PROVO — BYU’s new “go-fast, go-hard” offense experienced a dreadful debut last weekend at Virginia.
Will there be significant improvement in the encore performance Saturday (5 p.m. MDT, ESPN2) when No. 15 Texas rolls into LaVell Edwards Stadium?
In their season-opening loss to the Cavaliers, the Cougars ran 93 plays, averaged 3.9 yards per play, completed 13 of 40 passes, converted 7 of 23 third-down opportunities, punted a mind-numbing 11 times and scored just 16 points.
Not exactly what BYU had in mind when it rehired Robert Anae as its offensive coordinator last January.
“This week we’ll have a better feel for who we are than last week,” Anae said. “I’m confident we will be a better version of who we are than we were last week.”
Since last Saturday's setback, the Cougars have been adjusting and revamping, starting with the offensive line. The changes include moving Michael Yeck from right tackle to left tackle and relegating returning starter Ryker Mathews to the bench.
“We need to be more physical,” said offensive line coach Garett Tujague. “I want to find guys that can embrace the hard edge and stand toe-to-toe with anybody and throw punches. That’s what I want. That’s what I’m looking for. We’ll find it. We will find it.”
“I think we could have played harder up front,” said coach Bronco Mendenhall of last week. “I think we could have played harder up front and been more physical. I think we sacrificed, or they were trained to sacrifice, some of the physical play and continuity and execution, for the speed. So what we have to take a step in is not only going fast but actually playing physical in our offensive front with that tempo.”
Meanwhile, the Longhorns (1-0) are a much better team than Virginia. But BYU players and coaches say they’re not intimidated.
"No disrespect to anyone that we play — Texas is a good football team, and it is too early to even talk about rankings or how good anyone is,” said Mendenhall. “Texas is traditionally one of the better teams in the country. But we are not afraid."
“Texas is going to be ready. They’re a great team,” said BYU wide receiver JD Falslev. “If we don’t come out and execute significantly better, it’s going to be a long day. But I know the guys are working hard. We’re all staying positive in the locker room. I’m excited for this weekend.”
BYU’s offense is hoping injured senior wide receiver Cody Hoffman will be able to return this week after missing the opener due to a hamstring injury. He is listed as “possible” for the Texas game.
Whether Hoffman is available or not, “our passing game needs to get better,” said quarterback Taysom Hill. “We need to be on the same page, receivers and quarterback, so we know exactly what we’re seeing and exactly where I think the receivers should be and them being where we plan to be. That, and we need to get better at throwing the ball and catching it.”
The Cougars are confident in Hill’s ability to run the high-tempo offense.
“We’ve got to block better for him. We have to run better routes for him,” Falslev said. “To put it on his shoulders is unacceptable. He did everything he could to help us win the game. As a collective unit, we came up short.”
“I really like Taysom Hill as a quarterback. He’s excellent,” Anae said, explaining that there were many negative factors that hindered Hill’s play a week ago. “We’re looking forward to this week having a much better grip on the other 10 guys on the field. You cannot really judge a quarterback unless that part gets fixed. We’re in the process of doing that. Far from a completed deal.”
The way Tujague sees it, everything starts with the offensive line.
“It’s the most important part of a team. If you walk around and back up the hard edge, it’s going to be tough to beat you,” he said. “You look at what we’re doing and you do it with an attitude that you won’t lose, that you will win at all costs, then people see 300-pound men doing that, it’s a lot easier for 180-pound men to buy in and they all follow.”
Can last week's offensive line problems be fixed?
“Absolutely,” Tujague said. “It will be fixed.”
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