One out of three, that’s really all the BYU football team needed to achieve the desired measure of respectability this season.
Nothing short of a football miracle was required for the Cougars to beat, in order of appearance, LSU, Utah and Wisconsin. Programs not named Alabama, Ohio State and maybe a few others probably would have no chance of sweeping that level of competition.
As expected, considering the 17-point spread, the Cougars failed the first of the three tests, losing 27-0 to LSU on Saturday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. Next up is the Holy War next Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
It wasn’t so much the Tigers won the game that was moved to their home state after the devastating floods in Houston. LSU, obviously, is the far superior program.
The issue was the way BYU lost. For the second consecutive game, the offense was awful.
Last week, against Portland State of the Big Sky, the offense failed to score a touchdown in the second half. The best it could do was two field goals.
It was first-game jitters, we were told. With limited hitting and live repetitions during the first weeks of training camp, the offense supposedly needed time to iron out the kinks.
After reviewing the film, coach Kalani Sitake and offensive coordinator Ty Detmer said the offense was not as bad as it looked against the FCS team. A few corrections and adjustments here and there would make a big difference.
Yeah, not so much.
In some ways, without the excuse of it being the first game, the offense took another step backward. At the very least, it made no progress.
To put it bluntly, nothing worked. No matter what it was, LSU stuffed it. It got so bad that BYU wasn’t willing to try for a first down on fourth-and-1 midway through the fourth quarter.
Oh sure, we can hear it now. LSU is one of college football’s superpowers, annually fielding one of the game’s great defenses.
Remember, though, we are grading on a scale here. Nobody expected the Cougars to roll up 400 yards of total offense and light up the scoreboard.
But the offense should have been able to have more success – really, any success. Midway through the third quarter, the Cougars had mustered only 75 yards of total offense. They ended the night with 96 total yards on offense.
The running game was brutal, almost to the point of embarrassing. The Cougars neither had the speed to turn the edge or the power to run inside. Through three quarters, LSU led in rushing yards 215 to 1.
As great as the Tigers are, several starters sat out the game due to suspensions or injuries. Of course, most of the replacements were highly touted coming out of high school.
The most troubling aspect is the struggles in the passing game. Through two games, quarterback Tanner Mangum has not come close displaying the magic he showed as a freshman two years ago.
As he did in the first game, Mangum rarely looked comfortable in the pocket. He often appeared rattled, badly missing the mark on his passes.
Known for his ability to throw, Mangum repeatedly has come up short on deep passes. The only time BYU went long in the first half resulted in an underthrown pass that LSU intercepted.
With the inadequate offense, the burden shifted to BYU’s defense. But it is almost impossible to criticize a defense that barely had any chance to rest on the sidelines.
The defense played hard and with pride. As evidence, the Cougars came up with a goal line stance while trailing 20-0 in the fourth quarter when it could have been easy to roll over.
And the Cougars probably won’t face a running back the quality of Derrius Guice, who effortlessly rushed for more than 100 yards. The junior, who rushed for 1,387 yards last season, is on his way to the NFL.
For BYU, it is back to the practice field. In particular, the offense needs to take a major step forward to have a chance against Utah and Wisconsin.