BYU offense still a work in progress after stumbling in Boise

Ari Davis
BYU football takes the field against Mississippi State. (Ari Davis)

BYU football is beginning to learn has made the transition its “pro-style” offense under new offensive coordinator Ty Detmer and the results have been mixed.

A pro-style offense is more often used in the NFL that requires a slower but more efficient level of play. The up-tempo style of offense more commonly used at the collegiate level, is meant to catch defenses off guard.

“The style of offense that we’re playing will allow us to be a little bit better in terms of we don’t need to rotate as much as we have in the past,” starting quarterback Taysom Hill said before the beginning of the season. “Our starters will take the majority of the reps, where the previous seasons weren’t that way because we went so fast; no huddle. We were forced to rotate. I don’t think that will be the case this year.”

The first game under Detmer’s pro-style offense may not have always been pretty, but the Cougars did earn a crucial victory over Pac-12 opponent Arizona.

Ari Davis
Tight end Hunter Marshall runs after a catch in the second quarter against Arizona. (Ari Davis)

After scoring 51 points in its first three games, BYU scored 146 points in its next four games. Clearly, something was clicking.

But then the Cougars went to Boise. The offense mustered just 13 points on the night.

“We feel good about the progress of things, but there’s definitely enough to clean up,” Detmer said before the Cougars went north. “But I think coming in, that was kind of what I envisioned our offense to be like. I’m hoping that we have grown and learn from those games and take steps in the right direction that we can go out and execute.”

Though teams typically get tired as a game wears on, BYU’s offense has been particularly adept at executing late in games. BYU has outscored its opponents 86-52 in the fourth quarter this season. Some of these last-minute heroics have been executed successfully (Arizona, Toledo, Mississippi State), while other tries have come up short (Utah, UCLA, West Virginia, Boise State).

Prior to the Michigan State game, Detmer talked about his expectations against the Big 10 powerhouse.

“It probably won’t be 55 points against a Michigan State team,” Detmer said. “But we hope to be in the game and give us a chance to win at the end, as we have in most of the others.”

Jamaal Williams celebrates after scoring a touchdown against Michigan State. (BYU Photo)
Jamaal Williams celebrates after scoring a touchdown against Michigan State. (BYU Photo)

However, Detmer may have been surprised by the 17-point margin of victory the Cougars walked away with that game, as his offense led an explosive attack against a strong MSU defense. BYU’s 31 points were the most allowed against the Spartans this season, even more than No. 10 Wisconsin put up when they beat Michigan State earlier this year.

Detmer and head coach Kalani Sitake put their faith in seniors Hill and Jamaal Williams by naming them captains of the offense at the beginning of the season.

Hill is still learning to play in the pro-style offense, but it’s clear he’s focused on cutting down his carries. Understandably so, considering Hill has battled back from three season-ending injuries. Detmer and his quarterback have been working together under the new offense to create a balanced amount of passing and running plays to throw off opponents.

“Every game’s going to unfold differently, where you may have to start throwing the ball,” Detmer said. “They’re going to crowd the box and Jamaal is going to be a focus so we understand that going in and we’ll have some things available to us that hopefully keep them off balance and keep them honest.”

BYU running back Jamaal Williams carries the ball against West Virginia. Williams set BYU's single game rushing record against Toledo. (BYU Photo)
BYU running back Jamaal Williams carries the ball against West Virginia. (BYU Photo)

In fact, the BYU offense has been incredibly balanced. Through six games the Cougars averaged 210 rushing yards per game and 210.7 passing yards. This stands in sharp contrast to last season, in which the Cougars averaged more than twice as many pass-to-rush yards (296.5 yards passing per game vs. 128.3 yards rushing).

One of the biggest reasons for the recent rushing surge is the return of Williams. Williams missed the game against the Broncos with an ankle injury — a large reason the offense struggled. BYU’s all-time leading rusher has rushed for 942 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season.

Sitake has been open about the formula of his team’s offensive success, saying there’s “no secret” the Cougars need to “put a lot of the load” on Williams.

The Cougars are now 4-4 on the season and are dealing with some ‘what ifs?’ Their four losses have come by a combined total of eight points.

BYU football gets a bye this week before traveling to Cincinnati to take on the Bearcats on Saturday, Nov. 5.

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