PROVO — BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae wants more consistency.
And more touchdowns.
And more success on third down.
And a victory would be nice, too.
The Cougars are hoping to get back on track when they host Middle Tennessee State Friday (7 p.m. MDT, ESPNU), less than a week after falling to their archrivals.
BYU’s offense finds itself ranked last (No. 123) in the nation in pass efficiency. That is symptomatic of what ails the Cougar offense right now.
In last Saturday’s 20-13 setback to Utah, the Cougars had five red-zone opportunities and scored only one TD. BYU had 40 plays that started or ended in Utah territory. The Cougars gained a total of 79 yards on those 40 plays, and had one touchdown, two field goals, an interception and a turnover on downs.
“I’m looking for consistency. We need to be consistent, move the ball, and punch it in the end zone,” Anae said. “That’s what I’m looking to get better with.”
As for the pass efficiency issues, Anae said, “It’s a sign of the stage where we’re at right now. The pass game has not been effective and the run game has been spotty as well. It’s got to be tightened down on all levels.”
Sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill has completed only 35 percent of his passes this season, and was just 18 of 48 last Saturday.
“We were in third-and-longs all night” against the Utes, Hill said.
He added that the Cougars are still searching for their offensive identity.
“We’re still in the process of finding out who we really are offensively,” Hill said. “I know there’s a lot of commotion. But we’re three games into the season and there’s a lot of football left to be played. The execution portion of things need to catch up with how fast we’re going on all levels. We’ll continue to work on that. It starts up front, and with my decision-making, then goes to our backs and receivers. It’s hard to pinpoint every little thing, but at the end of the day, each person needs to do his job. As we do that, we’ll be really successful.”
The Cougars know they need to get better in the red zone.
“We have different red zone packages, and that’s definitely an emphasis this week,” Hill said. “Offensively, we feel we have something to prove.”
Anae reiterated that Hill isn't the only one to blame for the offensive woes, explaining that any good offense begins with a good O-line.
“It’s got to start with protection,” Anae said. “Before we jump to conclusions about Taysom Hill, what I see is we need to grow as an offensive unit. The pass efficiency statistic is a characteristic of where we are right now.”
How does offensive line coach Garett Tujague assess his players?
“It’s a process. We’re getting better every day," he said. "The emphasis is on making everything you do matter. The guys are doing that. Now we’ve got to minimize the mistakes and be precise, and master our craft.”
The Cougars are likely to be without sophomore running back Jamaal Williams on Friday. Williams suffered a concussion and severe stinger against Utah. Doctors ruled out any spine-related concerns and the status for his return is based on day-to-day progression.
Williams would have to pass concussion protocol to play Friday.
If Williams can’t play, Anae said he expects Michael Alisa, Paul Lasike and Adam Hine to pick up the load on the ground.
So, will Middle Tennessee’s defense help BYU boost its passing game? The Blue Raiders are No. 104 in the nation in pass defense, No. 93 in total defense and No. 77 in pass efficiency defense.
On the other hand, Middle Tennessee is No. 7 in the country in interceptions, with seven picks in four games.
“When it flips on and looks magic, I don’t have a timetable, other than I know that the players are committed,” Anae said. “After a tough loss to push the way they’ve pushed, they’re very committed to fixing that.”
Meanwhile, the Cougars are happy not to have to wait a full week to take the field again following the devastating defeat to Utah.
“The best medicine now is to have a game one day earlier than we normally play,” said coach Bronco Mendenhall.
Defensive lineman Eathyn Manumaleuna said the short week “could be a blessing. We want to bury all of that really fast. This is another opportunity for us to show what we have and how hard we're trying to work for this upcoming game."