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Quick strike or steady as she goes: BYU offense trying to be more efficient after bye week

By Darnell Dickson - | Oct 13, 2023
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BYU senior wide receiver Darius Lassiter celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the Big 12 game against Cincinnati at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Friday, Sept. 30, 2023.
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BYU senior running back Deion Smith celebrates scoring a touchdown during the game against Arkansas at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, Arkansas, on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2023.
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BYU freshman wide receiver Parker Kingston dives across the goal line during the game against Arkansas at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, Arkansas, on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2023.

Most of the preseason discussion surrounding BYU football centered around new defensive coordinator Jay Hill and a more aggressive scheme on that side the ball.

The offense?

Hey, everything’s fine, right?

After five games the Cougars are 4-1 overall and 1-1 in Big 12 play while averaging 30 points per game, a number comparable to the 2022 season (31.3). BYU coaches worked the transfer portal to bring in some offensive firepower, including former USC and Pitt quarterback Kedon Slovis, running backs Aidan Robbins (UNLV) and Deion Smith (Colorado) and receivers Keelan Marion (UConn) and Darius Lassiter (Eastern Michigan).

It’s not every year that BYU has to replace its No. 1 quarterback (Jaren Hall), No. 1 receiver (Puka Nacua) and No. 1 running back (Christopher Brooks) as well as three starting offensive linemen, but the Cougars appeared to have their bases covered.

The offensive numbers in 2023 tell a very different story.

While Slovis has been BYU’s best offensive player, Robbins hasn’t panned out due to ineffectiveness and injury. Smith, Marion and Lassiter have made nice contributions but have had nowhere near the production of their predecessors.

Yet somehow, the Cougars have made it work, even with a barely functioning running game.


BYU has won the field position battle all season, thanks to punter Ryan Rehkow.

Speaking of punts, Rehkow’s got punts. BYU punted on eight straight possessions in the opener against Sam Houston and the Cougars have punted 28 times in 2023. Last year in the first five games, BYU punted 18 times.

Another reason the Cougars have survived is a defense that is getting off the field way more often. In addition, BYU has been a quick-strike, big-play offense instead of one that grind out long, sustained drives.

On 64 possessions this season, only seven have been 10 or more plays (10%), and four of those types of drives happened in the loss at Kansas.

BYU’s 305 offensive plays are the third-fewest in FBS. Eight of the Cougars’ 20 touchdown drives (40%) have been for 20 yards or more.

Here’s another puzzling stat from @teamrankings: BYU averages 300 yards per game, which ranked 121st nationally. Yet the Cougars are 51st in points per game. In total, BYU ranked fourth in the country (10.5) in yards per point.

After getting outgained by more than 200 yards against Cincinnati and 143 against Arkansas (both Cougar wins), the phrase “that’s not sustainable” has entered into the vocabulary of BYU fans.

“There have been some ups and downs,” Cougar tight end Isaac Rex admitted. “But when we’re clicking we’re really clicking and we’re scoring super fast. We need to ramp it up even more these next games because we have a crazy schedule coming up. It’s important for us to start fast, hang in there and play our brand of football.”

To that end, the Cougar offense spent a lot of time during the bye week working on blocking, timing and execution.

“We’ve mostly just emphasize fundamental and technique things you do to execute your run game,” BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said. “It’s not so much coming up with new magical schemes or whatever, it’s just executing plays better. Each individual player doing their job with technique. We really tried to hone in on the things that give a play a chance to be successful.”

Wide receiver Keanu Hill: “If we come out with a strike, it really gives us the momentum and gives the team energy and our fans energy. It really gets us going. But we love the long drives because we’re beating down the defense. We’re actually moving the ball but not doing too much, so we’re keeping our defense off the field at the same time.”

Smith said the efficiency of the offensive attack is what is most important.

“Converting on third downs, getting ourselves out of third and long situations and just efficiently moving the ball down the field is what we’re focusing on,” he said. “We do a good job of having explosive plays, which is great, but we want to be able to hold the ball longer and chew up a little bit of time on the clock so our defense doesn’t have to be on the field as much.

Defensive end Tyler Batty said the defense is fine with taking on their part.

“Let the offense put points on the board and let us go play defense,” Batty said. “That’s what I love to do. That’s what we need to do is play defense. I don’t have any problem with being out there more often. That’s more fun for me.”

Head coach Kalani Sitake added that he just wants to score points, however that happens.

“Scoring is hard to do in the first place,” he said. “I don’t know if we have the right to dictate how we’re going to score. I just want to see more points on the board and I want to see us get into a rhythm, getting that rhythm of success. That’s hard to do when you’re going against really good teams but we should be in really good shape now and not making the same mistakes we’ve made in the past. That was an excuse for the beginning of the season but we’ve been around each other for a while now.

“I think it’s hard to play clean football, especially when you’re shooting yourself in the foot. We can count on our players for their energy and their effort. I just want to see more success from our offense and defense and special teams. In regards to points, the more points, the better.”


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