Provo • Hey, wait a minute.
Did slow and plodding BYU — which traditionally has lacked breakaway speed at the receiver positions — really just run no fewer than nine jet sweeps in its 28-23 win over Arizona last Saturday?
The answer is yes. For 49 yards.
The Cougars also faked the jet sweep at least eight other times, quarterback Tanner Mangum keeping the ball after feigning a handoff to a streaking receiver and handing the football to a running back or throwing it, instead.
What in the name of LaVell Edwards is going on here?
Welcome to new offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes’ offense, which he labeled “multiple” and “versatile” and “balanced” when quizzed about it in spring and preseason camps. Never did Grimes publicly utter the words “jet sweep” or “fly sweep” — but the Wildcats got a heavy dose of the play at Arizona Stadium.
In the words of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. — “Surprise, surprise, surprise.”
Then again, maybe it shouldn’t have been a shocker. The Cougars ran it a few times in the media viewing portions of camp, but not enough to draw suspicion. It will likely be on display again Saturday when BYU (1-0) hosts California (1-0) in its home opener at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
LSU ran 10 jet sweeps for 53 yards against BYU in last year’s 27-0 dump-trucking of the Cougars in New Orleans, and Grimes was the Tigers’ run game coordinator and offensive line coach. It was a staple of Matt Canada’s offense, and Grimes obviously brought the jet sweep to BYU.
According to a story in the Baton Rouge-based Advocate last fall, the “Fly Offense,” or “Jet Sweep Offense,” originated at a high school in California’s Central Valley in the 1950s and eventually made its way to Boise State.
“The Fly’s first real national spotlight,” the newspaper said.
Now it has landed at BYU, of all places.
CALIFORNIA AT BYU
When • Saturday, 8:15 p.m.
TV • ESPN2
The jet sweep’s purpose is to stretch the field horizontally. A fast receiver runs behind the line of scrimmage before the snap — behind the quarterback if he is under center or in front of the quarterback if he is in shotgun formation — and takes the handoff. Or there’s a fake handoff.
That deception is a key element to its success.
BYU receivers Aleva Hifo, Neil Pau’u, Micah Simon and Dylan Collie got jet sweep carries Saturday, and Collie’s haul went for 13 yards.
“You have a lot of fast guys in space, so yeah, it is like an extension of a bubble screen, quick throws out there,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said when asked why the jet sweep is difficult to defend. “It is just easier to hand the ball off and get out there. For us, it is a good way to spread the ball out.”
BYU tight end Moroni Laulu-Pututau, a former receiver, joked that he wants in on the action after seeing how effective it was against the Wildcats.
“I am trying to get a jet sweep, man,” he said. "They don’t want me running the ball. They give it to Aleva all the time. It really helps our O line.”
LSU used it a lot, and quite likely BYU will, too, Laulu-Pututau agreed, despite not having so-called “SEC speed” that Grimes and Canada had last year in Canada’s first and only season at LSU.
Receiver Russell Gage was LSU’s No. 3 rusher last year, with 232 yards, including a 70-yard run against Auburn. Canada is now the interim coach at Maryland, which upset Texas last weekend.
It should also be noted that Grimes was Boise State’s offensive line coach in 2000 — four years before his first stint at BYU as the Cougars’ offensive line coach (2004-06).
More receivers (four) took handoffs than running backs (two) for BYU against Arizona as the Cougars combined for 183 yards on the ground.
Grimes said on his “Coordinators’ Corner” show Monday that as the Cougars were celebrating their big win Saturday, he took a step back to reflect on “the process” that began last December when he was hired by BYU but still needed a few weeks before leaving for Provo to prepare LSU for its bowl game.
“It was one of the most rewarding moments I’ve had in coaching,” he said. “Just really, really proud of our players, and happy for them.”
Eleven receivers/tight ends were targeted and 10 caught passes.
“It was a great team win,” Grimes said. “Certainly, the whole team [contributed]. Our offense made plays when we had opportunities. On a smaller level, our offense won as a team. There were a lot of contributors, both as ballcarriers, pass-catchers, blockers. There were a lot of people who did a lot of things. And a lot of really good players who didn’t get targeted much, but still had key roles in the victory.”
BYU ran nine jet sweeps in Saturday’s win at Arizona. Here’s the breakdown:
• Aleva Hifo picks up 9 yards on first play of second drive
• Neil Pau’u picks up 8 yards on first play of third drive
• Hifo picks up 3 yards on ninth play of third drive, but BYU accepts defensive holding penalty
• Hifo picks up 4 yards on first play of fifth drive
• Micah Simon picks up 6 yards on fourth play of first drive
• Pau’u picks up 0 yards on seventh play of first drive
• Dylan Collie picks up 13 yards on second play of fourth drive
• Hifo picks up 2 yards on first play of fifth drive
• Hifo picks up 4 yards on fifth pay of fifth drive