Building Upon an Offensive Foundation

After the Cougars defeated the Huskies of Washington in the season opener, it appeared the BYU offense might be alright. However, the offense soon began to falter. Now, the Cougar offense is focusing on their "bread and butter."

The Cougar dual-quarterback offensive system that had been practiced in spring and fall camp didn't last long, as Riley Nelson went down with a season-ending shoulder injury early in the year. The BYU coaches have since made the running game become the core of the offense as they work towards becoming a more dynamic offense.

"One of the cores of our offense is to establish the run this year, and that will open things up," said Mike Hague. "I think honestly, if you look at what happens with most offenses, if you can establish the run – especially the inside run – you'll be able to branch out and do other stuff."

Tight end Marcus Mathews agrees with Hague's assessment.

"We're doing some different things and utilizing what we do well in the run game, like the downhill runs," said Mathews. "Utilizing what Bryan [Kariya] does well in the power game in getting those extra yards, and using what J.J. [Di Luigi] does well and Josh [Quezada]. We're also starting to get Mike Hague and Zed [Mendenhall] involved more in different stuff. Those guys are good players too, you know."

In the past BYU has had success running the ball with bigger backs out of the I-formation. Cougar coaches are getting back to the basics and utilizing the size and experience of BYU's offensive line to block for the bigger, more physical backs.

"We're big, physical backs," said Hague. "We have Bryan, and he's a big physical back. We have J.J., and he's more the shifty type, but we have "Juice" [Joshua Quezada] and he's a big, physical back. That's mainly why I watch Wisconsin a lot, because they have big, physical backs, and so I think our running style is a lot like theirs. I think we have a little bit more weapons because J.J. has a little more speed, but we run a similar run game as they do."

"I would say we've gone more with the bread and butter plays," Mathews said. "It's not necessarily a stripping down, but we're just taking a more focused approached. We're definitely bringing stuff in that's different, but we're trying to bring in more plays that match where we are at as a team, plays that match the personnel. But we're not doing just that; we're trying to build a more diverse offense.

"Last year's team was more versatile, and that's where we are trying to get to, but we're more trying to stick to our bread and butter plays that we know we can do well, then throw in some plays in here and there that can exploit defenses."

That's one reason why the more physical tight ends such as Austin Holt and Richard Wilson have been used more as blockers, but according to Wilson, he could see an expanded role in the offense.

"I joked around with [Brandon Doman] and said, 'Hey Coach Doman, I don't need to be over here, I'm a blocker.' He just smiled and said, 'Well, you're going to get some catches this week.' So hopefully things will work out in the game where I can get a ball thrown my way."

With the running game established, the Cougar offense has to expand to the passing game of BYU offenses of old.

"We've had some team meeting with Coach Mendenhall and Coach Anae, and they said, 'Right now, the strength of our team is the run offense and the run defense.' Right now for this team this year, that's kind of our core," said Mathews. "You just kind of build from that, so it's definitely been implied we're building off the run game. We've established the run game and we've gained confidence in that [and] building upon that confidence that we know we can run the ball, but now it's time to start passing it. Now we now we need to build off of that.

"I think the stronger we get as a run offense, the more the pass will open up. Then they have to guard both. If we're running really well, I think that will translate more into us passing the ball more. I think we definitely have taken steps to improve during the bye week. Our passing game, we're still not where we need to be and we're still working hard for it, but we are definitely taking steps to improve that side of our offense."

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