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Instant Takeaways From BYU’s Blowout Loss To West Virginia

Nov 4, 2023, 9:04 PM

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BYU vs. West Virginia on November 4, 2023 (Courtesy of BYU Photo)

(Courtesy of BYU Photo)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The BYU Cougars took a step back for the second consecutive contest with their blowout loss on the road to the West Virginia Mountaineers.

Takeaways from BYU’s blowout loss to West Virginia

The Mountaineers hosted the Cougars at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, West Virginia on Saturday, November 4.

BYU lost to West Virginia, 37-7.

Jake Retzlaff’s debut shows flashes of his potential

BYU quarterback Jake Retzlaff made his debut. It was a tough spot to be in. Before he took a snap, he was facing a deficit.

But Retzlaff gave BYU fans glimpses of his potential. He can get out and run on the scramble. There’s a lot of power behind his passes and he makes quick decisions.

Is he the QB1 of the future for BYU? I’d say you still need a Transfer Portal QB added to the mix. But the more game action Retzlaff earns will be valuable for him. He will get better with more snaps.

Is this a game that turns up the heat on the coaching staff?

It’s one thing to lose on the road in Big 12 play. That’s understandable. It’s tough to win in this league on the road. Just ask Oklahoma in Stillwater earlier today.

But to get dominated in every phase of the game and have a complete no-show raises a lot of questions.

How many of those questions need to be pointed at the coaching staff? Most of that has to go toward the offensive staff.

Yes, there are a lot of new faces in there, including at quarterback. But BYU has a streak of nine consecutive quarters without a touchdown. That streak has included Kedon Slovis, Darius Lassiter, Kody Epps, and a moment with RB LJ Martin.

There’s something systematically wrong with BYU’s offense this year.

Aaron Roderick has built up goodwill with the way he’s delivered a high standard of play at the quarterback position. Everyone that has started for him has performed well. Think about it; Zach Wilson, Jaren Hall, Baylor Romney, etc. Even Retzlaff showed flashes of his talent. But the rest of the offense has completely stalled.

The struggles on offense go beyond what happened Saturday night in Morgantown. It’s been on display since week one against Sam Houston. The lack of firepower on offense this year could prevent this team from reaching a bowl game after starting the year 5-2.

If they don’t reach a bowl game, is Sitake faced with another tough decision with his staff as he faced last year?

Officiating was brutal

I’ve never turned to calling out officiating in a column. But Saturday night was the worst officiating I’ve seen this season. Flags were flying everywhere and the low point was late in the third quarter after a WVU illegal touching penalty, the refs were spotting the ball with a gain of 13 yards for the Mountaineers.

There was a long delay that required a review for the officials to realize the ball needed to be spotted at the WVU 22-yard line instead of the 40.

Both teams had a lot of flags thrown on them, but this crew seemed not to allow as much physicality as other Big 12 crews.

West Virginia told everyone how this game would play out at the coin toss

It’s rare when a team wins the coin toss and opts to receive it to begin a game.

That’s what West Virginia did on Saturday night. They won the toss and said they would receive it. From the beginning of the game, the Mountaineers knew they would win in the trenches and run their style of play on BYU.

On the opening drive, West Virginia gashed BYU for a touchdown, that did consist of two Pass Interference calls, but the point remains, the Mountaineers set the tone on that opening drive.

BYU never recovered.

It was a showing of confidence from Neal Brown that reminded me of his confidence in Arlington in July when he said the Mountaineers would not finish 14th. He was right the, and he made the right call on Saturday night to take the ball first.

New low for the BYU offensive line

BYU’s offensive line has struggled all season. But on Saturday at West Virginia, it was a new low. The absence of Paul Maile at guard was noticeable from the beginning. Caleb Etienne stepped in for him and struggled. Brayden Keim at right tackle, didn’t fare much better.

Kingsley Suamataia had a rare penalty called on him. Then the ground game continued to stay grounded.

At this point, the personnel changes have been exhausted with players that could contribute in games. Now the question becomes, does Kalani Sitake need to make a coaching change on the offensive line?

Sitake said last year he doesn’t like to make in-season firings. But if the way the offensive line performed in Morgantown continues the rest of this month, BYU won’t be going to a bowl game after this regular season wraps up.

One step forward, two steps back

There were moments when BYU made big plays. Case in point, Keelan Marion returns the kickoff to begin the second half with a touchdown.

It felt like a momentum-changing swing to the game. Instead, it was negated by a questionable holding call on Isaiah Glasker.

Parker Kingston had a reception from Retzlaff that set BYU’s offense up in a rare red zone appearance. But the play ended with Kingston fumbling the ball.

In the third quarter on 4th & 7, Retzlaff had a great throw over the middle to Rex. He had it for half a second before WVU’s Anthony Wilson jarred it loose with a hit.

Injuries are mounting for BYU

Would Kedon Slovis honestly want to come back and play in this offense? He’s a competitor, so he probably does. But goodness, BYU is losing personnel at an alarming rate.

Running back LJ Martin was cleared to play on Saturday night but he never took a snap. That’s the second consecutive week he was out.

BYU was without Darius Lassiter at wide receiver. Then Kody Epps in the game left in the first half with an injury that required trainers to walk with him to the locker room.

Plus, Keanu Hill missed his third consecutive game.

BYU defensive linemen John Nelson and Caden Haws were out, two key cogs along the interior of the line. That forced Bruce Mitchell to get his first game action of the season.

At defensive end, John Henry Daley was sidelined and gunner ace from the beginning of the season Marcus McKenzie remains out.

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 Blowout Loss To West Virginia