COUGAR TRACKS

Despite Struggles, Identity Of BYU Football Offense Taking Shape

Oct 22, 2023, 9:05 PM | Updated: Oct 23, 2023, 1:22 pm

PROVO, Utah – The 2023 season has been an unusual year for BYU football.

BYU is 5-2 through seven games, which is what we at KSL Sports projected for the Cougars entering the season. It might be a surprising record to many outlets, but it hasn’t surprised us.

What has been surprising is the way BYU is winning the games.

BYU is 73rd in scoring offense (27.6 points) and 122nd in total offense (301.9 yards) per game. If you told me before the season those were the stats for BYU’s offense with a veteran Kedon Slovis at quarterback, I’d say there was no chance they would be at five wins.

So, to be at 5-2 with those numbers, yes, that’s surprising.

But BYU has been gritty, timely, and found ways to get victories despite coming nowhere close to being a thing of beauty in the stat sheet.

BYU will have its toughest test this Saturday when they travel to Austin to face the No. 7 Texas Longhorns. Texas is a three-touchdown favorite by many prognostications.

A daunting task for BYU OC Aaron Roderick to try and keep up with the high-powered Longhorn offense–even if they don’t have Quinn Ewers. Backup Texas QB Maalik Murphy has a rocket for an arm. Just go watch his spring game highlights to see that.

Saturday night’s 27-14 win over Texas Tech showed flashes that BYU’s offense can be a high-flying attack as well. BYU coach Kalani Sitake said to the BYU Sports Network sideline reporter Mitchell Juergens at halftime that the first 30 minutes was the best half of football his team had played this season.

BYU had nearly 200 yards of offense and was averaging 7.3 yards per play in the first two quarters against mistake-prone Texas Tech.

But then the offense came to a complete halt in the second half.

BYU only had 78 yards in the second half and seemed timid to throw a pass with Slovis.

“Do whatever it takes to win”

So it raises questions: what is the identity of this BYU offense through seven games?

“Just do whatever it takes to win,” said BYU head coach Kalani Sitake when asked about the offense’s identity. “But I think there’s still room for improvement.”

Honestly, that’s an accurate assessment of the group. When BYU looked dead in the water against Arkansas in Fayetteville last month, Slovis and the offense capitalized on a short field to come up with points.

The same can be said for wins against Cincinnati and Texas Tech.

BYU football is looking for explosive plays

BYU is 115th nationally in explosive plays of 10 yards or more this season. They’ve only had 79 to date in an offense that has primarily been one-dimensional with a struggling ground attack.

But the rushing attack appears to be trending up. Honestly, it’s hard not to go up with how low BYU is in many rushing statistics this season.

What BYU showed on the ground against a weak rush defense from Texas Tech was promising. The one-two tandem of LJ Martin and Aidan Robbins has great potential when healthy.

It might be a simple analysis, but BYU’s offense has zero margin for error. A turnover for this group can be devastating. But if they don’t cough up the ball, they are going to have a chance to win games in a Big 12 that produces wild results every week.

A lot of that rests on Kedon Slovis. Through seven games, he only has four interceptions on the year.

Take care of the ball

In the past, BYU’s identity on offense has been tied to taking care of the ball. During the past three seasons with Zach Wilson and Jaren Hall, BYU avoided turnovers excellently. But what hurt them was that they didn’t have a defense that could create takeaways.

That’s not the case this year, as BYU has a defense that can cause turnovers.

On Saturday against Texas Tech, BYU’s defense caused four turnovers. One of those takeaways resulted in a defensive touchdown.

BYU is third nationally in turnover margin this season.

That right there is the identity of BYU’s offense. You will be in the game if you take care of the ball.

“I feel like on both sides of the ball, we still have some new bodies and some new people to the scheme. They’re getting used to it. They are starting to develop rapport with each other on the line, in the passing game with our quarterback,” said Sitake. “Then on defense, understanding the scheme a little bit more.”

Give away turnovers; you’ll see double-digit losses as they did against Kansas and TCU.

The chase to get bowl eligible

It’s not glamorous or flashy. But that’s life as a first-time Power Five program. Will this be acceptable in future seasons? No. But with an overhauled roster relying on many new transfers and personnel, you take what BYU has produced on offense thus far as it has resulted in five wins.

For the first time since 2005, when BYU was mired in three years of losing records, BYU fans can enjoy chasing six wins to qualify for bowl eligibility.

BYU football is in the thick of that race as they inch closer to the final month of the regular season.

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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Despite Struggles, Identity Of BYU Football Offense Taking Shape