This article was first published as the Cougar Insiders newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Tuesday night.
It wasn’t just the BYU football team that went undefeated in November. So did women’s soccer and volleyball and the men’s and women’s basketball teams. The soccer team is in the NCAA Final Four playing Santa Clara this week, and who knows when Mark Pope and his Cougars will lose another game after climbing to No. 12 in the national rankings, the highest poll jump in history by a BYU team this early in the season.
The women’s volleyball and basketball teams went 7-0, the men’s basketball team went 6-0 as did women’s soccer, and football was 3-0. That’s a combined 29-0 for November for those teams/players/coaches.
Kalani Sitake, after inspiring his No. 12-ranked Cougars to a late-game rally to beat USC in the Coliseum, should now be a candidate for national coach of the year honors along with Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and others.
This just might be the golden years of BYU sports, a true renaissance of the athletic department.
Cougar Insider predictions
Here is the question of the week: BYU’s major sports programs were undefeated in November, a remarkable if not unheard of feat by an athletic department. Combining that with individual men and women’s titles in cross-country, can you put your finger on what this means and why?
Jay Drew: BYU’s athletic department achievements in November should be applauded and recognized at every turn. In my 30-plus years of sportswriting, I have never seen one institution have a month like BYU just had.
What does it mean? I think Kalani Sitake has been saying it best: it is a reflection of the big-time fan base that BYU has. BYU fans show up everywhere. It never ceases to amaze me.
I was at the BYU vs. Georgia Southern football game in Statesboro, Georgia, and even in the middle of nowhere about 10,000 BYU fans showed up. In the past two road football games (GS and USC), I have talked to ushers who have told me it was the biggest away crowd they’ve seen (except for the USC-UCLA game, for obvious reasons).
So kudos to Tom Holmoe and all the BYU coaches, athletes and coaches who made it no-loss November for the Cougars — they did the on-field work — but also a shoutout to BYU fans who are furthering their reputation as one of the most loyal in the country.
Dick Harmon: Athletic teams win primarily for one reason: talent through recruiting. Second, they are coached well and improve. Third, through chemistry and energy and leadership. Fourth, by getting lucky at the right time.
The thing is, BYU’s football team has had lower recruiting rankings the past 10 years than all seven P5 teams and Boise State they faced this season, yet that team stands 10-2 and 5-0 versus the Pac-12. I’d say BYU athletes are overachieving, being led well, and have found some magic in the bottle with chemistry. They really do play for one another. Another thing is AD Tom Holmoe has been there 17 years and has been allowed to instill his philosophy of family.
I’ll give credit to some nifty NIL deals that have solidified athletes, and there is a growing excitement for BYU sports by fans who crash the gates at away games. That provides great energy, pride and support, but it doesn’t make blocks, tackles and catches — that comes from players doing the right things more consistently than their opponents. In 45 years covering college sports, I’ve never seen a November like the one BYU experienced. It is unique, different and, quite frankly, amazing.
BYU used a series of defensive and offensive plays late in the game to come from behind and beat USC 35-31 in Los Angeles last week. Mark Pope’s team dominated Utah on the Utes’ home court to win over the weekend.
Here are some of our stories from those victories:
- BYU spoils Hollywood ending for USC on senior night (Jay Drew)
- BYU finishes with 5-0 record against Pac 12 (Dick Harmon)
- Three takeaways from BYU’s win over USC (Brandon Judd)
- Caleb Lohner physicality adds to BYU win (Jeff Call)
- Soccer earns first-ever Final Four berth (Tom Ripplinger)
- Women hoops beats second ranked foe (Ryan McDonald)
From the archives
Here are our for the @NCAATrackField DI Cross Country season! #NCAAXC— USTFCCCA (@USTFCCCA) November 29, 2021
M - Conner Mantz, @BYUTFXC
W - Whittni Orton, @BYUTFXC
First teammates to sweep NCAA since @IndianaXCTF in 1988!
This is the first time and BYU Basketball history that they've been in the AP Top 15 before January. 12 is also the highest ranking in the Mark Pope era. BYU hoops is getting some serious respect. https://t.co/lt9dTEYtj6— Robby McCombs (@rtmccombs) November 29, 2021
Jaren Hall among Top 10 takeaways for season (KSLsports.com)
Social media reacts to BYU’s win over USC (KSLsports.com)
BYU men, women basketball ranked in Top 25 (Deseret News)
Allgeier pushes BYU to 10-2 in a new way (KSL.com)
Comments from Deseret News readers
“I think Hall is seriously underrated. He’s not as flashy as some of BYU’s more famous quarterbacks, but he makes really good decisions. As indicated in the article, throwing two interceptions on Saturday night was absolutely out of character for him. I much prefer his more conservative run plays and short passes to Wilson’s interceptions that lost us multiple games in 2019.”
“Hall is a great leader and for the most part, makes great decisions. But a huge part of his success are his receivers. As a group, I think the best we’ve seen in decades. Although he deserves to be the starting QB, I just don’t think he has an NFL arm like Wilson did, especially on the long ball. One more year development at BYU and he could possibly become NFL material.”
“Something to think about ...
“The 2020 BYU football team was even better than this one (with a senior Quarterback who was going to be drafted #2 overall at the end of the 2020 season) and lots of experience on the team.
“Too bad COVID came along and ruined their schedule that year. Who knows that THAT team could have accomplished, if they could have played the schedule they had at the beginning of the season (but most of the good teams on their schedule canceled their games with nonconference teams).
“This is actually a REBUILDING year for BYU (new QB, new O-line, new receivers, new secondary). If they can be this good in a rebuilding year (undefeated every time they played PAC-12 opponents) ...”
— 2 bits
Dec. 1 | 7 p.m. | Men’s basketball | vs. Utah Valley | @Orem
Dec. 3 | 6 p.m. | Women’s volleyball | vs. Boise State | @Provo
Dec. 3 | 7:30 p.m. | Women’s soccer NCAA Final Four | vs. Santa Clara | @Santa Clara, California
Dec. 4 | 2 p.m. | Men’s basketball | vs. Missouri State | @Springfield, Missouri
Dec. 4 | 5 p.m. | Women’s basketball | vs. Utah | @Provo
Dec. 8 | 7 p.m. | Men’s basketball | vs. Utah State | @Provo