PROVO — On its way to running 48 plays and scoring 24 points in the first half, BYU's offense seemed to be in midseason form in the season-opener against Washington State.
After punting on its first possession, BYU scored on four consecutive drives and seized a commanding halftime lead.
But in the second half?
"There was definitely a lull," said running back Michael Alisa.
Despite having the ball in the red zone three times in the second half, BYU managed to come away with just six points on a pair of field goals.
BYU's first drive of the third quarter began on the WSU 9-yard line following a 64-yard interception return by cornerback Jordan Johnson, but BYU had to settle for a 21-yard field goal.
On BYU's next possession, the offense marched all the way to the WSU 4-yard line before it stalled again, resulting in another field goal. Later, BYU failed to punch the ball into the end zone after having first-and-goal from the WSU 9 — a drive that culminated with a missed field goal.
"That was concerning to me," said offensive coordinator Brandon Doman. "In the first half I was really impressed with our guys and how they had done. Then, goodness, we got into those three situations down there in the red zone and didn't finish."
Finishing in the red zone — some BYU players and coaches like to refer to it as the "blue zone" — has been a point of emphasis this week as the Cougars prepare to host Weber State Saturday (1 p.m., MT, BYUtv).
"I want to see us (block) better and I want to see us be more efficient and more physical in the red zone," Doman said. "Those are the two areas where I want to see significant improvement for us. Both targeting in the run game and in pass protection. We'll place a lot of emphasis on scoring situations this week."
When asked specifically about the offensive line, Doman said, "I thought they graded out OK. I'd say targeting was the biggest challenge we had up front. They played hard, they played fast, but we missed some assignments. But we were moving so fast in a lot of cases that it didn't matter. If we can get the ball out under three seconds, most of the time we're not going to have a problem anyway. Our offensive linemen will just get better every day and every week."
Doman also acknowledged that he could do a better job at play-calling in the red zone. "I think I made a couple of errors on some of those third-and-sevens and third-and-eights going into the end zone," he said. "I made a couple of mistakes in play-calling. Hopefully we'll see an improvement this week."
Alisa led BYU in rushing with 13 carries for 54 yards, but he and the other running backs were unable to gain significant yardage in the red zone.
"We have to make a few tweaks with our run-blocking," Alisa said. "Once we get that squared away, it's going to be a lot different story. I felt like our guys ran hard. I'm happy with our performance as a group. The biggest thing we need to take care of is getting our blocking right. It's those little things we need to tweak. If we do that, success in the blue zone will be there."
Quarterback Riley Nelson said those corrections are "easy fixes. We're looking forward to Saturday to hopefully iron those wrinkles out."14 comments on this story
Of course, BYU played most of the game without standout wide receiver Cody Hoffman, who left the WSU game with a deep thigh bruise. He has been practicing this week and is expected to return for the Weber State game.
"He is a big, strong, sure-handed guy, and you love those guys in the red zone," Nelson said of Hoffman. "It will be nice to have him back. The offensive line wasn't happy with their performance, individually and personally. They weren't happy with the way we ran the ball (in the red zone). If we can do those things — get Cody back, and run the ball better — it will solve a lot of our red-zone issues."
Cougars, Wildcats on the air
Weber State (0-1) at BYU (1-0)
Saturday, 1 p.m. MT
TV: BYUtv Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM