Ryan Teeples: BYU's offense is right on track, except for the second half of games

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 30 2013 12:19 p.m. MDT

Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Taysom Hill (4) makes the handoff to Brigham Young Cougars running back Paul Lasike (33) during a game at Lavell Edwards Stadium on Friday, October 25, 2013.

Matt Gade, Deseret News

On Saturday, Sept. 21, the BYU football team and its fans found themselves coming off a devastating loss to in-state rival Utah. It was a game in which the BYU offense managed just 13 points and left the Cougars with a paltry 1-2 record and a reeling offense.

Fans began to seriously question Robert Anae’s new “go fast, go hard” strategy and wondered if Taysom Hill possessed enough talent to deliver the passing attack Cougar fans have come to expect.

Since then, the Cougars have reeled off five straight wins and optimism on the team, offense and with Hill himself are at near-highs.

But don’t chalk up another 10-win season just yet. There’s plenty of improvement yet to be made for this Cougar team. And as BYU enters a very tough stretch of road games to close out the season, there is one facet of the offense that should give the team and its fans pause, as it has the potential to hurt what has the potential to be a great season.

The second-half blues

In the aforementioned loss to the Utes, the Cougars struggled mightily in the first half, scoring no points and putting the team in a hole. The offense picked up in the second half and made a game of it.

Oddly enough, the team now has the opposite problem.

In the five games since that time, the Cougars are exploding for points in the first half but cannot seem to sustain any momentum into the third quarter.

It’s alarming because the Cougars haven’t been far enough ahead on the scoreboard that they can afford to let up after the break. In the Georgia Tech and Boise State games, the team was fortunate its defense came up with stops to keep the game out of reach for those opponents.

In its last five games, the BYU offense has averaged nearly 340 yards in the first half. That’s a tremendous number and an indication just how potent Anae’s offense can be.

But in the second half of those games, the same Cougar offense only mustered an average of 180 yards. The BYU offense’s second-half yardage drops over 46 percent from its first-half stats.

This isn’t like an Oregon team who is routinely up five scores at the break. In fact, BYU’s largest halftime lead in those last five games was 21 points last week against Boise State. And in that game, the Broncos had more than one opportunity to get within a touchdown.

Points on the board reflect the yardage total by half as well. In those same most recent games, the Cougars put up an average 24 points in the first half. In the second that number falls precipitously to 13.

Even more telling are the last three games, in which the BYU offense had a total of three drives that produced less than 10 yards during first half play, primarily three-and-outs. In the second half of those contests, that number balloons to 14, more than triple the first-half stat.

The next logical question is, why? Why can’t the Cougars move the ball in the second half? Why do the three-and-outs start to pile up after halftime? Why do the points on the board slow so dramatically?

The answers aren’t easy to find, but there are some clues.

Getting adjusted

One of the things Bronco Mendenhall does so well for his defenses is make adjustments at halftime. This year and last, opposing teams have found difficulty moving the ball against the Cougars after the break. Even in the high-scoring shootout with Houston, those Texas Cougars only scored eight of their 46 points during the third and fourth quarters.

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