Provo • In BYU coach Kalani Sitake’s mind, there is only one rule for offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick this week: Don’t punt the ball on third down.
Everything else is on the table to get an unproductive offensive working again.
“If you want me to be honest with you, what would really be helpful is for our offense [not to be in] third-and-long for the majority of the game. We didn’t convert third downs,” Sitake said. “... There are a lot of factors. But we do have to pivot.”
The level of frustration seemed to reach a tipping point this week in Provo after six games of a poor running game and a passing attack that is too hot-and-cold.
Currently, the Cougars rank 129th in the country in rushing yards per game (with 67.5 yards and 2.38 yards per carry). It led to BYU scoring just 11 points in Fort Worth.
Will that mean BYU abandons the run and goes with something closer to an air raid?
“This is a little odd. Usually, we are able to rely on our run game, or the skill on that side, to get things done. For whatever reason we are not executing well enough,” Sitake said.
“Everything is in the equation except punting on third down.”
The offensive changes will be top of mind when quarterback Kedon Slovis comes out for the first series.
How to Watch:
Kickoff time: 5:00 p.m.
Radio: BYU radio SiriusXM 143/ BYURadio.org / BYU Radio App/ KSL 1160 AM,102.7 FM
Weather: Low 60s
Keys to the game
1. Another backup, another problem?
BYU struggled mightily with backup quarterback Josh Hoover last week. He threw for nearly 450 yards and four touchdowns.
This week? Well, it is another backup.
BYU will see either a second- or third-string quarterback against Texas Tech. But don’t expect it to be easy. Sitake noted that when teams have an entire week to game plan, the offense typically looks much different with a backup quarterback.
Hoover, for example, looked bad against Iowa State when he came in for relief for Chandler Morris. But most of those plays were built for Morris. A week later, with a game plan built for him, he picked BYU’s defense apart.
Defensive coordinator Jay Hill also has to worry about Texas Tech’s team speed and talent. Tech is just as talented, if not more so, than TCU. In fact, the offenses are quite similar. BYU gave up 44 points to TCU. What will change this time?
2. More people out, who is left?
BYU lost linebacker Ben Bywater for the season. Safety Tanner Wall is also out for the year. BYU is seemingly losing players quickly now.
Running back Aidan Robbins might return this week.
But Robbins hasn’t played since the second week of the season against Southern Utah. How much of a factor will he be this week, even if he is cleared?
3. Offense under construction
We mentioned at the top that this offense needs an overhaul.
But isn’t just a matter of play-calling and ditching the run. There hasn’t always been enough separation from the receivers. That was evident at TCU.
After the game, Slovis insisted his playmakers were open enough. But it sure felt like BYU was bottled up.
Not everything can be fixed by a mid-season philosophy change. The receivers against Texas Tech need a better performance.
Sitake on why this October will be different from last year’s winless October:
“I think the motivation to play is way different. Last year, it was more about just getting to a bowl game. The bowl game we already knew that we were going to be playing. I’m just being really honest with you guys. With this year, there is still a lot to play for.”