The most often cited criticism of Robert Anae's playcalling is the 2008 Utah game. The prevailing thought is we lost because Anae "abandoned the run" when Harvey Unga was gaining significant yards per carry. I just thought it might be helpful to examine this theory a bit further with the facts (from the link below):
It is nearing the end of the 3rd quarter, with Utah leading 27-24, BYU has recently scored to cut the lead to 3 on an 83 yard drive that had a balanced attack with 6 run plays and 6 pass plays (we scored on an 11 yard QB draw IIRC). The Utes just punted, and BYU has the ball on the their own 22 with 59 seconds left in the quarter. First play is an Unga run for 7 yards. The next play is a pass and Max Hall fumbles it. Utah takes over with great field position and scores a TD to go up 34 - 24. BYU now has the ball, down 10 points with 14:31 to go.
The first 3 plays of the drive are passes and they gain 2 first downs and move the ball 19 yards. Should have run Unga you say? Maybe, but can't argue with the results.
Max Hall then runs for 2 yards (not sure if this was a designed play), so BYU has 3rd and 2. Great spot for an Unga run, right? It probably was going to be, we'll never know, because the O line jumps and we get a 5 yd false start penalty, putting us in 3rd and 7. How many here would suggest an Unga run on 3rd and 7? Good luck with that. No, instead we pass, and Max Hall decides to throw directly into the chest of Paul Kruger. It is returned to the 4, Utah scores and is now up 41 - 24.
How many here would now suggest running? You're down 17 points, with 12 minutes to go. What are the first 3 plays Anae calls? Run by Unga for 22 yards, run by Vakapuna for 6, run by Unga for 3. Because of another false start, we find ourselves in 3rd and 6. Run you say? Maybe you do, given it is 4 down situation now, but we throw incomplete. We go for it on 4th down and Hall hits Pitta for a first down. What is the next play? Run by Vakapuna for 10 yards. If Anae is abandoning the run, that message isn't making it to the huddle, because we keep running. Obviously, Kwhitt is giving us the run, since he is up 17 points in the 4th quarter. However, now we're on the Utah 22. So the defense starts to play for the run, and Anae goes to Hall for a pass to Unga that is complete. It is 2nd and 7 at the Utah 19, we pass again and Hall throws another interception. Hindsight is always 20/20, so of course the fans are going to say we should have run it on that play! I'm not sure that the 50/50 split of run/pass on this drive qualifies as "abandoning" the run game.
Of course, the DEFENSE fails to stop Utah again and gives up a 9 play, 5+ minute drive resulting in another Ute TD and they now lead 48-24 with less than 3 min remaining. How many think it is a good idea to run now? Maybe if you want to give up and stop the bleeding. Maybe Lavell should have sent in running plays to McMahon in 1980 when we were getting clocked by SMU.
So what does Anae call on the first play of the drive? Run by Unga for 13 yards! (I thought Unga was on ice, fuming from being abandoned!) Now there is 2 minutes left, so we start throwing and Max caps the day with another pick.
Can someone explain to me where Anae "abandoned" the run game? Is it because we didn't simply line up and run Unga EVERY down in the second half? How many think we would have won with that strategy, keeping in mind the Ute offense is steamrolling our D? But go ahead, blame Anae for the loss, even though we outgained the Utes in the game. In fact, we gained the most yards anyone gained against the 2008 Ute defense, including twice as much as Alabama did. Nope, it was all Anae's fault.