Four games into the BYU football season, the team is undefeated and one thing is clear:
Nothing can stop the Cougar offense.Even when it has committed penalties (UTEP), even when it has turned the ball over (Miami, Washington State), this offense has generated big numbers. And when it commits neither of those mistakes, as in Saturday's game, it makes opposing defenders look like confused 10-year-olds at little-league football tryouts.
Saturday it scored 62 points on nine touchdowns, and could have scored a lot more except that San Diego State's drives used up so much of the clock.
"Sixty-two?" tight end Chris Smith said to a reporter from Newsday. "No problem. We should have had more. We should have scored on our first two possessions of the game. Expect more next week. Definitely."
This is a confident offense, with three receivers - Smith, Matt Bellii and Andy Boyce - who are averaging more than 100 yards per game. All three are in the top 10 in receiving yards for the entire NCAA. There may not be records kept on this kind of thing, but the bet here is that there have never been three receivers averaging 100-plus yards before. Two maybe, but not three.
As a team, BYU is first in the nation in passing offense, second in total offense and ninth in scoring offense. Its average touchdown drive Saturday took 5.8 plays, and its average gain per play Saturday was 10.3 yards. In simple terms, on the average snap of the ball they achieved a first down. Whew.
BYU was scoring so easily, and so quickly, that Coach LaVell Edwards was actually hoping they would slow down and use up some time late in the game.
The down side to all this, however, is that the BYU defense seems well aware of the invincibility of the offense. In four games, the defense has given up - in order - 10, 21, 36 and 34 points. An argument could be made that the opposing offenses have gotten better, and that those point totals are justified, but anyone who saw the games knows better.
The fact is, when BYU's defense has dug in, it has allowed very few points. In the last two second halves, BYU has given up 17 points. In the first halves, 53 points. And it's not because they play better when warmed up, folks. They stuffed the Aztecs at the beginning of Saturday's game, then seemed to lose interest when the offense put them ahead by three touchdowns.
This is a risky pattern, and while it has worked twice in Cougar Stadium, it can't be expected to work as well on the road, in front of a hostile crowd just dying to see the home team knock off the No. 4 team in the country.
A hostile Oregon crowd, for instance. A hostile Oregon crowd cheering on a good Oregon team that came within one yard and nine seconds of knocking off 13th-ranked Arizona - in Arizona.
But Oregon's almost a week away, and we'll get to that later. For now, let's review some of the leftover stats from Saturday's game:
- San Diego State came to town with high hopes for its running game, but it was held to 3.3 yards per carry. BYU's runners, meanwhile, averaged 5.3 yards per carry.
- The top Cougar tacklers for the game were cornerback Brian Mitchell (eight), and safeties Derwin Gray and Josh Arnold (seven each). It's not surprising that the secondary ended up with so many tackles, since the Aztecs trailed and had to pass the ball to try to catch up.
- Linebacker Alema Fitisemanu had another big game, with three quarterback hurries, one sack, one pass knocked down and five tackles.
- San Diego State committed no turnovers (or BYU didn't take any away, whichever way you want to look at it), which leaves the Cougars with just four takeaways in four games.
- Quarterback Ty Detmer's pass-efficiency rating jumped up to 162.8 after Saturday's performance, making him third in the nation. He trails some guy from Arkansas who has thrown the ball all of 30 times, and Shawn Moore of Virginia, who has exactly half as many attempts as the BYU QB.