Despite hanging 30 points on the scoreboard against Washington State, there were some noticeable struggles that occurred on the offensive side of the ball. The offense only averaged three yards per carry, but what was surprising was how difficult it was for BYU to run up the middle.
The team is looking to improve its rushing attack this Saturday against Weber State.
“I don’t think this game could have come at a better time for our team,” said Michael Alisa. “It was a good win against Washington State and obviously we had some struggles with the run game, more specifically in the middle. This will be a good time to work on our fits and get that all down with the linemen and running backs working together.”
“There’s nothing like playing a first game with a bunch of new guys,” said Houston Reynolds. “I feel like there are a lot of improvements to make and a lot of things we saw on film that we need to improve, dial in and tweak. There’s a lot of improvement from week one to week two and then to week three, so we’re looking forward to making those improvements.”
The interior of BYU’s offensive line seemed to struggle with 6-foot-4-inch, 310-pound Ioane Gauta, 6-foot-2-inch, 292-pound Toni Pole and 6-foot-4-inch, 298-pound Xavier Cooper. The interior of the line wasn’t able to get a good push or consistently create running lanes on the inside.
“I was actually really impressed with their nose guards,” said Alisa. “They’re big dudes and really quick off the ball, and they’ve got good moves. It’s pretty impressive when you’ve got nose guards swimming past double teams. It was a good look for our team going into the rest of the season because we’re going to see some really good defensive lines coming up in other games. I’m glad we got that brought to light in the first game.”
What kind of things need to be done for further improvement?
“That’s a difficult question without going into too much detail because every individual guy has a list of things,” Reynolds said. “Coach makes comments, and puts comments on film, and you can go in and watch practice and see that each individual guy has three things that he’s trying to fix on a day-to-day basis. For each individual player it’s different.
“Some guys it’s targeting and knowledge of the game and our offense. For some guys it’s getting lower and for others it’s throwing inside hands and for others it’s footwork. Every individual has things that they’re focusing in on and trying to fix, but the offensive line is a very unnatural position and those things take time to fix and make habit.”
“Yeah, it’s just sharpening up the targeting really, and it wasn’t a big thing really but it was big enough to where one guy would miss and there was a tackle in the backfield,” Alisa said. “If we can get everyone targeting right, then things will open up.”
On numerous occasions against Washington State, BYU’s offense had the opportunity to score touchdowns from within the blue zone but instead settled for field goal attempts. After scoring 24 points in the first quarter, the Cougar offense only managed two field goals in the second half. The stagnation of the blue zone offense was another point of concern that will need to be addressed this week.
“Yeah, that was huge last week,” Alisa said. “That was a huge thing we had to clean up from last week. Our second half play was a lot different from our first half, so taking care of business in the red zone, completing our drives, and not only that but holding the foot on the pedal throughout the whole game [are important].”
The Cougar offensive line will have to fix up those issues with a much larger challenge in Utah looming on the horizon.
“Yeah, no doubt, and it definitely is in the back of our minds,” said Alisa. “I think we’ve all concluded that the best way to prepare for Utah next week is to do the best we can against Weber and clean up those little things we had last week that we needed to clean up. If we do our best this week, that’s the best thing we can do.”
So as the Cougars get set to face the Wildcats, there is an automatic perception that BYU should win this game easily.
“Yeah, I think a lot of guys will look at the scoreboard, but I would say more just focusing on executing our responsibilities,” Alisa said. “If we do that, then the score will take care of itself, but, yeah, [we want to have] a flawless game or at least cutting back on the errors of last week.”
“I respect Weber State, and we were taking a look at their personnel on their d-line,” said Reynolds. “I feel like with us, this is an opportunity to focus in on us and our fundamentals and dial in those fundamentals. If we can do that, then we’ll be unstoppable.”