Not surprisingly, the BYU Cougars struggled to score against the nation’s No. 1 defense in their 31-3 loss to the TCU Horned Frogs.
The Cougars’ three points and 147 yards of total offense are record lows for a BYU offense under Bronco Mendenhall.
The BYU defense, despite all of its injuries, played well enough to give the Cougars a chance in this game if only the offense could have mustered a few drives.
Indeed, the decimated defense played its collective heart out, stuffing the Horned Frog running game all afternoon and holding them to just three points until late in the first half.
Unfortunately, the game was essentially decided in the last two minutes of the first half when TCU put up two late touchdowns to go into the locker room up 17-0.
BYU’s inability to move the ball out of its own territory and a 22-yard punt return by Jeremy Kerley set up the first touchdown with 1:30 to go in the half, while an interception thrown by Jake Heaps in BYU territory set up the other with just 26 ticks left on the clock.
BYU showed some ability to move the ball in the second half by doing what we suggested in our article earlier this week, power running up the gut complemented with play action passing.
Why this was not the game plan from the beginning is bewildering. By the time the Cougars appeared to commit to it, the game was, for all intents and purposes, out of reach.
What the Cougars needed in this game early was more of Bryan Kariya gouging the Frogs up the middle and less of J.J. Di Luigi’s dancing. Not surprisingly, J.J.’s game was ineffective against the the speed of the TCU defense, gaining just 48 yards on 15 touches on the day.
Had BYU been able to move the ball at all in the first half, it would have been a much different game.
Another thing the Cougars failed to do was to take some shots deep down the field in the passing game to help loosen up the Horned Frog defense. The Cougars never looked deep and TCU effectively blanketed the BYU receivers on the short routes.
Amazingly, only two passes were completed to someone other than a running back in this game. One pass was completed to a wide receiver (McKay Jacobson) and one was completed to a tight end (Devin Mahina)—for a combined grand total of nine yards.
While some of the reason can be attributed to the youth at quarterback and tight end, the performance of the receiving corps, including veterans Jacobson and O’Neill Chambers, have been extremely disappointing this season.
Neither Jacobson nor Chambers have stepped up to provide desperately needed leadership on offense. Both of them need to commit to getting open and helping out their true freshman quarterback.
Although this young team is a miserable 2-5 right now, they have an opportunity to now gather themselves for a four-game stretch of very winnable games against Wyoming (home), UNLV (home), Colorado State (at Fort Collins) and New Mexico (home).
Four wins will get this team bowl-eligible heading into the season finale at Utah. The extra few weeks of practice leading up to a bowl game would be huge for the development of this program.