Football: BYU's offense isn't the problem

Published November 3, 2009 5:22 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall's bye-week analysis of the state of his football team turned up some obvious problems and shortcomings. But aside from the last game, the Cougar offense isn't one of them.

It's hard to find fault with an offense that ranks first in the country in third-down conversion percentage (59.81 percent) and 10th in total yards per game (448.0), the coach said.

BYU is second in the Mountain West Conference, and 13th in the country, in scoring, averaging 34.6 points a game.

"If you go from an offensive perspective, very, very efficient," Mendenhall said of his findings. "I have been very impressed with how we are playing offensively, particularly on third downs."

Of course, there's "a bad taste in everyone's mouth, offense, defense, special teams," after the Cougars fell 38-7 to TCU in their last game, defensive end Jan Jorgensen said. The Cougars gained just 298 yards against the nation's top-ranked defense, and were 5-for-15 on third down, well below their average.

"TCU did a really nice job in limiting us at basically what we are best at -- third-and-medium," Mendenhall said. "We were able to get to that situation 15 times, and yet weren't able to convert with nearly the accuracy nor the identity that we have had before.

"So third down appears to be critical offensively. And for the most part, we have handled that well."

The Cougars are 5 percentage points better on third down (64-for-107) than the second-best team in the category, Georgia Tech.

Mendenhall said third-down efficiency is a point of emphasis for the program, and always will be. He said the designs of the offense, defense and even special teams are predicated on the team's ability to move the chains.

"When we don't play well on third downs, that is where our model kind of breaks down," he said.

The Cougars lead the MWC in passing offense (291 yards per game). Quarterback Max Hall is fifth in the country in pass efficiency rating, and first in the conference.

Running back Manase Tonga said they are also happy with the rushing attack, one of the few bright spots against TCU, as Harvey Unga picked up 123 yards against the No. 8 team in the country against the run.

Unga leads the MWC in rushing yards per game (99.7) and is 27th in the country.

"That we have been able to run the ball as well as we have, and without having too many injuries, is remarkable," Tonga said. "Our offensive line up front, they get after it, and our running backs have [played well]. I think they are doing a tremendous job."

The plan to give Unga as much rest as possible in practices and games appears to be working. Tonga said Unga is healthier at this point of the season than he was all of last year.

"Harvey is Harvey, man, he will be fine," Tonga said. "He is the type of player, if he knows something will keep him out of the game, he won't say anything. He would rather play with one leg than not play at all."

Mendenhall expects the offense to get a lift with the return of receiver McKay Jacobson, who missed the last four games with a hamstring pull but has been cleared to play against Wyoming on Saturday.

" For us, we had a chance to heal [during the bye week], which is always a great thing after eight football games," Mendenhall said. "We had a chance to do self-study, which is always great, especially when you have completed almost three quarters of the year."

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Where BYU's offense ranks

Rushing offense156.75 ypg4th48th
Passing offense291.251st15th
Total offense448.01st10th
Scoring offense34.63 ppg2nd13th
Third-down efficiency59.8%1st1st

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