As UCLA heads into its high-profile matchup with Top 25 opponent BYU this weekend, Bruin players and coaches will need to be on high alert in light of BYU’s well-earned reputation for playing dirty.
There is an old maxim that goes: “Once is a mistake. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is a habit.”
BYU has drawn a lot of recent national acclaim for the miraculous ways in which it has managed to pull out unlikely victories from the jaws of defeat in the first two weeks of the new college football season. However, the Cougars are earning similar levels of notoriety for the ways in which their players have repeatedly crossed the metaphorical line in order to (seemingly intentionally) hurt opposing players.
Although BYU’s reputation for highly-questionable play has now gone mainstream because of its infamous brawl with Memphis in last season’s Miami Beach Bowl and subsequent ignominious plays this season, fans of rivals Utah and Utah State have long tried to call out and catalog instances of recklessness (and borderline maliciousness) by BYU players.
Let’s now take a look at the moments of madness that have made BYU football so infamous in recent times. For the sake of brevity, we’ll keep things to incidents with video taken in the last 365 days:
Incident #1: The Miami Beach Bowl Brawl
The footage of the rather intense and bloody fight speaks for itself, but it, of course, began with a BYU player engaging a Memphis player for reasons unknown:
Obviously, once the fight started, the Memphis players involved were no angels, but this seemed to be a real case of sour grapes from BYU players after a hard-fought double-overtime loss escalating into a substantial and embarrassing melee.
Incident #2: The Leg Sweep
This is the play that drew passionate outrage from college football fans across the country on the first Saturday of the 2015 season. As you can clearly see, even after the pass to Nebraska receiver David Sutton had long sailed over Sutton’s head and out of harm’s way, BYU defensive back Jordan Preator still made the conscious decision to lunge in a barrel roll-type manner into the back of the defenseless Sutton’s left knee.
Contrary to the deluded beliefs of a few BYU fans on Twitter (to whom we will not give publicity), this was not, in fact, some honest mistake or naturally-occurring contact. Sutton will miss approximately 8 weeks as a result of Preator’s disgusting and reprehensible lunge.
Incident #3: The Ankle Twist
Relatively mild by BYU standards but dirty nonetheless, star Cougar defensive lineman Bronson Kaufusi wasn’t content with bringing down Nebraska running back Terrell Newby for a loss behind the line of scrimmage. Once Newby was down, Kaufusi felt the need to take another crack at twisting Newby’s ankle even further and putting Newby at serious risk of an long-term ankle injury because… YOLO?
Incident #4: The Concussion Special
Of all the moronic and reckless things you could do in this era of hypersensitivity to head trauma in football…
I would pay a nickel to ask BYU linebacker Sione Takitaki what he possibly could have been thinking as he cracked down on Boise State quarterback Ryan Finley‘s head with his forearm. “Oh hey, the quarterback has clearly gotten rid of the ball. You know what? Screw it… HEAD, MEET FOREARM!”
When you, as a player, have heard literally every day about fellow players and retired players accumulating brain damage as a result of blows to the head over the course of football careers, you have to possess a substantial level of stupidity and/or sociopathy in order to think that gratuitously accelerating that process for a fellow competitor is some sort of bright idea.
Of course, if he took my hypothetical nickel, Takitaki would probably get a bigger punishment from BYU for a minor NCAA violation than he did for taking an unjustifiable whack at another human being’s head that was completely outside the bounds of competition (and the discipline for that hit was — you guessed it — none whatsoever).
Incident #5: The Nut Cracker
Now this is the one that has really gotten America’s attention:
This is the same school that is famous for having an Honor Code, right?
It goes without saying, but it apparently needs to be said: YOU DON’T GO AFTER ANOTHER MAN’S CROWN JEWELS.
Naturally, BYU has declined to suspend offensive lineman/perpetrator Uliu Lapuaho for targeting the testicles of a prone Boise State player. And, of course, discipline is being handled “internally”. Pete Carroll would be so proud of BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall.
After the Hail Mary that put BYU ahead of Boise State late in the 4th quarter last Saturday, the Cougars sealed the victory with a pick-six to put the game out of reach. The player who made that pick-six? Defensive back Kai Nacua, the cheapshot artist who attacked the back of an unsuspecting Memphis player’s head with a forearm punch in that aforementioned Miami Beach Bowl brawl.
Football is undoubtedly a violent game, but there are supposed to be limits to that violence that are governed by the rules of common sense and the John Stuart Mill-derived philosophy of avoiding intentional harm to others. The evidence is clearly mounting that BYU is oblivious to such norms. As a result, the Cougars are putting opposing players at serious risk of injuries completely unrelated to events on the field because of a neanderthal-ish mentality and barbaric antics.
BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall admits that he instructs his teams, consistently among the most penalized teams in the FBS, to be aggressive to in order to establish physical dominance over opponents. In Mendenhall’s own words, “When I’ve seen BYU play at its best, the teams I’ve watched in the past, they are physically dominant, they are very tough. They are on the edge of playing within the rules because they are so aggressive.” Mendenhall also seems to subscribe to the theory that the most successful teams in college football are the ones that are the most penalized, even though Football Study Hall found no real statistical correlation when specifically examining any potential links between penalties and defensive performance.
As UCLA football gets ready to take on BYU on Saturday night at the Rose Bowl, Jim Mora’s team will have to be fully aware and mindful of any untoward shenanigans that BYU players might try to unleash. If the Bruins can get out of the Rose Bowl late Saturday night with a victory and a relatively empty trainer’s table, Bruin fans, players, and coaches should consider it a successful night.