COUGAR TRACKS

Midseason Review Of BYU Football’s 2022 Season

Oct 11, 2022, 3:22 PM
BYU Football, Kalani Sitake...
BYU football head coach Kalani Sitake wants more from his team that is at 4-2 at the midseason point of the 2022 campaign. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

PROVO, UtahΒ – We’ve already reached the midway point of the BYU football season. It feels like yesterday that BYU was in Tampa about to take the field before a lightning strike hit, causing a delay to an impressive opener against USF.

Then you blink, and six games are already in the rearview mirror.

BYU is 4-2 at the midway point and out of the AP Top 25 poll. They began the year ranked No. 25 and climbed as high as No. 12 in the poll.

BYU entered the season as one of the most experienced teams in college football. On the defensive side of the ball alone, BYU had more than 200 starts combined on the team.

They’ve dealt with a long list of injuries and never had their entire collection of talent at once. But at the midway point, BYU football is still looking to put another complete game together as they did against USF in the opener.

Kalani Sitake on BYU football at the midseason point

“I don’t think I’m sitting here happy that we’re at a record that we’re at now,” said BYU coach Kalani Sitake at the midway point of the season. “But it has nothing to do with really the results, more to do with, I like to see our guys playing the best we can every week. And that’s what I want to see. I think after every game, win or lose; you’re going to hear me complain about some things because that’s just kind of the way I’m made. I always want to look at things to improve on.

“You’ve heard me in wins, not be completely happy. And that’s OK. When you have a roster of 123 guys and a full coaching staff, not everybody’s going to be perfect. If they are, then that’s the time you’ll hear me have no complaints. But until we get to that point, I want to get guys better. That’s our culture is ‘love and learn.’ You don’t want to miss out on an opportunity to learn. I’m involved in that too. So I have to find ways to keep learning and getting better. Once I’m past that, I probably shouldn’t be doing this job anymore. But I think right now, for where we’re at, I’d like to see us keep improving, keep playing better.”

Since we’re at the midseason point, let’s look back on some of the highlights and areas for improvement.

Offensive MVP: QB Jaren Hall

The loss to Notre Dame highlighted the importance of Jaren Hall. Even though Hall said he felt 100%, anyone watching would tell you he didn’t appear to be his usual self. And when he isn’t his usual self, the BYU offense came to a complete halt in the first half against the Irish with only 48 yards of offense.

But in the second half, Hall made some clutch throws to get BYU back into a position to make a comeback.

When he’s fully healthy, Hall has improved accuracy on his passes this season. The work he has put in with former BYU great and 3DQB trainer John Beck is paying off regarding the velocity on his passes, ball placement, and decision-making.

Hall is positioned to be a late first-round NFL draft pick in the 2023 Draft. He’s passed for 1,555 yards this season while completing 68.1% of his passes. Hall has a 7-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio through six games.

Defensive MVP: LB Max Tooley

ESPN’s Louis Riddick said it best, “Max Tooley just makes plays man. Guy is everywhere.”

That has been Tooley this season for BYU. I considered putting him as the “biggest surprise,” but people around the BYU program would tell you this level of play from Tooley is not a surprise. According to his teammates, a certified “dawg”, Tooley is second on the team in tackles with 42. That includes a game he missed with a precautionary ankle injury against Wyoming last month.

Some of the hardest hits you’ll see from a BYU defender this season were courtesy of Tooley in the Baylor game. He has two pick-sixes on the year, along with a sack.

Best moment of the first six games: Double OT win over Baylor

The win over then-No. 9 Baylor was a storybook night for BYU football. It represented the potential of this team while also leaving people even more excited for the Big 12 era beginning in 2023.

The atmosphere at LaVell Edwards Stadium on that night against Baylor is easily top five in the stadium’s history. A sell-out crowd with a strong showing from Baylor fans, made for an electric night that people won’t soon forget.

Best play: Puka Nacua’s 75-yard touchdown run on the first play of the season

Jet sweeps are a mixed bag of results for BYU over the years. But the one to open the 2022 season was a thing of beauty against USF. Star wide receiver Puka Nacua got his number called immediately and took a sweep to the house for a 75-yard touchdown run.

Best newcomer: DB Gabe Jeudy-Lally

BYU hasn’t had to turn to many new faces on this year’s team with how much experience returned. But one of the new guys that has made a significant impact is Vanderbilt transfer Gabe Jeudy-Lally.

Jeudy-Lally has recorded 10 tackles and emerged as the starter at cornerback over D’Angelo Mandell in the latest game against Notre Dame.

The graduate transfer, who still has two years of eligibility after this season, has provided BYU with the immediate competitive depth coaches were looking for when he arrived on campus.

Biggest surprise: Personnel blunders

For an experienced team, head-scratching mistakes such as having 10 men on the field on defense or field goal unit are surprising. Kalani Sitake pointed out after the Notre Dame loss that’s on coaching.

Mistakes with the number of personnel on the field cost BYU two timeouts and resulted in penalties. Those types of blunders will keep anyone not named Utah Tech competitive with BYU for the remainder of the season. It needs to be fixed in a hurry.

Also, putting the personnel on the field for certain situations is an area where BYU can improve.

Biggest concern: Field goal kicking

Jake Oldroyd has struggled, missing five of his last six field goal attempts. But what he has going for himself is that he’s the only kicker that’s a potential threat from more than 40 yards out. Justen Smith appeared to win the role last week against Notre Dame but then missed his first extra-point attempt.

BYU also has Cash Peterman, but he hasn’t dressed the entire season. So it might be time to give Peterman a try and see what he’s got. Because what BYU currently has isn’t working.

KSL Sports asked Kalani Sitake if there was a consideration to have a tryout for a kicker and where they go with the position moving forward. Sitake is focused on having the competition at that spot. But if kickers consistently compete, does it allow them the chance to gain the necessary confidence to become reliable?

Struggles in the kicking game impact BYU in many areas, and it’s a spot that needs to get back on track.

2022 BYU Football Schedule

Sept. 3 – at USF | Win, 50-21

Sept. 10 – Baylor | Win, 26-20 (2OT)

Sept. 17 – at Oregon | Loss, 20-41

Sept. 24 – Wyoming | Win, 38-24

Sept. 29 – Utah State | Win, 38-26

Oct. 8 – vs. Notre Dame | Loss, 20-28

Oct. 15 – Arkansas | 1:30 p.m. | ESPN

Oct. 22 – at Liberty | 1:30 p.m. | ESPN2 or ESPNU

Oct. 28 – East Carolina | 6 p.m. | ESPN2

Nov. 5 – at Boise State | TBA | Fox Sports Networks (FOX, FS1 or FS2)

Nov. 19 – Utah Tech | 1:30 p.m. | BYUtv

Nov. 26 – at Stanford | TBA

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter:Β @Mitch_Harper.

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