It is a word tossed around a lot in sports. Most of the time it’s used as a motivator to avenge by retaliation, but in today’s world of college football, where rosters undergo makeovers as often as the Kardashians, does revenge really hold its weight, or is it more bark than bite?
Shouting “revenge” is one thing, but playing better football from start to finish is another — and the most effective way to turn a frown upside down. The Cougars have five retaliatory scenarios on the fall schedule.
No. 25 BYU at South Florida, Sept. 3
Despite the fact that BYU defeated South Florida in Provo last fall, this game marks the return to where Jaren Hall made his first start — and suffered his first concussion and his first defeat on Oct. 12, 2019.
Hall was sacked five times and knocked out of the game late in the fourth quarter. BYU had four plays inside the USF 20-yard line in the final minute, but failed to score in a crushing 27-23 defeat.
Is the rematch a revenge game? It seems like it could be, especially considering Hall didn’t play in last year’s battle in Provo. But my money is on no — not for Hall. He’s bigger than that.
No doubt, it’s a game he wants to win, but Hall knows he is marching into Tampa with an offensive line touted as one of the biggest and most experienced in college football. His receiving corps is tabbed as potentially the best in school history (which is saying something). His running back is a P5 transfer with power and speed. His tight ends are from the same mold as their legendary predecessors, and his kicker finished runner-up for the Lou Groza Award two years ago as the nation’s best.
Hall isn’t leading a mature march into Raymond James Stadium to avenge. He’s going into conquer because he knows BYU has much bigger battles ahead.
No. 10 Baylor at No. 25 BYU, Sept. 10
If South Florida is a revenge game, what is Baylor? Is it possible to fuel retaliatory fire for two weeks in a row? That’s a lot of angst to pack around.
The No. 10 Bears beat up BYU last season 38-24 in Waco, Texas. Baylor dominated the line of scrimmage, holding Tyler Allgeier to a season low 33 rushing yards while amassing 303 yards themselves.
The Bears went on to win the Big 12 championship and the Sugar Bowl. On the day they faced BYU, Baylor was the better team. The rematch brings the Bears to Provo.
Is it revenge that will power the Cougars’ preparation or is it the reality that if they don’t perform at a higher level at every position, Baylor will beat them again?
Much has changed from a year ago — including the Bears’ starting quarterback Gerry Bohannon. He will be back to face BYU, but not in a Baylor uniform. Bohannon transferred to South Florida and will start for the Bulls.
Revenge can’t be BYU’s motivation here. It must be the level of competition that inspires its preparation and execution, especially in a prime-time date on ESPN for the nation to see.
No. 25 BYU at No. 11 Oregon, Sept. 17
The Cougars haven’t played at Oregon since Ty Detmer’s Heisman Trophy season in 1990. No. 4 BYU rolled into Eugene still flying high over their upset of No. 1 Miami three weeks earlier.
Oregon was more than prepared to meet them. The Ducks sacked Detmer five times and intercepted him five times in a 32-16 victory.
Next month’s game is 32 years removed from that dubious day. Revenge isn’t even on the table due to the statute of limitations. Besides, BYU blew out Oregon in the 2006 Las Vegas Bowl, 38-8, to even the emotional score.
This battle will be determined by true grit in the trenches.
No. 25 BYU vs. No. 5 Notre Dame, Oct. 8 (Las Vegas)
As with the Oregon game, revenge can hardly be on the plate against No. 5 Notre Dame. The teams haven’t met since 2013 in South Bend, Indiana. Fan agitation, however, is off the charts as many believe the Irish should be staging this battle in Provo instead of Las Vegas.
For the Cougars, the shot at beating Notre Dame in prime-time on NBC at Allegiant Stadium is all that dreams are made of. The power of “opportunity” trumps any notion of revenge in this one.
No. 25 BYU at Boise State, Nov. 5
If there is an obvious game on the BYU schedule where revenge holds any real water, it might be Boise State? The Cougars fumbled away a 10-point lead, an unbeaten record and a top-10 ranking when the Broncos stunned them in Provo last year, 26-17.
Whether they were caught looking past Boise State ahead of the road trip to Baylor can only be answered by the players themselves. In reality, the loss to the Broncos is what cost BYU a legitimate shot at their first New Year’s Six Bowl.
Does that put “payback” on the table on the blue turf for Hall, Puka Nacua, Gunner Romney, Payton Wilgar and the others? It probably should, but “avenging” will require better, cool-headed football, not hotter temperatures.
Boise State might be thinking revenge, too. The last time BYU rolled onto the Smurf Turf they routed the No. 21 Broncos 51-17 in 2020 and then they took their quarterback Cade Fennegan in the transfer portal.
Emotions will be sky high for this final meeting between two of the better programs in the West. Any “revenge” motivation, by either team, will be gone by the first quarter and the better football team will take it from there.
No. 25 BYU at Stanford, Nov. 26
Despite the Cardinal owning a 2-0 record against BYU, it is doubtful there will be any revenge on the table Thanksgiving weekend in Palo Alto, California. The Cougars dropped games in 2003 and 2004 under head coach Gary Crowton while most of the current roster was learning to walk.
Instead of revenge, this is a “gratitude” game. Not only does it give BYU a chance to beat another Pac-12 team, but it also provides a P5 foe to end the Cougars 12-year run as an independent and in an area of the country where BYU fans can easily take over another opponent’s football stadium.
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Some losses are more bitter than others and carry over the emotions of anger, disrespect, envy and spite. The idea of revenge has a place in sports combat, especially when you face the same group year after year in rivalry games, but it can’t be the game plan.
BYU didn’t defeat Utah last season for the first time in 10 tries by being angrier than the Utes. They beat them by dominating the line of scrimmage, protecting the football and minimizing penalties — the same formula that had triggered the Utes success in the rivalry.
The Cougars’ 5-0 record against the Pac-12 in 2021 wasn’t a result of a boardroom, high-nosed snub from years prior over conference expansion, it was the result of playing better football and being better coached.
As the 2022 journey approaches, BYU will be both the hunter and the hunted by the various types of opponents on the schedule. But in those games where a form of revenge is in the offering, the Cougars would be wise to leave those emotions to the fans and focus on playing the best football.
In the end, the ultimate form of revenge is delivered, not in the hurling of new and more creative insults, but in the respectful handshake after the game when the numbers on the scoreboard support the effort given on the field.
Dave McCann is a contributor to the Deseret News and is the studio host of “After Further Review,” “Countdown to Kickoff,” “The PostGame Show,” and play-by-play announcer for BYUtv. He is also co-host of “Y’s Guys” at ysguys.com.