Provo • Official notice: BYU is wearing hardhats, searching for, trying to build an offensive identity.

Two games in, construction delays are all around. The name has not been found, a complimentary label has not been established, the mystery has not been solved.

The closest thing that has arisen so far is this: The Cougars are a bunch of plodders, grinders, toughies. All of which is a euphemism for an offense that has some talented players, but a dearth of real playmakers.

And as BYU was reminded here late Saturday night in its 21-18 loss to the Cal Bears, it’s hard to count on repeatedly putting together 12-play drives for touchdowns — without something going wrong. Better to help the effort with a breakaway here and there.

Breakaways require speed, and BYU’s offense has almost none.

A big play on defense, though, gave the Cougars hope — a 36-yard scoop-and-score off a fumble taken by safety Dayan Ghanwoloku that cut a third-quarter deficit to 14-10. Ghanwoloku also recovered a fumbled punt in the fourth, giving the offense a chance to score, a chance that ended up unrealized. Overall, the defense played decent. The offense? What’s the word … indecent?

Kalani Sitake, in so many words, called it goof-prone.

“We just made too many mistakes,” he said. “We didn’t help ourselves by making mistakes and having drive-killers. … We just have some things we’ve got to fix.”

He specifically mentioned dropped passes and too frequent ineffective offensive line play — including weak blocking on runs and poor pass protection.

“There’s enough blame to go around,” he said.

Before the Cougars played their first game, Sitake was asked how often his offense would throw the ball versus running the thing.

“Hmm,” Sitake said, pausing for effect. “Sometimes we’ll run the ball when we think that will help us win.” Another pause. “Sometimes we’ll throw the ball when we think that will help us win.”

Damned enlightening.

After playing mostly power football, with a few zigs and zags and timely passes tossed in, against Arizona in their week-one win, the Cougars attempted to go back to power football in week two against Cal, and then, they went away from it, and then, they went back to it, and then ... .

And then, they picked up only a handful of second-half yards against the Bears and lost.

Sometimes the running helped them, and sometimes it did not. Sometimes the passing helped them, and sometimes it did not. Usually, neither did — against a Cal defense much better than Arizona’s.

In a season of great importance for BYU football, though one of reduced expectations, it is compelling stuff watching the attempted establishment of an entire new offense for a program that can trace and attribute its only sustained successful stretch of football to years of explosive attacks.

That legacy has ebbed in recent years, piling up in a heap last season.

New offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes is trying to clear that now with an offensive signature that, at least at times, harkens back nearly a century — to the leather-helmeted, raccoon-fur-coat-wearing, pennant-waving, gold-fish-swallowing football style of the 1930s. Line up your big’uns against the other guy’s big’uns and see who can get work done.

As mentioned, that worked versus last week’s Wildcats, when BYU went to the ground 43 times against just 28 passes. Even with that methodology, running down its venue to victory, you had to wonder if the Cougars really could, as Sitake had said, change it up enough to go all newfangled again, when necessary.

Against Cal, the Cougars gained some advantages powering ahead with Squally Canada, who had a few strong runs. But when they went to the air, there were too many disruptions in their consistency. Just one example: BYU made a move down the field for a shot at taking a late halftime lead, threatening to go up, 10-7, but two different Cougar receivers — Dylan Collie and Micah Simon — dropped huge passes.

“Dropping the ball doesn’t help,” Sitake said.

In the third and fourth quarters, inconsistencies continued to plague the Cougars, spinning into a messy swirl. The O did manage one late TD and a 2-point conversion. It gained a total of 287 yards.

“We didn’t do enough to win the game,” Sitake said. “We need to be more efficient on offense, more disruptive on defense.”

As for building that identity, heading into week three against Wisconsin, there are orange barrels all over the place on BYU’s bumpy road to offensive recovery.

GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 pm. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.y.