Posted by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson
PROVO, Utah -- There were no tears in the locker room.
Little yelling. No finger-pointing.
BYU had just lost 54-28 to Florida State at home, the team's first home loss since 2005, and all the team wanted to do was go out and make it better.
While BYU was beaten handily on the field, it wasn’t beaten off of it, which was in stark contrast to the postgame reaction after games a year ago. Coach Bronco Mendenhall acknowledged that Florida State exposed weaknesses he didn’t know his team had and that it was time to go back to the drawing board, not give up on the season.
“I think this team is still focused, still motivated,” quarterback Max Hall said. “In the locker room, last year in a loss like this would have felt like almost the world came to an end. But I think the guys are excited to work on it, to get better and to move. It almost feels a little bit like ’07 when we lost early, but we still had a chance to go and win the conference. So that’s our No. 1 goal right now. The attitude and everything is still right and I think we will.”
After playing two nearly flawless games on defense, BYU was exposed for being less athletic, less disciplined and less prepared than Florida State. It didn’t stay in its gaps, which allowed the Seminoles to run for 313 yards and it admitted that it didn’t prepare for Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder as a runner. He had 77 yards and a touchdown. But the biggest thing that affected BYU’s defense was that it couldn’t stop Florida State when it needed to. Midway through the third quarter, Florida State was 9-of-9 on third-down conversions and had scored on every possession. Nine of Florida State’s 12 possessions resulted in scores.
“It’s tough the way we came out and played today, it’s really tough,” BYU defensive end Jan Jorgensen said. “It’s actually embarrassing. We take pride in being a physical defense and hitting hard and creating turnovers and we couldn’t even make a tackle today.”
BYU said it came into the game focused and ready to play, but Mendenhall said his team didn’t show the same desire and physicality as Florida State. He also said coaches were so impressed by the way the team played in its two previous contests -- both wins -- that it was slow to recognize any deficiencies the team might have had.
“We had some weakness exposed and with those weaknesses now comes a lot of work,” Mendenhall said. “We’ve seen them and now we can address them where maybe the first two weeks they weren’t exposed nor did we see them like the way we saw them today. And I certainly didn’t foresee them especially tonight.”
Throughout the offseason, BYU talked about learning from the losses of last season and never wanting to go through that feeling again. It also talked about not making each game a dire situation. Although the Cougars have likely been eliminated from a possible BCS bowl berth, both players and coaches tried to find the silver lining and that was looking ahead to conference play.
In both 2006 and 2007, the Cougars suffered a couple of losses during nonconference play and went on to win the Mountain West title. That’s the focus now, though even Hall admits that it’s hard not to think of what might have been.
“Everybody talked about it and everybody said, ‘Hey, if they go undefeated why not give them a chance?’ So this is tough,” Hall said. “We knew we had a special chance to do something. We knew this Florida State game was going to be a big game, but you lose football games sometimes. That’s just how it goes. I thought we battled, we didn’t quit, but in the end they were just a better team tonight than we were.”