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A Model of Success for the BYU Offense

14 October 2013 Brett Richins
Cody Hoffman reels in a 45-yard touchdown pass from Taysom Hill. (BYU photo/Jaren Wilkey)

Cody Hoffman reels in a 45-yard touchdown pass from Taysom Hill. (BYU photo/Jaren Wilkey)

BYU’s approach on offense in the first half of its 38-20 win over Georgia Tech on Saturday is the recipe for success for the Cougars over the second half of the season.

Taysom Hill led the Cougars to a 24-13 first half lead, largely on the strength of his outstanding passing performance. Hill completed 16 of 20 passes for 226 yards in the first half, including a 45-yard touchdown bomb to Cody Hoffman.

BYU caught the Yellow Jackets off guard by throwing the ball early and often to start the game. The Cougars came in as one of the better rushing teams in the country, averaging 328 yards per game on the ground, but for the second game in a row they ended up with more passing yards (244) than rushing yards (189).

Offensive coordinator Robert Anae changed things up by throwing the ball on first down against Georgia Tech in the early going. Of the 23 first-down plays in the first half, the Cougars threw the ball ten times, while rushing 13 times, with one of those rushes being a 2-yard touchdown run by Jamaal Williams.

Anae dialed up the pass on BYU’s first three first downs of the game. Those throws went for 11, 9 and 12 yards respectively. Hill completed eight of his 10 first down passes in the first half and his success passing the ball helped to open up the run.

With the Tech defense loosened up, BYU ran the ball four times on first down in the first quarter for 12, 15, five and two yards respectively, with the 2-yard run resulting in the above-mentioned score.

The play calling to start the game was a departure from the first five games of the season in which BYU ran the ball on first and second downs with great regularity. Considering the success they enjoyed in the first half, Anae’s play calling to start the second half was a disappointment to say the least.

BYU had five first down opportunities in the third quarter and ran the ball all five times — resulting in a grand total of six yards.  With Anae sliding back to his old rut of running the ball exclusively on first down, the Cougars ended up going three three-and-out in three of their four third-quarter drives. The only drive that didn’t result in a three-and-out lasted just five plays as the offense ground to a halt.

The two scores the Cougars put up in the second half came as the result of the defense creating turnovers. Alani Fua’s 51-yard interception return for a touchdown was the final nail in the coffin, while Rob Daniel’s forced fumble that was recovered by Spencer Hadley created a short-field opportunity for the BYU offense that resulted in its final score of the night.

If the Cougars want to finish the season strong against some pretty good competition, they will need to follow the model that allowed them to put up 24 first-half points on Saturday. They won’t be able to just line up and run the ball on first and second down against teams like Boise State, Wisconsin and Notre Dame.

Even the Yellow Jackets were able to stymie the rushing game once the Cougars went conservative. Anae will have to trust his sophomore quarterback to make some plays throwing the ball and come up with a game plan that will allow him to get some easy completions and have success on first down.

In recent years, BYU has had the benefit of finishing the season with a schedule that has included a number of the sisters of the poor to help pad the win-loss numbers. That’s not the case this year. Despite the current three-game wining streak, the second half of the 2013 season could be a struggle if the Cougars fail to continue to make improvements on offense. One of the keys to making that happen will be to continue to mix it up on first down and keep opposing defenses off balance.

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