Imagine being an offensive lineman in a film session, watching the images on the screen as your offense tries and fails to gain a single yard on a third-and-short.
It’s not a pleasant experience, as BYU sophomore center James Empey can attest.
“It’s super-frustrating,” Empey said earlier in the week. “That’s definitely an area where we need to be better. It’s one of our offensive line unit goals. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves for those plays because it is time for us to go get it done. It’s not fun to go over it but you have to learn from your mistakes and get better.”
That perspective is a microcosm of what the entire Cougar football team is dealing with after the first five games of the season.
Blunders and miscues have kept BYU from getting anywhere close to its potential, resulting in glaring inconsistency on offense, defense and special teams.
“I think our defense is where our team is at right now,” BYU assistant head coach/linebackers coach Ed Lamb said. “In this style of offense, we have to move the ball, move the chains and score points. You’re not going to win scoring 20 points in this offense without having a defense that is completely shutting out the other team. What we’ve seen is that when we are successful we possess the ball on offense and then the defense rises to the occasion. We are all finding ways to rise to the occasion more often.”
But how close are the Cougars to making a breakthrough?
BYU senior running back Emmanuel Esukpa believes the Cougar offense just needs to have it happen the right way for it once.
“We just need to have one game where we just blow the team out and score a bunch of points,” Esukpa said. “Then after that we’ll be ready to roll.”
BYU junior linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi feels similarly and believes the Cougar defense isn’t that far away from making plays more often.
He said every BYU defender knows that it starts with improving against the run.
“The run game is a mentality thing,” Kaufusi said. “It’s you-vs.-me. Schemes don’t really hurt us as much as whether you can win the battle you have right now. I think a lot of our guys have taken on that challenge.”
It’s not going to be easy, going against a USF team that is coming off a win and has built some momentum.
“They have a lot of athleticism and speed,” Cougar head coach Kalani Sitake said. “I know Coach Charlie Strong. He’s been around for a long time and he’ll have those guys playing hard. They’re coming off a win and we’re going to their house. We have to be ready for this game. More than anything, for my purposes it doesn’t matter who we play this week, we’re going to respect them and scout them as we have been. But I’m more concerned with how we’re playing as a unit more than anything right now.”
The plan is to show that the bye week gave BYU time to shore up its weaknesses and develop its strengths.
“With the bye week and a chance to get extra work in, we worked really hard,” Empey said. “We tried to get things rolling back in the direction we want them to be going. We’re trying to get our mojo back. We’ve worked on a lot of aspects, trying to get better as a whole.”
So what should Cougar fans expect to see from their team on Saturday?
“I think the whole team is going to come out hard,” Kaufusi said. “People can expect that from this team, regardless of the situation. We are going to come out firing and play hard all 60 minutes.”