Take it back to Provo, with absolutely no apologies.
At this point in a dreadful season, any success for the BYU football team is a positive no matter the circumstances. For this reason, the Cougars have much cause to celebrate beating UNLV 31-21 Friday night at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.
It does not matter that UNLV is a bad team, although not as horrible as usual. The Rebels, remember, began the season losing to FCS-level Howard but also beat Fresno State two weeks ago.
But BYU literally never loses to UNLV in Sin City. This was the program’s ninth consecutive win against the Rebels on their home field.
For sure, the Cougars were far more perfect in getting their third win of the season. A sequence of committing two penalties on consecutive plays on a field goal attempt, which cost BYU three points, can attest to the shortcomings.
But the Cougars beat a FBS team for only the second time this season. And they did it with a true freshman quarterback making his first career start.
Even if it was against UNLV’s defense, Joe Critchlow showed promise in getting his first significant snaps since returning home from an LDS mission in the offseason. Most importantly, he looked the part, which is has been missing in BYU’s offense most of the season.
Quarterback play has been problematic all season. Certainly, injuries to Tanner Mangum and Beau Hoge have played a major role in all the struggles, although neither was stellar when healthy.
Due to inadequacies and injuries, BYU had to scrap plans to have Critchlow watch all season. Until making the start, the big redhead had only seen garbage time in three games, but he was steady (14 for 21 for 160 yards and one touchdown) against the Rebels without making any big mistakes.
And really, all he had to do was turn around and hand the football to Squally Canada. The junior running back was sensational, rushing for a total of 213 yards, which is the eighth-best single game mark in BYU history.
As great as Canada was, the offense line deserves a good portion of the credit. The big men up front dominated the line of scrimmage, opening huge holes that allowed Canada to smash his previous career-high on the ground. The Cougars rushed for a season-high 265 yards, averaging 6.3 yards per carry.
BYU’s defense was not particularly great, but it was opportunistic. Rebels quarterback Johnny Stanton threw for 325 yards, but safety Zayne Anderson and linebacker Fred Warner each had an interception, wiht Warner’s sealing BYU’s win late in the fourth quarter.
With Mangum done for the season and Hoge’s availability unknown, the BYU coaches would be wise to stick with Critchlow over the final two games against Massachusetts and Hawaii.
Maybe he can play without getting swallowed up with high expectations, something that can’t be said for Mangum. Given the remaining schedule, Critchlow can come out of nowhere and end the season with a 3-0 record as the starter.
None of the three, assuming the Cougars can finish by beating two lousy teams, would be signature wins for Critchlow. But just like with the overall team, at this point he has no reason to make apologies.