BYU football: Lack of big-play capability hurts Cougars' offense again
Provo • Brandon Doman likes to call them "explosive plays," but BYU's second-year offensive coordinator has seen precious few of them this season. That's one of the reasons the Cougars are 4-4 two-thirds through the year when their defense has played well enough for them to be at least 6-2, maybe even 7-1 or 8-0.
That lack of big-play capability was evident last weekend when BYU fell 17-14 to No. 5 Notre Dame, and will almost certainly have to be discovered if the Cougars have any hope of winning at Georgia Tech on Saturday (1 p.m. MDT, ROOT Sports).
"We need some, we call them 'heroic moments,'" Doman said after the Cougars ran one more play than Notre Dame did, 61-60, but gained 146 fewer yards. "We needed some of those in a game like this when we play these good football teams."
None of the four touchdowns last Saturday were longer than 6 yards, but Notre Dame had a much easier time getting into scoring position than BYU did. The Irish had passing plays of 33, 31 and 29 yards and rushing plays of 55 and 22 yards.
BYU's longest plays were a 20-yard reception by Cody Hoffman and a 21-yard run by Jamaal Williams.
"We need more [big] chunks," Doman acknowledged. Notre Dame "doesn't ever give up chunks ... But we got a couple nice chunks today. We needed maybe two more, and we didn't get them."
Aside from Hoffman, who is sure-handed, but hardly a burner, the Cougars simply don't have a big playmaker on offense who can stretch defenses, nor the type of quarterback who can get the ball to them on deep routes. They move the chains as well as any 4-4 team in the country, but the grind-it-out style takes its toll. BYU is a subpar No. 82 in total offense in the country, but a respectable 42nd in third-down conversion percentage (43.65).
"We have to find a way to get more big plays," said quarterback Riley Nelson. "... Man, it is tough to sustain drives, because that means you are having to execute on 14, 15 consecutive plays. I remember [Notre Dame's] scoring drive in the first half was five plays, 70 yards. We need to start getting some of those."
BYU's scoring drives against the Irish were eight and four plays, but the eight-play drive covered only 56 yards and the four-play drive came after Kyle Van Noy's interception gave the Cougars the ball at the Irish 30.
Of course, the Cougars will never forget Nelson's overthrow of Hoffman from the Notre Dame 46. That would have been BYU's second-longest play from scrimmage all season, behind only Taysom Hill's 68-yard TD run against Hawaii.
"That would have won the game for us," Doman said. "... There were a couple moments that maybe could have catapulted us into a win against this team."
BYU at Georgia Tech
P Saturday, 1 p.m. MDT,
TV • ROOT Sports
BYU's lack of explosive plays
Opponent Plays Total Yards Ave. Per Play
Washington State 78 426 5.4
Weber State 79 532 6.7
Utah 79 312 3.9
Boise State 58 200 3.4
Hawaii 78 540 6.9
Utah State 81 380 4.6
Oregon State 84 386 4.5
Notre Dame 61 243 3.9