There are several reasons why we fret over first dates. They come with a high risk of disappointment, immediate judgement and, depending on the activity, a high cost. So, why do we do it? Because there is always a chance that it might work out and we long for companionship.

BYU’s outing with Cougar Nation on Saturday went like most first dates. There was excitement at the beginning — even a few fireworks, but as the night wore on, things sputtered, and after nine punts (19 combined), it even got a little awkward. At the end of it, instead of a hoped-for hug or kiss, there was a handshake with a cautious pledge to “do it again sometime.”

Cougars on the air

Southern Utah (0-1)
at BYU (1-0)
Saturday, 1 p.m. MDT
Provo, Utah
TV: Big 12 Now on ESPN+
Radio: 102.7 FM/1160 AM

But that’s not where the madness ends.

The aftermath of a first date can be just as exhausting with the over-analyzation that follows by a group of like-minded thinkers. The conversation ranges from, “It was a mistake to go out in the first place” to a big-picture perspective of, “Well, first dates are always hard, but it wasn’t all bad. There were some good qualities.”

For example, BYU’s new-look defense pitched its first shutout in nine years. Following a season where they couldn’t get off the field on third down, the Cougars held Sam Houston to just 2 of 14 in those situations. Running back LJ Martin entered the game in the third quarter and set a school freshman debut record with 91 yards. And as defensive back Eddie Heckard reiterated Monday, “What matters most is we won the game.”

Are there concerns? Yes. Cougar Nation expected to see an offense on the attack with touchdowns coming from all over the place — just as it saw Oklahoma and Texas do earlier in the day. The hype for quarterback Kedon Slovis, running back Aidan Robbins and healthy tight end Isaac Rex created visions of instant grandeur. Fans also wanted to see a dominating offensive line, fewer penalties and more first downs while feeling far less anxiety.

But there are two sides to a first date.

The frustration from the stands made its way to the sideline. The Cougars could feel it. Football isn’t easy. Sometimes the opponent fights back. Sam Houston was on a first date too — making its debut at the FBS level with a chance to pull off an upset on national television. This was a big moment for the Bearkats.

In addition, BYU was breaking in a roster that included 60 new players from a year ago, including a quarterback who is experienced in the position, but had never suited up for the team. Head coach Kalani Sitake won’t shout out excuses, but reality whispers differently. Sometime a rose requires a little more time to bloom.

What BYU and its fans wanted Saturday was something other than what they got — a typical first date. It could have been worse. It can always be worse. Just ask Baylor, Texas Tech, TCU, LSU and half of college football how their weekends turned out.

The good news for both BYU and Cougar Nation is there is going to be a second date on Saturday when Southern Utah comes to Provo (1 p.m. MDT, ESPN+).

A second date is void of the mystery that haunts the first. It is where both sides can get to know each other. It also gives the two parties a great chance to make up for any mistakes made during the first date.

“We are excited about Week 2. There were some performances we wished we could have back. There were definitely some learning moments for our team,” Sitake said. “We would like to see more PATs rather than punts. In Week 1, there are a lot of unknowns. We know a little bit more now and there are things we can focus on to help us that are very fixable.”

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The Pac-12 had a perfect Week 1. The Big 12 took some lumps
‘Too many long faces’: Why BYU’s 14-0 win over Sam Houston in inaugural football game as a Big 12 member was less than satisfying

The Cougars will spend all week getting ready to be on their best behavior and Cougar Nation will dress up in its best navy to meet them for a Saturday matinee. Both sides are far from perfect, but they share the hope that this will be a match made in heaven.

I met my wife on a blind date. It was a late-night run to In-N-Out. Somewhere along the way, she told me of her seven kids from a previous marriage. Full disclosure — I didn’t see that coming. My initial reaction was like watching Ryan Rehkow’s fake punt on BYU’s own 25-yard line in the third quarter. I didn’t see that coming either.

Fortunately for the Cougars, Jakob Robinson’s spectacular interception in the end zone kept the mistake from producing any points. Fortunately for Dianne and me, I didn’t wreck the car. Despite the “shock and awe” from our first date, a second one followed and we took it from there, eventually merging her seven with my five to create our own Big 12.

Set aside the uneasiness behind BYU’s 14-0 win against Sam Houston. It’s done. What matters now is Saturday’s second date, with a chance to do better and take things from there, eventually facing Kansas on Sept. 23 to begin life in its own Big 12.

Why do we fret over first dates? Because there is always a chance that it might work out, and we long for companionship — with a successful BYU football season running a close second.

BYU players celebrate after their 14-0 win over the Sam Houston Bearkats at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News