Dick Harmon: Robert Anae predicted BYU's mid-October numbers long ago

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 23 2013 6:00 p.m. MDT

Coach Robert Anae watches the offense as BYU wraps up spring football practices April 5 with a scrimmage game for the alumni at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Robert Anae predicted 40-8-90 nine months ago.

No, that is not a new synthetic oil.

One may argue how good or bad BYU’s offensive coordinator is as a play-caller. One can criticize his game plans, hairstyle, clothing and aftershave.

In 2013, Anae has had to overcome mistakes by younger players while breaking in a new quarterback behind a rebuilt offensive line.

The guy has nailed it.

Heading into the BYU-Boise State game Friday, facts and figures pretty much line up just the way Anae described how he hoped they would when he returned to BYU from Arizona last winter.

On Feb. 6, 2013, a little more than a month on the job, Anae did an interview with BYUtv’s Dave McCann. The two were talking about BYU’s brand, how it already had one, and what Anae wanted to bring to that brand in 2013.

Anae threw out some numbers.

His prime offensive objectives were to secure the football and block.

“To me, that is fundamental football," he said. "And if you do that at a high level, the brand should be 8 yards per play, wow; 90 plays a game, wow; and 40 points a game, wow. That’s usually what happens when you block and secure the ball. Great things happen if you can do that and go fast, go hard.”

Anae continued, “To me, the numbers, the statistics fall into place and you just choose the ones you like and say, ‘Here we go.’ But to me, fundamental football usually leads to outstanding results.”

Six months later in fall camp, Anae rightfully tempered expectations by telling reporters after BYU’s first scrimmage that his offense was a work in progress — calling it a marathon, not a sprint. He said that baby steps were needed and it would take six games before his offense would begin to look like how it was designed.

Well, at Houston, after six games, the Cougars scored 47 points, produced almost 7 yards per play and ran 115 plays. The offense did not secure the football, however, and the blocking left something to be desired.

Still, in hindsight, Anae knew what he was talking about.

You can see the design now. In the opener at Virginia, Anae wanted sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill and the rest of the offense to master the read option. Hill struggled and should have called his own number more times. The next week against Texas, he did. Then came Utah — with a stout defensive front that played the read option very well — and the Cougars lost because they couldn’t pass effectively, particularly in the red zone.

Anae then tweaked and added a little bit more, witnessed in wins over USU, Middle Tennessee, Georgia Tech and then Houston.

Does this mean BYU scores more than 40 against Boise State on Friday? No. But you can see the learning curve of the offense, how it has progressed in four straight wins.

BYU ranks 14th in the nation in total offense behind Baylor, Oregon, Texas A&M, Fresno State, Texas Tech, Northern Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, Arizona State and Wyoming.

If you break down how those offenses are producing, recognize the people behind them — Johnny Manziel, Sean Mannion, Brandin Cooks, Melvin Gordon, Marcus Mariota and Bryce Petty — and consider where Hill, Jamaal Williams, Cody Hoffman and BYU's offensive line began in August.

The progression is noteworthy.

Thing is, BYU can secure the ball and block at a significantly higher level in weeks to come.

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