BYU Pleased With SUU Win, But Know They Have Areas To Improve

Sep 9, 2023, 6:36 PM

PROVO, Utah – BYU football coach Kalani Sitake wants wins but wants his team to strive for perfect games.

It’s a demanding standard to achieve, but coming out of Saturday afternoon’s 41-16 win against Southern Utah, that is still something BYU is chasing.

BYU football ‘not the best game’ against SUU

“2-0, not the best game, but a lot of really promising things and saw some positive things,” said BYU head coach Kalani Sitake after the victory over SUU. “I’d like to play better in all three phases. But really thankful for some of the plays the guys made and putting some points on the board by the offense.”

There was improvement on the offensive side of the ball for BYU after the underwhelming performance a week ago in the 14-0 win against Sam Houston.

Kedon Slovis had a solid day through the air

BYU finished with 394 yards against SUU. The passing attack led by quarterback Kedon Slovis was a big reason for that. Slovis finished with 348 yards on 22-of-32 passing and had four touchdowns to only one interception.

That was a step in the right direction for an offense with a lot of positive buzz coming out of fall camp.

BYU’s ground attack was grounded against the T-Birds

One area that was missing on Saturday was the rushing attack. BYU finished with 46 yards. SUU sold out to stack the box, but that was still concerning for BYU not to succeed on the ground.

Freshman LJ Martin led the way for the second consecutive week. The El Paso, Texas native finished with six carries for 27 yards.

Starting running back Aidan Robbins was surprisingly missing once again this week. The former UNLV star only had three carries for six yards. All three carries happened in the first quarter.

Why was Robbins not given any additional carries after the first 15 minutes?

“I don’t know all the answers right now for who carried what,” said Sitake when asked why Robbins didn’t get a carry after the first quarter. “I just want to see the ball carried with more intensity and get more yards. I’ll have to watch the film, but we need somebody that can carry the ball and do it the right way.”

BYU football is looking for answers

BYU’s offensive line wasn’t creating the holes and openings they were expected to provide this season. That was also at the top of mind for Sitake who guides BYU to a 2-0 start for the fourth consecutive season. This is the first time that has happened in BYU football history.

“We need someone that can block for [the running backs] and make sure we get more yards. What we got (against SUU) is not good enough. So, it doesn’t matter who the defense is; I think we’re better than that. We’ve got to figure it out. Whether it’s Aidan that’s running it or Deion or LJ. We feel really good about all three of those guys, but we’re not giving them a chance right now. That’s our job as coaches to get the O-Line, tight ends and receivers blocking the right guys.”

Ultimately, the offense held up its end of the deal, scoring 41 points and showing explosive playmaking ability through the air. The defense had its struggles as well.

Coming into the matchup, defensive coordinator Jay Hill earlier in the week said he wanted to see more pressure on opposing quarterbacks and finish with sacks.

BYU’s defense came up with zero sacks against the Thunderbirds.

In the second half, Southern Utah put together 165 yards of offense against BYU’s first-team defense. Then, he added another 75 yards against the second-team defenders.

Veteran SUU QB Justin Miller finished with a solid 235 passing yards and completed 53% of his passes.

“We trust our scheme, defense. … I think it’s gonna take trusting each other’s job,” BYU linebacker Max Tooley said. “…We showed that we can hit the quarterback the last couple of weeks. So I think, yeah, we’re all more in tune with the defense and getting into the swing of things; I think you’ll see a lot more pressure and a lot more sacks on the stat sheet.”

The answers to questions BYU wants to answer need to come in a hurry. Beginning next week, BYU starts a gauntlet of 10 consecutive games against Power Five opponents. Something that BYU has never faced before in the program. It starts with a visit to SEC Country against an Arkansas team that had its share of struggles.

The Razorbacks defeated Kent State on Saturday, 28-6. So we’ll find out next week in primetime which team gets right coming out of a pair of wins that leave both feeling the need for more.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X (Twitter) and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

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BYU Pleased With SUU Win, But Know They Have Areas To Improve