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Inside Darnell’s Head: Speed killed BYU against Washington

October 1, 2018
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BYU defensive lineman Lorenzo Fauatea watches from the sideline late in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Washington, Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018, in Seattle. Washington won 35-7. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Here’s what’s going on inside Darnell’s head as we fade out of the month of September. Still feels like summer, doesn’t it?

Speed isn’t everything

It was pretty apparent from BYU’s 35-7 loss at No. 11 Washington that the Cougars don’t have Pac-12 speed. Not on defense, which looked sluggish all night long, or offense against the Huskies NFL-ready lineup of defensive backs.

But that shouldn’t prevent BYU from competing against Pac-12 teams.

Yeah, it makes it tougher, but the Cougars have competed and beaten Pac-12 teams before. The key is effort and execution. The effort has been there pretty much all season, but the execution has been lacking. Getting off blocks, taking good tackling angles, playing gap-sound football, being physical at the point of attack, doing your 1/11th — doing all of those things better can allow BYU to fight above its weight class at positions where speed is an issue.

Hey, two weeks in the Top 25 in September? That wasn’t something I thought possible coming into the 2018 season. Be grateful, Cougar fans. There has been progress.

Next up is figuring out how to bring the home field advantage back to LaVell Edwards Stadium. Utah State is coming to town on Friday and BYU could use the help.

Untouched

The top-ranked BYU women’s volleyball team is as dominant as I’ve ever seen, having won all five of its West Coast Conference matches by sweeps. In fact, the Cougars have won 45 of the 49 sets they’ve played this season. Against Pepperdine last Tuesday, head coach Heather Olmstead won her 100th match as a head coach. Her record since taking over the program in 2015 is 102-12 (89 percent).

Whatever she’s making, she needs a raise.

Making the grades

BYU senior linebacker Adam Pulsipher was named one of 179 semifinalists for the Campbell Trophy last week. The award recognizes the very best scholar-athletes in the country — former Cougar quarterback Taysom Hill was a finalist in 2016. Pulsipher graduated with a degree in finance before his junior season and is currently enrolled in his second year in BYU’s MPA program.

I’m working on a feature for next week about the BYU student-athlete academic center and there are some good stories to tell.

Hoop dreams

After spending a few minutes with BYU men’s basketball coach Dave Rose, senior forward Luke Worthington and junior forward Yoeli Childs last week after the team’s first practice, I couldn’t help but get a little caught up in their optimism.

Sorry, I know I’m supposed to be a calloused, impartial member of the media, but such is the nature of the preseason.

It’s easy to say the right things in these interviews about renewed effort, everybody is on the same page, we’re excited to start the season, etc., but the Cougars have a quiet confidence that I admire.

How long will it last? The preseason will be tough, especially since junior guard Nick Emery has to sit out the first nine games. BYU is still looking up — way up — at Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference.

But this group is as experienced a team as Rose has had for a while. They are going back to a little more up-tempo style and the 3-point shooting has to get better, right?

A good start

Last week, I appeared on a podcast for the “Sports Rabbi” (sportsrabbi.com) to talk about former Cougar Elijah Bryant, who is beginning his professional career in Israel for Hapoel Eilat. Bryant had 27 points in his debut, a preseason game, and was selected as the game’s MVP. Last week, in the Winner Cup semifinals, Bryant had 19 points and nine rebounds in a 78-74 loss to Hapoel Jerusalem.

What I told the Sports Rabbi — aka, Joshua Halickman — is that Bryant has a nice skill set and attitude that should win him fans in Israel.

What’s the sales tax?

There’s nothing better than a hundred mini-cheerleaders performing at halftime of a high school football game.

A bunch of those cuties were prancing around at half of the Skyridge-Timpanogos football game on Friday which their parents proudly taking photos and video.

When they finished, I heard the PA announcer say “You can pick up your mini-cheerleader at the gym.”

Are those complimentary now? What would I do with a mini-cheerleader?

I need an explanation

I’ve watched a fair amount of football in my life, both high school and college, and some things just befuddle me.

Skyridge senior wide receiver Nathan Upham is 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds. In five games, he’s caught 25 passes for 686 yards (27 yards per catch) and 12 touchdowns. Against Timpanogos, he caught five passes for 122 yards and four touchdowns — in the first half. He’s been timed at 4.5 in the 40-yard dash. He’s obviously been coached well because his technique is impeccable. He works out with former BYU receiver Ross Apo.

Yet, upon talking to Upham, he told me he has received no offers and only Southern Utah has shown him any interest.

What am I missing? BYU should get on this guy right now. He’s got a great frame. He also plays baseball and is a very good athlete who could play multiple positions in the right system.

Oh, I see now

I was watching a movie a few evenings back (doesn’t matter which one) and the 1980s hit “Vacation” by the Go Go’s started playing during a montage. Thanks to subtitles, the words to the song came on the screen. All these years of singing along and I had no idea the last line of the chorus was “Meant to be spent alone.”

Wait. A vacation is meant to be spent alone? What fun is that?

My family and I are going to Disneyland and Universal Studios this winter. Now that’s a vacation.

Have a great October.

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