Cougars enter bye week with major questions after 1-3 start

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Dani Jardine
Squally Canada runs the ball for a short gain against Wisconsin on Sept. 16, 2017. BYU finished the game with 81 total rushing yards. (Dani Jardine)

BYU enters its bye week with numerous concerns after a 40-6 thumping from No. 10 Wisconsin on Saturday in the team’s 1000th game.

At the postgame press conference, coach Kalani Sitake summed up the game by saying, “I was disappointed with the result, obviously. We need to play consistently better on both sides of the ball.”

On the offensive side of the ball, there are several key questions: What’s wrong with the offense? Who is Beau Hoge? How long will Tanner Mangum be out? How far off is bowl eligibility?

Hoge got his first start for BYU against Wisconsin in place of Mangum, who suffered an ankle injury on the last offensive play against Utah.

Mangum entered the field on a scooter Saturday after a week of speculation that his injury could be serious. The program has yet to confirm Mangum’s status, since the team’s policy is to not discuss injuries unless they are season-ending.

Hoge is a 6-foot-1, 210-pound redshirt sophomore from Kentucky and the son of former NFL running back Merril Hoge. He redshirted last season after playing in three games his freshman year. He went 10-for-17, throwing for 137 yards, one touchdown and one interception in 2015.

Similar to former BYU quarterback Taysom Hill, Hoge is a dual-threat quarterback who likes to extend and make plays with his feet.

In the air, however, there was little difference between Hoge and Mangum against Wisconsin.

Mangum has completed 54 percent of his passes this season, averaged 5.18 yards per completion and thrown two touchdown passes and four interceptions.

Against Wisconsin, Hoge completed 55 percent of his passes, threw two interceptions and averaged 5.55 yards per completion.

Both currently have quarterback ratings under 100.

Bottom line – the Cougar’s offense has been extremely underwhelming.

Here’s how the offense stacks up nationally in a few key categories:

  • BYU’s offense is ranked 128th out of 130 FBS teams (129 full-fledged FBS and Coastal Carolina, which is in its second year of transitioning to FBS from FCS), averaging 219 yards per game.
  • Breaking that down, BYU is ranked 119th with 144 passing yards per game and 125th with 74 rushing yards per game.
  • BYU’s 9.8 points per game is 127th nationally. The Cougars have scored 39 total points this season — 36 teams scored more 39 points last week alone.
  • The Cougars have picked up 43 first downs this season, which ranks 112th nationally.
  • In games between two FBS schools, BYU’s 52 plays per game is the worst in the country.
  • The Cougars’ average time of possession in games between FBS schools is just under 22 minutes, which ranks 124th.

On the defensive side of the ball, BYU ranks No. 2 nationally in total tackles and is tied for 59th in points allowed per game (23) while linebacker Fred Warner is tied for 10th nationally with 33 combined tackles.

Despite the rough start, there is still plenty of time for BYU to correct its course and make a 13th-straight bowl game.

Last season, BYU opened the campaign 1-3 before finishing 9-4 and winning the Poinsettia Bowl. However, those three losses came by a combined seven points.

The Cougars are 1-3 once again this year, with their lone win coming against 0-3 FCS foe Portland State and losses coming to now-ranked opponents LSU, Utah and Wisconsin.

This year, BYU has been outscored by 67 points in its three losses.

BYU will have to win six of its final nine games to reach bowl eligibility, a daunting but possible task.

Up next for the Cougars is a trip to Logan, Utah, on Friday, Sept. 29 to play Utah State. The last time the Aggies beat BYU in Logan was a 31-16 victory in 2010.

Friday’s game is scheduled for 6 p.m. MDT and will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.