PROVO — For weeks, BYU has been waiting for its offense to turn in a breakout performance.
Well, the Cougars are still waiting.
BYU has simply suffered too many breakdowns. Through four games, the Cougars have scored only five offensive touchdowns, are averaging 16 points per game, have coughed up 11 turnovers, and are converting only 38 percent of the time on third downs.
Yet as BYU prepares for its in-state clash with Utah State Friday (6 p.m., MT, ESPN), first-year offensive coordinator Brandon Doman is confident that the offense is close to reaching its potential.
"We just haven't put it all together yet. But I don't think we're far from getting that," Doman said. "We're inches away."
In last week's 24-17 win over Central Florida, BYU enjoyed a productive running game, rushing for 127 yards. Now, the Cougars need their passing game to take a big step forward. Much of that falls on the shoulders of sophomore quarterback Jake Heaps, who completed 16-of-34 passes for 133 yards and an interception against UCF.
"He hasn't played up to the expectation of himself, first and foremost. He has high expectations and he wants to be great," Doman said of Heaps. "All of the other expectations that are out there are already there. They've been created by 30 years of great quarterback play (at BYU). We know that, we understand that. So there is an expectation and when there's a level of execution to match that expectation, we're not matching that with execution right now. That's where his lack of experience comes into play — third-and-long and some of those critical situations where it requires a little bit of patience and timing."
For example, near the end of the first quarter against UCF, Heaps had a third-and-15 from his own 6-yard line. Heaps forced a throw into coverage, resulting in an interception.
"Maybe a more mature decision would decrease some of the turnovers we've had and then he'd be a more accurate passer," Doman said. "It's timing, decision-making, and accuracy against very good defenses."
Doman said that in the long run, Heaps will benefit from going up against tough defenses like he's seen from Ole Miss, Texas, Utah and UCF early this season. "It's as good of an experience for his growing that he could possibly face," Doman said. "Granted, we would have liked to have won all of those games. But the growth that's been experienced for him in these last four weeks, I don't know where else we would have found it … There are certain things that we didn't have roots deep enough in some of those areas. I think we're starting to find those roots right now."
Prior to the UCF game, Doman decided to move from the sidelines, where he had spent the first three games, to the press box to call plays. Doman said he realized that Heaps, and the other coaches, "don't need me down there (on the field). I think I can be a better play-caller upstairs, outside of the chaos of the sidelines. I think it was a step in the right direction. I've got a long ways to go (as a play-caller). I'm still learning a lot. Even being up there, I've got a long ways to go. But it was a better environment for me."
Doman stressed that one of the keys for the offense is to do a better job when it comes to down-and-distance. "Some of those critical situations are the last thing to come for a quarterback," he said. "First downs have to be managed better, so we're not in second-and-long and third-and-long. Between first down to third down, our offense needs to make significant improvement."
As part of that, the ground attack must continue to take pressure off of Heaps.
"The run game is going to help the quarterback," Doman said. "We were as efficient as we wanted to be (last week). So we met that goal. If we can meet that goal every week and then couple that on top with the pass game, that we know we have and can do, that's when we'll be great."
How long until the Cougar offense will become great? Who knows?
"I'm just waiting for them to have a breakout game and score a bunch of points," said BYU linebacker Jameson Frazier. "I am really confident with our offense and how things are going. I'm just waiting for the thing to come together."
Cougars and Aggies on the air
Utah State (1-2) at BYU (2-2)
Friday, 6 p.m. MT
LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM