LOGAN — After suffering a fourth-straight defeat, and third consecutive borderline blowout, the BYU Cougars are digging deep for answers.
Or are they?
After seeing his team struggle to score points once again, and after his Cougars went more than 32 minutes before reaching the end zone (which ended a five-quarter TD drought), and after a game in which the Cougars needed 55 passing plays to amass 270 yards, and gained only 65 yards on 25 carries, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall says it's still a matter of execution.
"It was just execution, in multiple situations over and over again," Mendenhall said. "We continue to need to play more cleanly and more precisely and move the ball and make critical stops when we need to."
So don't expect the Cougars to get out the drawing board on Monday and map out a bunch of new things in an attempt to ignite a sputtering offense.
"The only change is continuing to work to get our execution at a lot higher level. The wrong answer is to alter and go around to try to develop schemes to be a Band-aid. The right thing is to continue to develop the players," Mendenhall said.
To a man, the BYU players are echoing their coach's position. Some do, however, feel they're grasping for something that will work. But overall, nothing will work until the Cougars execute the game plan and schemes already in place.
"We just need to execute," running back JJ Di Luigi said. "We aren't converting on third downs, we aren't converting on fourth downs and we're not making plays when we have opportunities, and those are things that kill an offense. So we just need to start executing."
Still, Di Luigi acknowledged the Cougars did throw a few new wrinkles at Utah State and those didn't even work.
"The plays that we feel are going to work the best are the plays that are getting called … (Utah State) just had a good plan," he said.
Even when BYU scored late in the third on Bryan Kariya's 1-yard TD run, it took the Cougars six plays from the 2-yard line to finish the scoring drive off.
"It was tough tonight but I did feel like we were moving the ball down the field at times, but we're not finishing as well as we should," receiver McKay Jacobson said.
Again, there were issues with dropped passes in key situations.
"As receivers we have to be able to make plays and be a little bit more dependable at times … if you execute, if we had executed out there, you never know how the ballgame is going to go. I think we would have scored some more points," Jacobson said.
Quarterback Jake Heaps was 27-of-55 for 270 yards and two interceptions, and Mendenhall liked his freshman QB's poise and felt like the protection he was getting was better than the past two weeks. But that wasn't much consolation for Heaps.
"We overall as an offense have to execute and I have to go out there and consistently make plays and put it in spots where the guys can go catch it," Heaps said.
The Cougar offense showed some spark in the second half when Heaps began throwing more down field. That doesn't necessarily mean that's the type of play calling to expect down the road.
"The tempo had to increase. We had to be more open and try to generate more momentum, and I think that's what you saw happen … the attempts are going down there, but until we start converting (deep passing routes) I can't say it's a positive," Mendenhall said.
Overall, the Cougars aren't taking much positive from Friday's loss.
"This is BYU football, and we're better than that," Heaps said.
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