PROVO — For most of the season, the BYU offense has been moribund, ranked among the worst in the country in almost every statistical category.
The Cougars are finally showing some signs of life, although they have played two of the weakest defenses in the nation the past couple of weeks.
In last Saturday’s 41-20 victory over lowly San Jose State, BYU posted season highs in points scored and total offense (598 yards).
This week, the Cougars are No. 92 (out of 129 teams) in the country in passing offense, No. 124 in scoring offense and No. 125 in total offense.
So there’s still work to do.
But BYU did record three touchdown drives of 75 yards or more against the Spartans. Entering the game, the Cougars had only one drive of 75-plus yards for a TD all season.
While the Cougars are taking some confidence in that showing, the players know they haven’t come close to arriving yet.
“We played well and we put up a lot of points. Even then, there was so much we could have done,” said quarterback Tanner Mangum, who completed 18 of 34 passes for 283 yards with three touchdowns and one interception last week. “There were a lot of plays that we left out on the field — missed reads and inaccurate passes here and there that we could have done even more.”
The offense will try to make more strides when BYU visits Fresno State Saturday (8:45 p.m. MDT, ESPN2).
It won't be easy. The Bulldogs rank No. 16 nationally in total defense, No. 24 in pass defense, No. 21 in rush defense and No. 19 in scoring defense.
Mangum pointed out that the offense converted on only 33 percent (5 of 15) third-down attempts against SJSU.
“There were a lot of drives that could have been extended. Fortunately, we were three for three on fourth down, which helps,” Mangum added. “We’re happy with the result and the progress, but there’s still so much to be had.”
Offensive coordinator Ty Detmer agrees.
“We still left a few plays on the table. Hopefully we’ll make those next week. You can see the growth and some of the things coming along,” Detmer said on his radio show Monday. “We’re getting there. But we still left some plays out there that you’d like to make. … We’re excited with the output we had, the shots we were able to connect on and we’ve got to keep that momentum going.”
Mangum completed passes to a bunch of different receivers Saturday, with Micah Simon, KJ Hall, Matt Bushman and Talon Shumway hauling in three receptions each. Simon became the first Cougar this season to score multiple touchdowns (two) in a game this season.
“It’s nice being able to have that,” Mangum said of having multiple pass catchers available. “It makes my job easy, knowing I can go to any guy on the field at any given time and they can step up and make plays. The receivers did a good job of finding openings and getting to the right spots and making plays in traffic. Micah’s two touchdowns were pretty contested. That’s what we need — guys who are going to step up and make those catches.”
The game opened with a 45-yard completion from Mangum to Jonah Trinnaman. There was also a 41-yard touchdown pass from Mangum to Simon.
Bushman, a freshman tight end, has turned in a solid season. He leads the team with 31 receptions for 304 yards and two touchdowns.
The offense found a rhythm against SJSU.
“We had the offense rolling and we just made plays. We had eight plays over 20 yards,” Bushman said. “Those are explosive plays that hurt the defense. That’s what we need to do the rest of the season, just make big plays and identify when we can take those shots and get more points on the board.”
Detmer is encouraged by the improvement his offense is making.Comment on this story
“It’s always nice to execute and see guys make a play on a ball in coverage. That’s not something we’ve done a lot of this year,” he said. “It’s really good to see them progress. Hopefully that builds confidence in the quarterback to throw it and confidence in the receivers to go up and make a play. All those things are good and needed and will help us down the road.”
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Cougars on the air
at Fresno State (5-3)
Saturday, 8:45 p.m. MDT Bulldog Stadium
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM