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Nevada running back Stefphon Jefferson (25) is tackled from behind by Hawaii defensive lineman Beau Yap (92) in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)
BYU football: Hawaii’s defense might be tonic for Cougars’ foundering offense
BYU football » Cougs set to welcome defenseless Warriors.
First Published Sep 23 2012 04:18 pm • Last Updated Sep 28 2012 10:16 am

Provo • For the BYU football team’s beleaguered and injured offense, the next best thing to visiting the paradise of Hawaii this week might just be having the Hawaii football team’s defense visit them.

Offensive coordinator Brandon Doman’s foundering attack needs some aloha after scoring just one touchdown and committing five turnovers in Thursday’s 7-6 loss at Boise State, and new Hawaii coach Norm Chow’s leaky defense might be just the remedy after the Warriors were torched 69-24 by Nevada late Saturday night on the island of Oahu.

At a glance

Hawaii at BYU

Friday, 6 p.m. TV » ESPN

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Chow’s first visit to BYU as a head coach comes Friday, when the 2-2 Cougars play host to the 1-2 Warriors at 6 p.m. MDT on ESPN. The former BYU quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator’s homecoming has the potential to be an unhappy one, however, because Hawaii’s defense gave up 575 yards of offense and 30 first downs to Nevada.

The Wolf Pack rushed for 355 yards.

"It’s just one game. It’s a disappointing one," Chow said after Nevada’s Stefphon Jefferson tied an NCAA record by scoring seven touchdowns against Hawaii’s porous defense. "Obviously, we didn’t play as well as we could. Give [Nevada] an awful lot of credit."

Having lost its opener 49-10 at then-No. 1 USC before pounding third-year program Lamar 54-2 in week three, Hawaii dropped to 116th nationally in scoring defense (40.0), 70th in rushing defense (160.0 ypg.) and 69th in total defense (392.3 ypg.).

That should be a welcome sight to a BYU offense that has plummeted to 89th after punchless outings against Utah and Boise State and is now averaging just 367.5 yards per game. The Cougars are 79th in rushing offense (148.2) and 73rd in passing offense (219.25).

BYU’s offense faced much better defenses the past two weeks than it did against Washington State and Weber State in the opener and second game, respectively, but the fact that starting quarterback Riley Nelson played against Utah and Boise State with a back injury that Doman called "significant" after the 7-6 loss certainly contributed to the offense’s woes.

Although freshman Taysom Hill directed the Cougars’ only scoring drive Thursday, Doman and head coach Bronco Mendenhall said Nelson will get the start again Friday against Hawaii if he’s healthy.

But that’s a big if — as anyone who has had back issues knows.

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"It is all dependent on Riley’s health, and whether or not he can play like he is capable of playing," Doman told BYUtv. "He’s got to be able to play Riley Nelson football. If he can’t play Riley Nelson football, then we will have to go to an alternative plan. ... Ultimately, whether Riley or Taysom is playing, we can’t make the mistakes we are making."

Defensively, the Cougars rank among the best in the nation and shouldn’t have too much trouble with a Hawaii offense that was mediocre against Nevada, posting 378 yards. BYU is seventh in total defense, yielding 246 yards per game, and has not allowed more than 300 yards of offense in 10 straight games dating back to 2011.

Series scheduled

According to The Tennessean newspaper, BYU and Middle Tennessee State have agreed to a home-and-home football series that will begin next year with the Blue Raiders traveling to Provo. BYU will return the game in 2014 in Murfreesboro, Tenn., at MTSU’s Johnny Floyd Stadium. Exact dates for the games have not been finalized.

drew@sltrib.comTwitter: @drewjay

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