl if they finish high enough in the WAC.
Last year, BYU started the season 0-3 but no one was worried. There were a lot of inexperienced players on that team, but everyone knew that once they started pulling their share of the load, Ty Detmer would be there to haul them over the top.
This year is a different story. The experience on this team is adequate, but it seems to lack leadership, or motivation, or something.Could it be that three years of watching Detmer conjure victories from mid-air has made this team soft? Are they waiting for someone to give them a jump-start? Wide receiver Eric Drage said after Saturday's game that practices have been too "lackadaisical."
"Some of it is youth and inexperience," Drage said. "Some of it is we just need to pull our heads out and come to play."
Quarterback Steve Clements echoed that line of thinking. When the subject of a wake-up call was brought up, he said, "We sure as heck need one."
Let's play amateur psychiatrist for a moment. Here we have patient John Walsh, being told before Saturday's BYU-UCLA game that he will be replaced in the second quarter by backup quarterback Clements.
So maybe Walsh goes out there a little tight, feeling like he has to be perfect or Clements might come in and outshine him. The result? Walsh completes 2 of 9.
Now on the couch is patient Clements, who maybe enters the game feeling tight because this is HIS BIG CHANCE, and promptly completes 1 of 6.
So Walsh, standing on the sidelines, sees Clements floundering and relaxes, completing 10 of 19 in the second half before separating his shoulder.
This conjecture is all moot now, because Walsh is out, probably for the season, and Clements can relax and show what he can do. But if Clements is just good the rest of this season, rather than spectacular, what happens when Walsh comes back?