The Source of BYU's Woes Revealed

Four games into the 2003 season, it has been bittersweet to watch a BYU team with untapped offensive and defensive potential liberally mix it up with a heavy dose of penalties, personal fouls, breakdowns in kick coverage and enough turnovers to test even the patience of biblical stalwart, Job.

We see the dominant performances of Daniel Coats, the pancake blocks of Jake Kuresa, the maturing of Matt Berry, the emergence of Reynaldo Brathwaite and, most importantly, the sheer dominance of the BYU defense.

One of the glaring statistical trends during the Gary Crowton era is that BYU continually has to cover more yards to score points than its opposition. This has been the product of failed fourth down attempts last season, but not this year, special team miscues, penalties and numerous turnovers. To illustrate this, here is a detailed breakdown of our field position and turnover woes thus far in 2003.

Scoring Drives

These are our opponents' scoring drives this year. To illustrate the main point about our opponents not having to work hard enough for their points, included is the total yards of offense for each drive, scoring result and any comments related to that drive:

Georgia Tech

* 30 (FG) – An athletic interception of a Matt Berry pass on 3rd and 2.
* 39 (FG) – A long kickoff return combined with a short kickoff starts the GT drive at their own 41 yard line.
* 0 (TD) – A blocked punt is returned for a touchdown.

USC

* 21 (TD) – David Christensen's muffed punt results in a short touchdown drive.
* 80 (TD) – A Colby Bockwoldt late hit on quarterback Matt Leinart keeps their drive alive for a touchdown.
* 0 (TD) – USC makes a superior athletic play and picks off a quick Matt Berry swing pass for a TD.
* 57 (TD) – A short kickoff and long return starts the USC drive at their 43 yard line. * 11 (TD) – A one play drive after a bogus fumble call on Fahu Tahi.

New Mexico

* 71 (TD) – A 66 yard screen play combined with three fairly blatant blocking infringements accounts for UNM's lone score.

Stanford

* 27 (TD) – Following a fumbled snap by quarterback John Beck.
* 49 (FG) – The highlight was a 31-yard pass that actually made the wide receiver the leading passer for Stanford as Trent Edwards had all of 25 yards passing on 23 attempts.
* 19 (FG) - Set up by a 68-yard punt return.
* 25 (TD) – A controversial call to throw on first down is intercepted.

Contrast this with the length BYU's scoring drives:

Georgia Tech * 9 plays, 80 yards (TD)
* 7 plays, 80 yards (TD)
* 9 plays, 43 yards (TD)
* 16 plays, 86 yards (FG)
This excludes a 19 play, 69-yard drive that resulted in a missed Matt Payne field goal.

USC * 0 yards (SAFETY)
* 2 plays, 9 yards (FG) last play of 1st half after INT
* 9 plays, 80 yards (TD)
* 7 plays, 78 yards (FG)
* 7 plays, 43 yards (FG)

UNM * 5 plays, 89 yards (TD)
* 9 plays, 69 yards (FG)

Stanford * 9 plays, 78 yards (TD)
* 4 plays, 94 yards (TD)

Here is a side-by-side comparison of how many points BYU has scored by drive length versus our opponents:

Opponents BYU
Over 80 yards: 0 - 17
60 to 80 yards: 14 - 34
40 to 60 yards: 17 - 10
20 to 40 yards: 25 - 0
1 to 20 yards: 3 - 3
0 yards: 14 - 2

Overall, BYU's average scoring drive covered 64-yards compared with its opponents who only had to cover 33 yards. If you look at the average yards of total offense per point scored in 2003, our opponents have moved the ball 14.5 yards per point scored and BYU has had to go 20.2 yards per point. That's a 40 percent difference.

The opposition has scored 73 points in 2003. Of those 73 points, 43 have come directly after turnovers; 13 came from short drives due to lengthy kick returns; and only 17 points have been scored after sustained drives!

Turnovers

BYU is doing a good job in creating turnovers. They are ranked nationally as the 19th best team in creating the most turnovers. The problem is that they are also the 12th worst team in losing turnovers. Last year, they were 40th best in creating turnovers and 12th worst in losing them.

The two biggest problems with our turnovers this year is:

1. Our turnovers are often deep in our end of the field and have resulted in most of our opponents' points.

2. Conversely, our opponents' turnovers are usually on our side of the field and we haven't converted enough of those turnovers into points.

Here is a summary of each team's turnovers and the end result of the subsequent drive:

Summary of Turnovers by Game:

Georgia Tech * GT intercepts at the BYU 38 – Field Goal
* BYU recovers fumble at GT 44 - GT intercepts at the GT 38 – No points
* Blocked punt for TD
* BYU recovers fumble at the BYU 12 – No points
* BYU intercepts at BYU 26 – Field goal
* BYU recovers fumble at BYU 14 – End of game

USC

* USC recovers fumbled punt at BYU 21 – Touchdown
* USC intercepts at BYU 20 and returns it for a touchdown
* BYU intercepts at BYU 49 – Three and out
* USC intercepts long pass at BYU 44 - BYU then...
* BYU intercepts at USC 45 – A long Payne field goal to end the first half
* BYU intercepts at USC 28 - BYU backtracks for a missed 54 yard FG
* USC intercepts long pass at USC 32 – Three and out
* USC recovers bogus fumble at BYU 11 - Touchdown

UNM

* BYU recovers UNM fumble around BYU 30 yard line - BYU punt

Stanford

* BYU intercepts at Stanford 48 and immediately fumbles it back during return
* Stanford recovers fumbled snap at BYU 27- Touchdown
* Stanford recovers fumble at Stanford 44 - BYU then...
* BYU intercepts Stanford at BYU 17 – Five and out
* Stanford intercepts BYU at BYU 41 – Three and out
* Stanford intercepts BYU at BYU 25 – Stanford's game-winning touchdown

BYU's opposition has outscored us 43-6 in points off of turnovers. A big part of this is the fact where the turnovers take place. BYU has started drives following a turnover, on average, on their own 37-yard line compared to other teams beginning on the Cougars 33-yard line. That is a difference of 30 yards! It's very difficult to overestimate the significance of that statistic. On average, our opposition is already in scoring position after a BYU turnover.

Summary

BYU's turnovers and special teams gaffes have been the major reason the Cougars have lost two games this year. Sure, you can point a finger at the offense and its own lack of scoring, but the fact remains that the BYU defense has dominated all our opposition – including USC.

BYU would most likely be undefeated right now if they hadn't been so generous at giving other teams so many cheap points.

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