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Instant Takeaways From BYU’s Bounce Back Victory Against Texas Tech

Oct 21, 2023, 8:56 PM | Updated: Oct 22, 2023, 11:54 am

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Defensive coordinator Jay Hill during BYU's football game against Texas Tech on October 21, 2023 (Courtesy of BYU Photo)

(Courtesy of BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah – The BYU Cougars responded to their worst loss in years by taking down the Texas Tech Red Raiders for a win on homecoming.

The Cougars hosted the Red Raiders at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah on Saturday, October 21.

BYU beat Texas Tech, 27-14.

Eddie Heckard is going to be an NFL defensive back

How impressive is graduate transfer Eddie Heckard? The former Weber State Wildcat has been everything BYU wanted him to be and more this season.

On Saturday night, he put together one of his most impactful performances.

Heckard recovered a Texas Tech fumble in the endzone to put BYU up 14-0 early in the game. In the second quarter, he picked off Texas Tech freshman QB Jake Strong.

Saturday night’s performance is an example of why Heckard should be an NFL draft pick next April.

Heckard returned to college football after getting feedback from scouts that he felt was too low. This season, against the talent in the Big 12 Conference, Heckard has shown he was meant to play on the biggest stages.

BYU’s offensive line stepped up

The BYU offensive line has taken its share of criticisms this year. Most of it was valid, as BYU boasted one of the worst rushing attacks in the nation entering the game.

But leaving Saturday night’s game against Texas Tech, the offensive line deserves praise for how they performed.

BYU has its best starting five they could roll with as Connor Pay anchors the center spot, Paul Maile at left guard, and Weylin Lapuaho at right guard. It was their second consecutive week in that configuration and they won the one-on-one battles in the trenches.

Texas Tech isn’t an elite defense, but they have athletes that cause HAVOC, such as EDGE rusher Steve Linton. The BYU offensive line kept the pressure in check and limited the hits they had on Slovis.

They allowed some more pressure in the second half when the offense began to stall, but overall, a game that was a step in the right direction for BYU’s offensive line.

Third down defense continues to struggle

During the fourth quarter, BYU allowed Texas Tech to reel off a 14-play, 87-yard touchdown to bring the Red Raiders within 13 points. Tech had a conversion on third down and fourth down to keep the chains rolling.

BYU entered the game fourth nationally in fourth down defense, but they were 92nd in stopping teams on third down.

Coming out of Saturday, it’s an area where BYU needs to get better. Tech with a freshman quarterback hovered around a 50% conversion rate on third down. That number has to be lowered in the coming games against more Big 12 opponents.

BYU football is struggling to put teams away

The last two home games have resulted in BYU wins, but the Cougars have shown a tendency to not be able to finish the game off when given the opportunity.

On numerous occasions in the second half, the BYU offense had chances to put their foot on the gas and pull away from Texas Tech. BYU’s offense had a stretch where they went three-and-out on four of five offensive possessions.

They looked to be on their way to a fifth three-and-out in six series until Aidan Robbins bailed them out on a conservative play call to pick up a first down on 3rd & 13.

Robbins’ tough running finally put the hammer down on Texas Tech’s chances of pulling off a comeback.

But going forward, BYU needs to maintain an aggressive mindset to pull away from teams. It’s a growing trend that is an area to monitor moving forward.

Aidan Robbins could be a game-changer for BYU down the stretch

BYU fans got their first glimpse of UNLV transfer Aidan Robbins since week two against Southern Utah. Robbins has been dealing with a ribs injury, but he was running with the physicality that made him a coveted transfer portal target.

His performance that finished with nearly 20 carries, that could bode well for BYU to know that they can give him a big workload down the stretch of the season.

BYU’s top two rushing yard totals this season have come with LJ Martin and Aidan Robbins in the game together.

Safety tandem is set moving forward

Injuries for BYU have ravaged the safety spot. But barring any additional injuries, the Cougars have their top two safeties moving forward. That’s Ethan Slade, who has been a starter since week one and former Utah State transfer Crew Wakley.

Wakley was close to the top in total tackles for a BYU defender and he nearly had an interception.

Slade was one of the three players that picked off Jake Strong.

Credit Jay Hill, he has been dealt a tough hand with his safeties, but has consistently found a way to get results out of his group.

Home is where the wins are at for BYU in 2023

As we witnessed around the Big 12 on Saturday, it’s hard to win on the road in this league. BYU has done a great job of defending its home turf this season.

The home-field advantage is real in Provo. Another sell-out crowd was on hand to watch the homecoming clash against Texas Tech, and the crowd immediately rattled freshman Tech QB Jake Strong. He dropped a handoff exchange in the first quarter that resulted in a turnover on downs.

Then he had a fumble resulting in a defensive touchdown for BYU.

BYU’s defense looks like a completely different group at home. The unit that struggled in every phase against TCU was playing with fire and intensity that was elevated by being at home.

If this continues, BYU has the potential to be one of the toughest venues in the new Big 12 Conference in the future.

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 Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

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Instant Takeaways From BYU’s Bounce Back Victory Against Texas Tech