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Explosive plays key for BYU football offense to increase point totals

By Jared Lloyd - | Sep 15, 2021
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BYU sophomore quarterback Jaren Hall looks to pass the ball during the game against Arizona at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021. (BYU Courtesy Photo)
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BYU sophomore quarterback Jaren Hall talks to offensive players in the huddle during the game against Arizona at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021. (BYU Courtesy Photo)
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BYU sophomore quarterback Jaren Hall throws a pass during the 2020 Cougar fall camp.

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BYU quarterback Jaren Hall looks to pass during a scrimmage at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021.
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BYU sophomore quarterback Jaren Hall throws a pass during fall camp in Provo on Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021. (Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo)
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BYU quarterback Jaren Hall throws a pass during the 26-17 Cougar win over the Utes at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (Marci Harris, Herald correspondent)

How many explosive plays has the BYU football team’s offense had in its first two games of 2021?

By defining “explosive” as run plays that result in gains of 15-plus yards and pass plays that result in gains 20-plus yards, the Cougars have totaled 11 explosive plays in wins over Arizona and Utah.

Eight of those have been run plays (four in each game) while just three have been pass plays (two against the Wildcats, one against the Utes). BYU scored two touchdowns off explosive plays, both coming against Arizona.

Any offense would say that indicates there is room for improvement, even considering the abilities of the opposing defenses.

“I talked to our team and said that we’ve had too many long foul balls,” Cougar offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said during Wednesday’s teleconference. “We took our shots in the Utah game but we didn’t land them. We got a critical pass interference call in the end zone on a post corner and we came close on a couple of other plays — but coming close doesn’t count.”

Part of the reason for the limited success on the long passes is simply having BYU sophomore quarterback Jaren Hall get more comfortable with making those plays, Roderick said.

“The other thing just that’s important to recognize is that this is Jaren’s second start this year and the fourth start of his career,” Roderick said. “He’s played basically three full games in his football career college football career. It’s I think to expect him to just get a little better each game and see the game a little better and be a little more accurate. As that progress continues, we’ll be a little more aggressive.”

On the flip side, Hall has accounted for half of the explosive running plays with runs of 39 yards (against Arizona), 18 yards, 23 yards and 18 yards (against Utah).

Roderick said that while the Cougars don’t plan on having Hall be the featured running back, they do plan on using his running ability a few times in every game.

“I think he ran the ball nine times and only one was a pure called run for him,” Roderick said. “Six of them were play calls where he could hand the ball off or pull it and that’s about right. We don’t need a lot more than that. I think the ones he pulled were big plays. f you go too deep into that world, then your quarterback is getting beat up. We want it to be something that defenses have respect but we don’t want to rely on it so much that it becomes a crutch and then he doesn’t make it through the season.”

BYU junior wide receiver Gunner Romney said that his group feels like it can do more to create bigger plays in both the pass game and the run game.

“I don’t think we’ve had enough of them, not as many as we wanted to this point,” Romney said. “We’ve been able to get the job done but as the season goes on, I think that’s one thing that we need to do a lot better, whether it’s in the run game or the pass game.”

He believes it on the receivers and tight ends to make those plays happen by either making the big downfield catches or by making the blocks the spring ball carriers for big gains.

“We’re always looking to improve,” Romney said. “I think are a lot of places where we have left yardage on the field but there’s also a lot of good things happening. With the first two games under our belt, I think with that experience hopefully we can just continue to improve throughout the season and continue to break even more plays because of that blocking.”

The goal is to put more points up on the board — something BYU may need to defeat an explosive Arizona State offense on Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium (8:15 p.m. MT, ESPN) — and Roderick thinks that could be coming sooner rather than later.

“I think that we’re just three or four big plays away per game from seeing our point total go up 10 or 20 more points if we just land a few of those shots,” Roderick said. “We’ll see. I think I think those plays will come with time.”

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