BYU’s victory over the San Diego State Aztecs has been overshadowed by fans calling the job of BYU Defensive Coordinator Ilaisa Tuikai. The Cougar run defense was porous for much of the game vs the Aztecs as the San Diego State offense won the time of possession battle 36:43 to 23:17.
But while the Aztecs found success in the run game, ultimately they found little success in the “putting points on the scoreboard” game. The Aztecs found the endzone twice, one coming off of an Isaac Rex fumble that set them up deep in BYU territory, and failed to score a single point after the opening quarter on their way to scoring just 14 points for the game.
So that begs the question to those who are calling for Tuikai to be fired: what’s more important, points or time of possession?
So far, the BYU defense has been elite in holding their opponents out of the end zone and forcing to score well below their season average. The Cougars are fourth in the country in scoring defense, holding opponents to a measly 14.7 points per game, better than the current College Football Playoff Top 4 of Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame or Ohio State.
‘But BYU hasn’t played the caliber of offenses those four teams have,’ is what many will say. And yes, that is true. But BYU can only play with the hand their dealt, and BYU is dominating the offenses that they have been pitted against compared to the normal rate at which they score. Only North Alabama has surpassed their season average in points scored against the Cougars.
Time of possession has its merits, no question about it. Kalani Sitake wants Zach Wilson and that Cougar offense on the field as much as possible. But if the BYU defense is going to hold opposing teams to just two scores then I’m sure Sitake will have no issue conceding the time of possession battle, especially with an offense that can score points in a hurry.
Don’t forget, BYU was out-possessed by nearly 10 minutes by Houston earlier in the season. A game in which BYU scored 43 points and won by 17 on the road.
There are issues that BYU needs to fix, specifically when it comes to stopping opponents on third down and tackling. But when you are holding every opponent under their season average in scoring something is working. When you are a top 5 scoring defense something is working. When you are top 6 in opponent yards per game something is working. When you are a top 15 defense in opponent yards per play something is working. When you are top 25 in opponent rushing yards per game something is working. When you are top 25 in opponent yards per attempt something is working. When you are top 15 in opponent passing yards per game something is working.
This BYU defense has worked well this season. Is it without its flaws? No. But Ilaisa Tuiaki has this defense playing at a very high level.