Commentary: BYU's Robert Anae deserves a hat tip for resurrecting the Cougar offense
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Remember when BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae wasn't the most popular coach in Provo? Now as BYU enters its second bye week with a 6-2 record, Cougar fans should be throwing Anae a parade in front of LaVell Edwards Stadium.
After all, he is the main man responsible for resurrecting the BYU offense.
No, BYU's offense isn't flawless by any stretch of the imagination. The Cougars still have some work to do on finishing drives with touchdowns as well as not shooting themselves in the foot with silly mistakes and drive-killing penalties.
But it is most certainly back from the dead. In fact, BYU is No. 12 nationally in total offense.
What a difference a few weeks make.
Cougar fans and the local Utah media aren't the only ones to pick up on Anae's transformation of the offense. Ralph Russo of the Associated Press wrote about BYU's up-tempo transformation, praising the progress the Cougar offense has made:
"And it's working great. An offense that struggled against good competition last year is not just running more plays, but gaining more yards and scoring more points per play."
High praise indeed.
However, it wasn't too long ago BYU fans were grumbling about Anae and the offense. The Cougar offense wasn't very effective against Virginia (16 points, 362 yards total offense) and arch-rival Utah (13 points, 402 yards total offense).
The charges against Anae were familiar ones from the last time he was the offensive coordinator. The chief complaint was that Anae's offense is too predictable. Even after BYU's rout of Texas, many BYU fans weren't satisfied with BYU's apparent lack of progress. That's what a tough rivalry loss will do to how the fans view a coach.
Since then, however, BYU's offense has improved by leaps and bounds. Compared to last season, the Cougar offense has drastically improved in rushing yards per game (258.8 vs. 153.1), total yards per game (511.1 vs. 400.4), plays per game (89.8 vs. 77.1) and points per game (32.4 vs. 28.7). While the passing yards per game is essentially a wash (252.4 vs. 247.2), what's remarkable is that BYU averaged just 152 yards in its first two games.
In the last two games against Houston and Boise State, Taysom Hill averaged 378 yards passing per game. Hill won the Capital One Cup Impact Performance of the Week after his 545 yards of total offense against Houston, despite taking eight sacks.
Yes, there are times even now where Anae's offense becomes a bit conservative and predictable. The Cougar offense sputtered against Boise State after Mitch Mathews caught a 40-yard touchdown pass from Hill to put BYU up 31-6. The Cougars went three-and-out four times and scored just six points after that touchdown, and three of those points came from a Boise State fumble, followed by a personal foul penalty that put BYU inside the blue zone.
Still, can anyone complain now that BYU can win with its offense as well as its defense?
Take the game at Houston again as an example. If BYU had given up 46 points last season to this same team, the Cougars would have lost that game in a rout. While the Cougars scored more than 46 points three times last season, that was against bottom-dwellers like Hawaii (3-9), Idaho (1-11) and New Mexico State (1-11). This game probably would have ended like BYU's 42-24 loss to Oregon State.
The fact that BYU scored 47 points and won the game speaks volumes on how far this team has come. It's also remarkable when you think BYU scored 37 points on Boise State when this same offense was only able to score six last season.
The question remains if the rejuvenated BYU offense can win on the road against a ranked opponent, and we'll find out as the Cougars travel to No. 24 Wisconsin on Nov. 9. However, one thing is certain as BYU prepares for its next big test:
Anae has resurrected BYU's offense, and he deserves a tip of the hat.
Lafe Peavler is a sportswriter intern at the Deseret News. Follow him on Twitter @MasterPeavler
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