Looking inward to find an answer

The Cougars are scratching their heads trying to find an answer for their offensive struggles, and whatever answer might be looming in the film room, they had better find it quickly. BYU had the Longhorns of Texas by the scruff of their necks, but let a great road victory slip away. Now they face Pac-12 foe and old rival Utah with many questions still unanswered.

Much like in the Ole Miss game, the Cougars seemed to march downfield against Texas but just couldn't punch it in the end zone, leading BYU kicker Justin Sorensen to be named as one the FBS Independent Players of the Week by making field goals of 30 yards or more. For whatever reason, the Cougars just couldn't capitalize.

"I know the coaches are going over that right now and we'll go over it as a team and improve from those struggles and challenges that we had during the Texas game," Bryan Kariya said.

"I think we have good players and good ability," Coach Mendenhall said. "They're still optimistic and working hard. I think it's a work in progress."

After a 13-3 first-half performance, the Cougars trotted off the field to a stunned Texas crowd. Coach Mack Brown and his offensive coaches made halftime adjustments and came out the second half with a new and improved game plan that brought Texas back. Much like against Rice, Texas pounded the ball in the second half, rushing six times for 62 yards to score their first touchdown with 10:46 left in the third quarter. The Cougar offense, on the other hand, became stagnant without an answer as to why.

"You know, it's tough to tell," Kariya said. "There are a lot of factors that go into a game, and so I don't know if you can just pinpoint one thing. I honestly don't have an answer as far as what exactly is the reason why we're not able to march the ball through the running game or why we couldn't score in the second half of the Texas game. I'm sure I'll check out film today and I know the coaches will have an answer for us."

It appeared while Texas made numerous adjustments, BYU made very few judging by their second-half performance when they only managed a field goal. However, Kariya says that was not the case.

"At halftime we talked about the adjustments we were going to make and we put that plan into place and it just didn't work out as we expected," said Kariya. "I fully trust Coach Doman and his play calling and I know things will work out for us as an offense."

After reviewing the game film, Coach Mendenhall isn't overly critical of the conservative play calling by his first-year offensive coordinator Brandon Doman and expressed confidence in him.

"I'm on board," Mendenhall said. "I think I was asked about the third down and draw after the game. Sometimes the best time for a draw is when no one thinks there will be a draw. I think the biggest issue right now is we have to find a way to run the ball more effectively. I'm fairly happy with our play action and intermediate throws.

"Ideally we'll get to that point as our targets emerge. You are sort of seeing Ross Apo emerge somewhat now, which I think is something Cody Hoffman did a year ago. We've got to get more consistently open downfield for those shots to be taken. Eventually maybe 25 percent of those throws will be downfield. In the Texas game a variety of pressure and a variety of looks made us a little more protection-conscious and downfield-conscious."

"I think that he's doing the best that he can," Kariya said about Doman. "As an offense, we just have to be able to execute no matter what play comes our way. I really think that with the game plan that we had in place, we had the opportunity and we could have scored or had better drives in the second half."

The work in progress better become more refined before BYU hosts the Utes of Utah this weekend, or else the groans of Cougar fandom will grow a bit louder.

‘They have an awesome defense," Karyia said about Utah. "They fight hard and they're well coached. I'm sure they're going to be watching our film to see all the little things that we do and try to shut us down, but, you know, we're going to put together our best game plan and go after them, attack them and the weak spots that they have on their defense and really try to help our team out as best we can."

The Cougar offense has to establish the run game, which will be tough since Utah returns an experienced and talented defensive front. If BYU is going to be able to use play action effectively, they'll have to establish the run game against Utah.

"I guess we'll see," Kariya said. "I can't predict the future and you never know how that's going to be, but I can guarantee that our running backs and our offense is going to improve to get that part of our game going."

With one loss under the Cougars' independent belts, the play calling has to become more aggressive with there not being much to lose. The Cougars already have a bowl tie-in with the Armed Forces Bowl, and so opening up the offense a little more has to be put into place.

"Really, there's not a lot of talk one way or another what the play calling is," said Kariya. "I think as an offense we're just focused on executing the plays that we're given. We don't try and second-guess because, you know, that's not really going to help us or contribute to what we're trying to accomplish out on the field if we have guys second-guessing what's being called out on the field. We just need to trust our coaches and go out and play as hard as we can."

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