PROVO — Through six games this season, BYU has scored a grand total of seven points in the first quarter — that's one touchdown in 90 minutes of play.
The Cougars have been outscored 38-7 in the opening period.
The only time BYU has put points on the scoreboard in the first quarter was in its 24-21 victory at Wisconsin. The only game this season that saw the Cougars score first — midway through the second quarter — was in their 28-23 win at Arizona.
BYU’s agonizingly slow starts are among the issues that the coaching staff is addressing heading into Saturday’s game (8:15 p.m., MDT, ESPN2) at Hawaii.
The Warriors (6-1), on the other hand, have outscored their opponents 55-38 in the first quarter this season.
“We have to start faster. That’s on me. I’ve got to figure out what we’re doing schedule-wise, what we can do differently so we can start faster as a team,” said Cougar coach Kalani Sitake. “That first quarter’s got to be really important to us and get the momentum started. We’re looking at a lot of different things from schedule to preparation to everything. I start with myself first and we’ll go from there. We have to do better, start better. I talked a couple of weeks ago about being consistent. Starting fast is a big part of that.”
In BYU’s most recent losses — 35-7 at Washington and 45-20 at home against Utah State last Friday — the Cougars fell into identical 21-0 holes in the first half and couldn’t recover.
For BYU, first-half performances are generally a harbinger of the outcome.
In three years under Sitake, when the Cougars have trailed at halftime, they have posted a 3-15 record. When BYU is ahead at intermission, it’s gone 11-0. It's 2-1 when the game is tied at halftime.
This season, the Cougars are outscoring foes 48-38 in the second quarter and 47-35 in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, BYU is being outscored 37-25.
Offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes is looking into ways to help the offense get out of the gates quicker.
“Obviously, you want to score on every possession. We put a lot of thought into the plays that we run, not just our first possession but about the first 10-15 plays of the game,” Grimes said during the Coordinators Corner show. “For whatever reason, we’re just not executing early. We certainly do put a lot of thought into that and try to pick plays that we think our players are very comfortable with and we try to pick plays that we feel like we can block and we think our quarterback can get into a rhythm with. It just didn’t happen again for us (against USU). That’s our responsibility as coaches and we’ve got to get better at that.”
Meanwhile, BYU has struggled to win games at LaVell Edwards Stadium the past two seasons, something that could be tied to the Cougars' poor starts.
BYU is 3-6 since the start of the 2017 campaign at home. Two of those wins have come against FCS opponents, Portland State and McNeese State. The other victory came at the hands of San Jose State.
In the final home game of last season, the Cougars suffered one of their most humiliating losses in the modern era with a 16-10 setback to UMass.
Going into the 2018 season, BYU established “Protect LaVell’s House” as program goal and mantra. But the Cougars haven’t been able to accomplish that so far with losses to Cal and USU.18 comments on this story
It’s one of many problems that Sitake and his staff are trying to fix this week.
“I’m looking at a lot of different things. Just play hard,” Sitake said about his team’s home woes. “Inefficiency is for all of us to share but it starts with me as head coach. I’ll find some way to make sure we play better.”
For what it's worth, BYU has never lost to Hawaii at Edwards Stadium. The Warriors are 0-9 all-time in Provo.
Hawaii (6-1) at BYU (3-3)
- Saturday, 8:15 p.m. MDT LaVell Edwards Stadium
- TV: ESPN2
- Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM