No. 21 BYU defeated Virginia 41-33 at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday, moving the Cougars to 4-0 and giving them a nice resume-builder over an ACC program that will almost certainly play in a bowl this December. When it comes time to fill the non-playoff New Year’s Six bowls, the selection committee running the College Football Playoff will like this one.
Impressive as this win was on the surface, it also highlighted why BYU won’t go undefeated and won’t be around when those Playoff discussions occur.
First, the obvious: penalties. BYU committed 12 of them, docking themselves 133 yards. This was an increase from the 10.7 flags per game the Cougars usually average, the second most in college football. These aren’t the 2001 Hurricanes. This team is not talented enough to overcome this kind of self-hatred.
The defense isn’t good enough, either. BYU allowed Virginia to run 111 plays (57 passes/44 rushes) and convert 10 of 22 third downs, meaning the Cavaliers sat on the ball for nearly 41 minutes on Saturday. Two quarterbacks played for the Hoos, and both were effective. Greyson Lambert started the game and threw for 188 yards and rushed for 49 more with a touchdown. After he left with a leg injury, Matt Johns entered the game and completed 14-of-23 pases for 139 yards and a touchdown, and sprinkled in three rushes for 22 yards.
Twice BYU needed one stop to effectively end the game, and twice Virginia scored touchdowns. The first came after a Taysom Hill touchdown pass put BYU up 34-19 with 10:17 to play. Virginia immediately marched 75 yards in 2:11 to pull within 34-26. Adam Hine took the ensuing kickoff 99 yards to make the score 41-26, but Virginia possessed the ball again with 5:21 to play, and methodically moved 98 yards in 13 plays to again pull within one score.
That’s not what championship (err, undefeated independent) defenses do.
Hill had an impressive day in the short time he was on the field, connecting on 13-of-23 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns while also leading the BYU ground attack with 17 carries for 72 yards and a touchdown. He remains a treat to watch, an all-terrain vehicle in shoulder pads.
Sadly enough, though, the team around him isn’t good enough or disciplined enough to send him to New York to watch someone else win the Heisman Trophy.
BYU takes next week off before hosting Utah State on Friday, Oct 3. It’s not clear when this team is getting beat, maybe by the Fighting Chuckie Keetons, maybe six days later at Central Florida, maybe at Boise State on Oct. 24, or maybe not until the finale at California on Nov. 29. Reckoning day is coming, though.