Provo • Perhaps forgotten in the 7-6 loss to Boise State last week and all the drama and second-guessing over coach Bronco Mendenhall's decision to go for two instead of the tie was the fact that BYU passed for just 61 yards.
It was the Cougars' lowest passing total since getting only 41 yards in the 3-0 loss to Utah in 2003.
"Isn't that awesome?" joked offensive coordinator Brandon Doman. "Sixty-one yards passing, and I feel like I am 61 years old. Obviously, 61 [yards] is not good enough. It is not going to win us ball games, and it is not acceptable."
Doman said the keys to jump-starting the offense are not a secret: reduce turnovers, get better play from the quarterback, finish drives and get the offensive line to stop making costly penalties that stall or hamper drives.
"I think everyone knows we can't keep turning the ball over," he said. "When you start adding up the mistakes, I am not sure we qualified to win those two games ... It is encouraging that we are going to fight and finish, but we have to stop making the mistakes that we've been making, particularly in the pass game. They are causing us some turnovers that are costly right now."
Doman said coaches will decide in the next day or two whether injured starter Riley Nelson or freshman Taysom Hill will start on Friday, but won't announce it until kickoff. He said it is "pretty easy to see" that Nelson is trying to play through back pain.
"He is not the same guy right now that started the season. The guy that started the season had an outstanding first step, and was attacking all the time. Right now, there is some hesitancy, and he's a little bit gun shy. That's not who he is. It is just based on the injury."
Doman said the encouraging news regarding Nelson's back is that it is healing.
"It is significantly better right now than it was a week ago, and last week it was quite a bit better," Doman said. "I would suspect by Saturday that he will be pretty close to back to normal. But that will be a tough decision to make. Do you prolong him? Or do you sit him down and just let it get better? We will have to make that decision soon."
No hard feelings?
BYU safety Michael Wadsworth, who is redshirting this season after transferring from Hawaii, probably won't exchange pleasantries with Hawaii coach Norm Chow on Friday. Chow refused to overturn a decision made by previous UH coach Greg McMackin in which Hawaii said it would release Wadsworth to transfer to any school but BYU when Wadsworth was on an LDS Church mission in England.
Hence, Wadsworth had to pay his own way at BYU this year before likely receiving a scholarship next year, and Chow made some thinly veiled accusations about BYU coaches having an unfair advantage to lure missionaries away from other programs.
"We don't recruit when players are on their missions," Mendenhall reiterated Monday. "When players want to transfer, the first thing that is usually signaled is foul play. But we won't, didn't and haven't violated any rules. Nor will we in the future. And it is just unfortunate that anyone might think that we did."
That being the case, Mendenhall said his relationship with Chow, who spent 27 years at BYU as an assistant coach, is not strained.
The relationship "won't change from my standpoint," Mendenhall said. "Everyone makes mistakes. I will greet him before the game just like anybody."
Mendenhall said after Tuesday's practice that Nelson was "limited" and not ready yet to play. He said will wait as long as they can on Nelson, but could decide on a starter on Wednesday. Still, he said, they won't announce the decision until Friday. ... Mendenhall said receiver Ross Apo has recovered from the hamstring pull that kept him out of the Weber State game and limited him against Utah and Boise State.
Hawaii at BYU
P Friday, 6 p.m.
TV • ESPN