BYU football: Red zone inefficiency problematic
Provo • Riley Nelson was efficient and effective and threw only a couple of passes that could have been intercepted, while offensive coordinator Brandon Doman's fast-paced offense clicked so well that Washington State's defenders clearly were struggling to keep up.
Some even were resorting to creative tactics to slow down BYU, according to BYU tight end Kaneakua Friel, who noted, "They were tired. It seemed like they were faking some injuries. I dunno."
Lost in a dominant outing by both BYU's offense and defense in Thursday night's 30-6 win over the lower-tier Pac-12 team was the fact that the offense struggled four times when it was put in the scoring zone by two big defensive plays and two long drives.
The Cougars got just nine points out of possessions that ultimately ended on the 10-, 3-, 14- and 9-yard lines.
"That was definitely a frustration for us," said running back Mike Alisa, who had a game-high 54 yards on 13 carries. "That's going to be the biggest focus that we are going to have, going into next week for sure, is our red-zone plays."
Thirty points was plenty against the crimson Cougars, but will that cut it against the other crimson-clad Pac-12 team in two weeks? Will that be the difference between winning and losing at Boise State, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech?
"We played well enough to win the game, but still have a lot of stuff to clean up and get better at," Nelson said.
The 16-play first drive ended with a 28-yard Riley Stephenson field goal after the Cougars overcame a holding penalty on the drive's first play. They faced second-and-5 at the WSU 9 before Alisa was stuffed for a 2-yard loss and Nelson threw an incomplete pass.
Another long drive that ate up much of the third quarter had BYU looking at first-and-goal from the 9, but after a 4-yard reception by JD Falslev and Taysom Hill's 1-yard run, Nelson was sacked on third-and-goal from the 4.
"We left at least 14 points out on the field, maybe more," Nelson said.
The BYU defense put the offense in prime position to get touchdowns in the second half twice, only to see a 21-yard field goal and a missed kick from 26 yards out.
Jordan Johnson's 64-yard interception return to open the second half set up the Cougars at the 9, but Alisa was held to a yard, Nelson's pass to Austin Holt fell incomplete and Nelson's third-and-goal rush from the 8 was stopped at the 3. David Foote's blocked punt later gave BYU the ball at the WSU 23, but the blue Cougars got nothing out of the momentum change.
"We can play cleaner, but I liked the competitive nature of the team," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "I liked their aggressive mindset. I liked the tempo they played with."
Nelson said BYU's offense was fired up by some comments Washington State coach Mike Leach made about his offense being "more BYU than [what] BYU does" during a teleconference last Saturday.
"Some stuff was said during the week, and it was clearly evident tonight that BYU looked like BYU, and the other team was the other team," Nelson said. "â¦ When an opposing team comes in and says, 'We are going to look more like BYU than BYU will,' I mean, how are you supposed to take that?"
BYU's field-goal drives
Drive started Drive ended Plays-Yards Result
BYU 25 WSU 10 16-65 28-yard FG
WSU 9 WSU 3 4-6 21-yard FG
BYU 20 WSU 14 12-66 31-yard FG
WSU 23 WSU 9 7-14 Missed FG