PROVO — So that’s how it’s supposed to look?
A week after a somewhat uninspired 14-0 win over Sam Houston, the BYU football team rebounded well in issuing a relatively impressive 41-16 win over visiting Southern Utah. The game featured prolific passing attack, stellar special teams play and stout defensive stands throughout, much like most BYU fans would expect in a game versus an FCS opponent.
But it wasn’t perfect.
So what were we impressed with and what needs work as the Cougars head into the meat of their schedule, beginning with next week’s game at Arkansas?
WHAT WE LIKED
- Marcus McKenzie: I’m not given to lead off any list with the play of a gunner on punt coverage, but true freshman Marcus McKenzie forced my hand, again. He was simply outstanding, causing all sorts of havoc with his outside pressure presented from his gunner position.
- Kedon Slovis: Slovis was pretty much everything you’d expect in the win, throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns on 22-32 passing. He also threw an interception that wasn’t his fault, but was close to flawless throughout. He threaded needles, managed the pocket effectively and largely found the open target on most occasions. Oh, and he also scored another running touchdown.
- Kamden Garrett: Jakob Robinson received a lot of well-earned pub last week, and while all the defensive backs were again solid, Garrett perhaps stood out as the defensive back of the game, if not the defensive player of the game. The Weber State transfer effectively defended passes and picked off his first pass of the season while helping defend against the Thunderbird’s passing attack throughout.
- Ethan Slade: The sophomore safety tied for the team lead in tackles with seven, which included four solo tackles. The Orem product has proven solid in stepping in for the injured Micah Harper and Talan Alfrey through the first two games this season.
- Bywater and Tooley: Ben Bywater tied Slade for the team lead in tackles with seven while Max Tooley showed well, producing five tackles while laying big hits throughout the game. That’s exactly the type of stats you want from your two most-experienced starting linebackers.
- Isaac Rex: Rex set the tone in the passing game, finding open spots early en route to four receptions for 112 yards and a touchdown. Rex caught just one pass on seven targets a week ago, and while his four receptions on nine targets isn’t great, it’s definitely an improvement.
- Darrius Lassiter: The Eastern Michigan transfer wasn’t looked at as a big immediate contributor, but that’s exactly what he’s been, hauling in five receptions on Saturday for 73 yards and a touchdown. Both Chase Roberts and Keanu Hill weren’t far behind, catching six passes for 84 yards and four for 73 yards, respectively. All three receivers also had touchdown receptions.
WHAT WE DIDN’T LIKE
- Rushing attack: Producing just 62 yards on 23 attempts against an FBS opponent is something that should never happen, to put it mildly. Aidan Robbins was again a non-factor with Deion Smith proving to be BYU’s most productive back by a slight margin over LJ Martin.
The offensive line again looked disorganized and passive on too many rushing attempts, leaving Cougar fans again bewildered as to why this highly-touted and talented group can’t get things together. Perhaps we discounted how quickly good offensive line cohesion could assert itself with four starters playing at new positions? Probably, but that’s hardly an acceptable excuse given the caliber of opponent. Yes, SUU stacked the box throughout, but that’s not an excuse that is going to cut it, considering the level of opponent and a 2.0 average per rush.
What BYU showed on the ground won’t come close to cutting it against the much more potent competition BYU is set to play against for the remainder of the season.
2. Lack of a pass rush: Zero. That’s the amount of sacks the BYU defensive front and various blitz packages produced on Saturday. Sure, there was some decent pressure applied, leading to incompletions and even one turnover, but zero sacks recorded on 33 pass attempts by the Thunderbirds is disappointing and another aspect that needs to change in a hurry beginning next week versus Arkansas.
3. Missed extra point: Seriously? This again?
While the list of things we didn’t like was certainly smaller than the alternative, the three listed items on the latter ledger are big ones. Overall, BYU fans have to feel much better about their team this week than last, but the anxiety caused by the lack of an effective pass rush coupled with what looks to be continuing problems on the offensive front are issues that need to be addressed effectively prior to Big12 Conference play.