BYU didn’t get the ‘W’ against Coastal, but there were silver linings
The Cougars fell short — by one yard — against the Chanticleers, but scored points with members of the national media, who applauded the game
BYU’s loss to Coast Carolina is not all bad news. No, really. Here is a silver linings playbook for the Cougars following their dramatic (heartbreaking) loss to the Chanticleers.
• The Cougars should’ve earned tremendous respect for not only arranging a game about 50 hours before kickoff, but agreeing to fly over 2,000 miles to make it happen. They could have reasoned — correctly — that no matter what happened — win, lose or draw — they weren’t getting an invitation to a New Year’s Six bowl. The powers-that-be weren’t going to allow that.
Look what happened when the College Football Playoff selection committee released its first poll, knocking BYU back from No. 8 in the AP and Coaches polls to 14th. So, with a 9-0 record and those high rankings in the polls, why not cut their losses? Why risk the extra game? Why not play the 10-game season as scheduled, closing out the regular season Saturday against San Diego State in Provo, and enjoy the ranks of the unbeaten.
But they didn’t do that. They had backed themselves into a corner. Quarterback Zach Wilson wore that headband — any time, any place, any team — and then BYU (smartly) turned down a ridiculous invitation to play Washington in Seattle that offered no TV or gate money. It was the right decision, but it wouldn’t have been a good look if they had passed up a chance to play Coastal Carolina against that background, even though it looked like a trap (by far the biggest game in CC’s short football history).
“They (the Cougars) had to do it, but they shouldn’t have done it,” says longtime BYU writer Dick Harmon.
• They played on national TV in a game that was widely viewed and widely praised as the best of the season. In a pandemic-stymied season, big games are rare because nonconference games are mostly banned and because schedules have been shortened. “Coastal Carolina-BYU is the Game of the Year,” read an ESPN headline. The Deadspin headline: “Cancel the CFB playoff, nothing will beat BYU-Coastal Carolina game.”
• It could be worse. The Cougars could be the Utes, who have played just three games and here it is December. It’s not the Utes’ fault, but that’s what they have been left with because, A) They play in a conference led by the nail-biting, indecisive Larry Scott, the last to let his conference play ball; B) The Utes’ locker room was a petri dish for COVID, which contributed to two games being canceled — wait, they don’t have a locker room; the stadium is being renovated; C) The Utes have won one game.
While Utah has been sidelined most of the season, the Cougars have played 10 games, almost a full season in a normal year, with one to go. What’s not to like about a nine- or 10-win season, especially in the weird, pandemic season, when so many teams have lost half or more of their seasons? Not bad for a program that has been playing .500 ball the previous three seasons.
• They played comically bad at times against Coastal Carolina, yet came within one yard and five points of winning the game. There were dropped passes (one on a critical play), a fumble, a critical sack, ball carriers running the wrong way, bad coaching decisions, getting shoved all over the field by a smaller team, etc.
• They generated a lot of love this season. The national media was pulling for them and arguing their case when the CFP poll failed to give them more respect. The media argued that they deserved more because it wasn’t their fault their original schedule was decimated by cancellations, and look what they did to rebuild it and the way they were routing opponents. This was hardly the case when BYU was marching through an unbeaten campaign in 1984 en route to the national championship. They were criticized for the age of their players, for their conference, for their schedule. This time around BYU was mostly a media darling.
• Some might blame COVID for forcing the Cougars to go to extraordinary lengths to prove themselves last weekend. But, to restate the obvious, if not for the pandemic, they would never have been in this position in the first place. Their original schedule — before it was decimated by COVID cancellations — consisted of two teams from the Big Ten, three from the Pac-12 and one from the Southeastern Conference. They weren’t going to win their first nine games against that schedule, or climb into the top 10.
• In the end, win or lose to Coastal Carolina, it adds up to the same thing. BYU will get a mid-tier bowl — the Famous Potato Bowl, the New Mexico Bowl, you get the idea — and a ranking among the top 15 in the country.
• They get to play Coastal Carolina again some time in the future. That was part of the deal. The Chanticleers will come to Provo. Should be fun.