BYU football: Three things we learned from Cougars vs Mississippi State

Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports /

The BYU football team picked up a huge 28-21 victory in double overtime over the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Friday night in Provo. Here are three things we learned from the win.

A bad SEC team is still a SEC team

Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports /

Mississippi State is not a great football team. Their struggles have been well documented (a season-opening loss to South Alabama, allowing 35 points to UMass) and statistically they weren’t a juggernaut.

But the Bulldogs sure did look that way in Provo Friday night.

The Cougars struggled to get much of anything going offensively through most of the game. The Cougars consistently lost the battle in the trenches. It didn’t help that BYU was plagued with more quarterback-wide receiver miscues and poor offensive line play.

A good chunk of it may be the talent gap, especially up front. The Bulldogs weren’t going to let BYU run on them, and they owned the line of scrimmage for most of the night. Taysom Hill was often under pressure and Jamaal Williams really struggled to get going.

Not many SEC schools venture out west, and it’s easy to watch on television and wonder just how good a SEC school is.

The answer? They’re all pretty good. And all the players are really fast.

Sure, Mississippi State isn’t lighting the world on fire, but the best recruits in the nation find their way to SEC schools.

Not a great performance for BYU football, especially considering the Cougars have just six days to prepare for a clash with ranked Boise State.

BYU football struggles to get pressure

Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports /

To start, let’s give BYU football some major credit for getting pressure when they absolutely had to have it.

However, they couldn’t do it with any consistency, and it hurt the Cougars on Friday night.

There were a handful of instances where defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki dialed up blitzes. Five men coming at the quarterback, six men coming. . . the Cougars even broke out a corner blitz, but it yielded mixed results.

Truth be told, a lot of it probably stemmed from going up against big, strong, talented offensive linemen. But Michigan State had plenty of talent too, and Sae Tautu was able to generate pressure.

Regardless of the reason, it wasn’t happening with any consistency for BYU football on Friday night.

The trouble with that is multi-faceted. A 4-3 defense is predicated on getting pressure with the front four. Getting to the quarterback makes for rushed decisions, which can cover for some sometimes questionable coverage.

But because BYU wasn’t generating pressure on a consistent basis, the defense struggled at times.

I’m not sure how much this will bother the Cougars going forward (their November schedule is pretty soft), but even bad quarterbacks can look like Heisman winners if given all day to sit in the pocket.

Clutch Cougars

Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports /

So sometimes BYU football can’t get pressure. Sometimes Hill struggles. Sometimes the offensive line can’t get a push.

But my word, these Cougars are clutch.

It’s interesting, because “clutch” isn’t a way I would’ve described BYU football a season ago. Really, I’d have to go back to the Max Hall days to consider them clutch.

But Kalani Sitake has really got some mojo going with this team.

The team gets better as the game goes along. Granted, there have been plenty of first quarters where that’s not saying much, but this is a team that’s orchestrated two game-winning drives, two almost game-winning drives and now owns a two-overtime victory.

Not to mention, Mississippi State, under Dan Mullen, was virtually unbeatable after leading after three quarters. The Bulldogs were 52-2 entering tonight. Now they’re 52-3.

It’s impressive to watch and that type of mindset comes from the top down. Sitake and his staff has this team believing that they can accomplish anything. And with BYU’s all-time leading rusher in the backfield, they may be able to do just that.

Next up for the Cougars is a road trip to Boise State. After that they are on a bye. The rest of their schedule is fairly soft. If the Cougars win out – which seems like a very real possibility – then they’d be entering bowl season at 9-3. Pretty impressive for the Cardiac Cougs.