It has been quite a year for our boys in blue. There have been some high highs and some very low lows. Nevertheless, Bronco Mendenhall led the Cougars to another 11-win season and bowl game victory, and that is something to cheer about.
For all of those who are disappointed with anything less than an undefeated season, go ask Michigan fans what it’s like to have consecutive losing seasons. I’m sure they would give anything to have more wins than losses.
That being said, let’s look back on the 2009 season, starting off with a breakdown and grade for each position.
If you try and tell me that Max Hall threw too many interceptions, I will slap you. He won more games than any QB in BYU history. He went 6-3 against BCS opponents and 3-1 against ranked opponents this year. He won two of three bowl games and, most importantly, he beat Utah twice. Do you want more? Final Grade: A
I found it hilarious that the TV announcers continually called Manase Tonga and Harvey Unga the “Pineapple Express.” Both backs did what was expected this season, but didn’t really surprise us. They fought harder than any other backs, but lacked the breakaway speed. Final Grade: B
It was a tough year for the wideouts after losing Austin Collie to the draft and Michael Reed to graduation. McKay Jacobsen was supposed to replace Collie as the go-to receiver, but he missed a lot of the season with an injury. O’Neill Chambers had some flashes of greatness, but struggled to hang on to the ball. (I’ll talk about his special teams’ performance later.) Luke Ashworth and Spencer Hafoka were nothing special and that’s the kind of grade they will receive. Final Grade: C+
It doesn’t get much better than Dennis Pitta and Andrew George. Just ask Utah how they feel about George. There is no doubt that both of them should get looks at the next level. I might add that both of these guys are darn good basketball players. (Pitta may or may not have hyperextended my elbow during a pick-up game last summer.) Final Grade: A+
Offensive line coach Mark Weber earned his pay check this year by taking a very young and inexperienced group and making them rock solid. Everyone said they were the biggest question mark going into the season and they quietly silenced the critics. Final Grade: B+
Overall Offensive Grade: B+
This group was half good to me. Brian Logan is a great open field tackler, but he’s too small to cover big-time receivers. Andrew Rich could hit the snot out of people, but got beat in coverage too often. Scott Johnson is a great leader and plays his heart out, but he isn’t the fastest kid out there. Then there’s Brandon Bradley who you never hear about, which is a good thing, I guess. They made big improvements from last year — but when Keller Folwer finally graduates, good things are bound to happen. Final Grade: C+
There were the outside linebackers, Jordan Pendleton and Colby Clawson, who play like freaks, and then there is the geek, Academic All-American Matt Bauman. The freaks played like men possessed and the geek played smart. If they could have played smart and physical as a unit then they would have been amazing. Final Grade: B-
They didn’t get a whole lot of sacks, but they played very well against the run (minus the debacle that was Florida State.) This unit was never very flashy but people will begin to realize how good Jorgensen, Denny and Tialavea were next year when they’re gone. Final Grade: B
Overall Defensive Grade: B-
O’Neill Chambers + Mitch Payne – kick return coverage = one horrible special teams unit. The only positive thing I can say about special teams is that deep snapper John Pace was dang good. Final Grade: D-
OVERALL TEAM GRADE: B+
It takes perspective to really know how good this team was. If you’re like me and you suffered through the Gary Crowton era, you know that an 11-2 year is great. Too many people expected the improvement of this program to be exponential. After going 11-2 in two consecutive seasons, people thought it had to get better and that meant an undefeated season and BCS berth.
The time will come for that, but if doesn’t happen the season is not a failure. There are many little things that show how BYU has improved in the last few years. This year, BYU beat some good teams in Oklahoma, Air Force, Utah and Wyoming — all of which won their respective bowl games. The two losses were embarrassing because of all the national attention, but we should also take note that we lost to a pair of quality programs. When the Cougars went 11-2 in 2007, they lost to Tulsa and a weak UCLA team. This year they lost to big names like TCU and Florida State. Even in our losses, we are getting better.
There was no question this wasn’t the perfect season, but it was a pretty darn good one. The perfect season will come — I have no doubt. When it will be here, who knows? As for now, let us look back on the season for the success that it was and not what it could have been.
Jake Welch is a sports correspondent for Rhombus and writes a weekly roundup throughout the BYU football season. This is his final roundup of the 2009 season.
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