PROVO — Going into the season, junior wide receiver McKay Jacobson was expected to be a big playmaker for a BYU offense that had lost record-breaking, three-year starters at quarterback, tight end and running back.
Through eight games, Jacobson has been conspicuously quiet, having caught 21 passes for 201 yards and zero touchdowns.
In the Cougars' 25-20 win over Wyoming on Oct. 23, Jacobson suffered a minor knee injury on the opening series and did not return. But he's been practicing this week and will play Saturday against UNLV.
For Jacobson, it's been a trying season, both personally and for his team, which has posted a 3-5 record.
"You never know what's going to happen. It is frustrating sometimes when you don't perform as well as you'd like," he said. "It is what it is so far. Honestly, I'm just looking forward to Saturday, looking forward to getting out there and playing (UNLV) and the remainder of the season. It's fun to be out here playing football. You've got to stay positive and keep working."
Overall, production from the wide receivers has been disappointing, including numerous dropped passes, some in the end zone. There have been some bright spots, but they have been few and far between.
Redshirt freshman Cody Hoffman has 21 receptions for 198 yards and one touchdown. Senior Luke Ashworth has recorded 17 catches for 110 yards and a TD. Junior O'Neill Chambers had five receptions for 48 yards before he was suspended for the rest of the season.
Ashworth provided a glimmer of hope in the win over the Cowboys, catching six passes for 57 yards and a touchdown.
Jacobson said he was "not surprised at all" to see Ashworth turn in a big game.
"I feel we're very capable. Obviously, at times as a whole, we've been inconsistent," Jacobson said of the receiving corps. "You can make up all the many reasons why, but when it comes down to it, we just haven't done as much. But definitely, I'm confident that when we get the opportunity, we're going to make a play and help our team win. That's all you can ask for, even if it's limited to whatever extent. You've just got to go with it and do what you can on each play."
Quarterback Jake Heaps is glad Jacobson is healthy again. "We're excited to have him back. You want all of your weapons out there on the field," he said. "Hopefully, we can build on what we did against Wyoming with Luke, Cody and McKay and the rest of the guys."
During his BYU career, which started in 2006, Jacobson has caught passes from two seasoned quarterbacks who are now in the National Football League — John Beck and Max Hall. "It's always interesting to play with different guys," Jacobson said. "I've been real fortunate to play with really good QBs."
As a true freshman, Jacobson caught 28 passes for 547 yards and three touchdowns before serving a mission to Japan. In the 2009 season-opener, in his first game back, Jacobson caught the game-winning TD pass in the big upset of then-No. 3 Oklahoma at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Despite missing four games with a hamstring injury, Jacobson finished the '09 campaign with 23 receptions for 556 yards (an average of 24.2 yards per catch) and four touchdowns.
This season, he's worked with junior Riley Nelson, who started the first three games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury, and Heaps, a true freshman who has started the last five games.
Jacobson acknowledged "it takes time" to establish rhythm with a quarterback. "But this far into the season," he added, "I don't think it's relevant."
Cougars on the air
UNLV (1-7, 1-3) at BYU (3-5, 2-2)
LaVell Edwards Stadium
TV: The Mtn.
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM