Thanksgiving has come and gone all too quickly. I hope everyone had time to slow down and enjoy the moment. This is a great time of year for sharing and letting people know you care. As Christmas lights pop up around the county, let that signal each of us to be more patient, gentler and sincere — finding ways to lighten each other’s burdens and spread a little Christmas cheer.
You may be asking what this has to do with sports. Well nothing really — yet everything! If the world was filled with the Spirit of Christmas would we be having an NHL lockout, or be witnessing intentionally brutal plays in the NFL, or dealing with performance enhancing drugs in practically every sport in the country? Probably not. It should give us all something to think about.
What did you think about James Lark’s first start at quarterback for BYU? Lark started one game in his career: He completed 34 passes out of 50 attempts for 384 yards, six touchdowns, no interceptions and a 172.1 pass efficiency rating. He also is in the record books with ten of BYU’s greatest quarterbacks for throwing those six touchdowns on his first start.
There’s something strange going on in Provo’s QB Department. Why hasn’t BYU played James Lark more? He’s been wasting away on the bench now for years while Riley Nelson and Coach Bronco Mendenhall continue this bizarre relationship of devout loyalty regardless of performance. I’ve never seen anything like this in college football, though I’ve seen plenty of it in high school. It seems Nelson’s moxie, toughness and leadership trumps his weaknesses in throwing skills and his propensity for turnovers. As a result, Coach Mendenhall has placed analytical limitations of what he thinks his offense and other quarterbacks can really achieve.
This isn’t the first time. Why do you think Brad Sorensen left BYU for SUU? The glare from then rising star Jake Heaps, who flamed out and fell somewhere in Kansas, blinded Mendenhall and others to Sorensen’s great football aptitude. Sorenson, the real quarterback gem, left BYU, leaving the Cougars with Heaps and Nelson in a protracted quarterback drama that still is having lingering effects. Little did Mendenhall or his other coaches realize then, or now for that matter, that next to Sorensen, Lark was number two in skill set. We caught a glimpse of this last Saturday as the Cougars pounded the New Mexico State Aggies, 50-14.
Unfortunately, we are left only to imagine what might have been different in the Utah, Boise and Notre Dame games had Lark been at the helm. Will he be the starting quarterback at the Poinsettia Bowl? Only Coach Mendenhall knows, but I don’t see it happening unless Nelson is too injured to play. The peculiar Mendenhall/Nelson relationship notwithstanding, I believe it is time to reward Lark for a career of selfless sacrifice and a job well done last Saturday. It’s time for BYU to have a quarterback in the likeness of the immortal quarterbacks of BYU’s tradition. It’s time for James Lark.
While we are pondering great things, how about those Utah State Aggies? The champions of the Western Athletic Conference are heading to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, Idaho, on Dec. 15. With a historic 10-win season and their first championship since 1936, the bowl invite was just the icing on their potato. Sure they would like to go to a bigger bowl sometime, but being close to Boise has its advantages for hometown fans.
Coach Gary Anderson has been a great example to not only his student athletes, but also to all of us. Dedication, faith, perseverance and hard work can all be used to describe USU’s players’ coach. Being ranked No. 20 in the country doesn’t hurt any either. Anderson gets my vote for Coach of the year, if I had one.
The Christmas season is a magical time and Utah fans are praying for a miracle as they cling to an outside chance of Utah going bowling after their win at Colorado 42-35. The Utes finished the regular season at 5-7, which in most years would keep them out of the bowl picture. However, if there aren’t enough eligible teams to fill the 70 post-season bowl slots, the teams with the highest Academic Progress Rate (APR) will be placed in a group for bowls to consider for open slots. Utah has an APR of 966, ranking them 33rd in the country and throwing them into the bowl mix with teams like Missouri and Wake Forest.
Regardless of sport, team or opinion, make this Christmas season one for the record books, enjoying the gifts it brings to all of those who choose to feel its special spirit. I’ll see you from the sidelines.