PROVO, UT - AUGUST 30: A Fan of BYU cheers during a game against Washington State during the first half of an college football game on August 30, 2012 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah. BYU beat Washington State 30-6. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
Gotta save the season ... just gotta save the season ... gotta beat BYU.
The last time Utah entered the rivalry game with so much uncertainty and so much on the line was all the way back in 2005 - Kyle Whittingham's first season. If you'll recall that game, the Utes, heavy underdogs, went down to Provo and upset the Cougars in overtime. It was one of the more impressive rivalry wins of the last decade and saved what was, at the time, looking like a lost season.
We need some of that magic this Saturday.
I don't know if the season will be saved by beating the Cougars, but I do know it will be lost if they don't. It's hard for me to get behind the idea this team will be capable of putting it together enough to claim a bowl berth and move on from what is turning out to be a disastrous start if they lose Saturday. It's why this game is so important ... gotta save the season.
The Cougars, who opened the year with an impressive win over the unimpressive Washington St. Cougars, enter this contest 2-0 and coming off an expected beat down of Weber State. Because the Cougars of Pullman are as uncertain as the Utes of Salt Lake City, it's hard to gauge just how good BYU is this early in the season. Because of that, every Utah fan should have hope Saturday's game is winnable. Hope beyond hope, I guess, but we must have some faith, right? It's all we have right now and lord knows we've gotta save the season.
What I do know is that if the Utes have any shot of upsetting the Cougars this weekend (and since Utah is now officially an underdog in their own stadium to BYU according to Vegas...), they'll need dramatic improvement over Friday's embarrassment in Logan. It starts with the offensive line and probably ends with the offensive line. Improve there and anything can happen, but if they don't ... well ... it could get dicey. It's why the team must do everything in its power to string together a line that is smart, physical and ready for battle because, you know, we've gotta save the season.
I'm not actually as worried as many about the quarterback situation. I think Jon Hays is a serviceable quarterback and believe he's made improvements since last year. It's clear the team played remarkably better when Jordan Wynn went out and I don't think that's a coincidence. Even so, every improvement he's made could be negated by poor line play. Wynn was pressured and sacked and tossed around like a plastic bag in the wind because the line played about as poorly as I've ever seen in my time cheering for the Utes. And though Hays apparently has far more composure in the pocket than Wynn did at any point, he still struggled ... especially once the game was tied. There was a stretch of this game where Utah kept punting after three and outs because the offense just couldn't get anything going - no running game, no passing game, no nothin'. It killed their momentum and put 'em in a tough position to bounce back once the Aggies eventually found the end zone again. To their credit, they did, forcing overtime and extending a game that looked over in the first half. Still, the offensive performance, even with Hays, was abysmal for long stretches and, again, it started with the line. That has to change because we've gotta save the season.
Because of all this, I don't know what to expect Saturday. I wouldn't be shocked if Utah won and I wouldn't be shocked if BYU walked in and kicked our butts. That's frustrating because, for so long, this game has almost always been a pick 'em - if not an outright Utah win. The last time I recall lacking confidence, actually entering the rivalry week not knowing if the Utes would win, was back in 2006 ... six years ago. The fact this is in our stadium and I don't feel confident enough to believe my team will win makes the buildup to this contest painful. I'm excited ... but I'm not. I want to believe ... but I can't. Not after last Friday. I could be wrong, I might be wrong, but I just don't see anything from this team that tells me we should win. That sucks because, as you're all aware, we've gotta save the season.
Look, I'm not saying Utah won't win or can't win or that I don't think they will win - I just have no f'n idea if they will win. I hope I can get on board with the idea before Saturday, but I'm seriously on the fence right now and looking to be persuaded one way or another. But what I do know is that if Utah is going to win this game, the offensive line needs to improve. Not just in blocking and protecting the quarterback ... but also in opening holes for John White IV, because his performance Friday was underwhelming and I don't think it entirely falls on his shoulders. The line let him down ... they didn't do their job. That has to change. That has to change because we've gotta save the season!
I want this team to come out fired up and embarrassed and ready to rip the Cougars to shreds. I want them so pissed that their stare makes babies cry. I want Kyle Whittingham to walk around with a big ol' stick for no f'n reason except to say I MEAN BUSINESS. I want this team angry and aggressive and ready. They need to be ready. They've got to be ready ... because THIS IS IT, FOLKS. This is the season and I don't care what happened in Logan last Friday ... we've gotta save the season.