The success of the Cougar football season solely lies on the performance on third down, on both offense and defense.
BYU, on the offensive side, has been great in years past on converting third downs like clock work ( 56 percent last year). Their defense likewise has been able to shut down team from converting on third and manageable (3 to 5 yards). This year however, the Cougars are on the complete other end of the spectrum.
The absent offense has converted more third downs on the ground than through the air, a feat not many would think possible considering BYU's pass happy offense. That being said, they are only converting at a clip of around 34% this year. A rate nearly half that in recent years. Running the ball on first down would be a great start. Di Luigi has shown that he is BYU's playmaker this year, give the guy the ball. Get Heaps some breathing room on second down to make a play, or check down his reads for a dump off to, likely Di Luigi. First down is where the Y's playcalling will be under much scrutiny in my book. Anae has shown some weakness and hesitancy in running on first down if he gets stuffed the first couple times. Dont give up on it, just make a different call.
Runs will open up the pass for Heaps. Heaps has started to improve on his touch, and with all the reps with the first team offense now his, the receivers are getting used to his rocket of an arm. Running the ball brings play action into the playbook, one that makes the defense truly have to respect, especially with a weapon like Di Luigi.
The defense, on the other side of the ball, is giving up way to many third and long conversions. At least 3 times during their battle against Florida State, BYU had FSU looking at third and 12 or 13 yards, 16 yards later, the Seminoles had another first down on their way to another score given up by the Cougars porous defense. The defense only forced a couple punts against the powerful Nevada offense, and held them to 3 second half points. However, many believe that Nevada easily could have scored more, but realized they didn't need to, considering their opponents aforementioned obsolete offense.
The Cougars season is on the line this weekend. The offense has got to find a way to sustain drives for longer than 2 first downs, and control the clock. Something this offense has not done in any of the games so far this season, with the exception being their lone victory over Washington. The offense then, needs to find a way to turn all those field goals into touchdowns. At the rate BYU's offense gets into scoring position (not often enough this year), they have to capitalize on every trip coming away with 6, not three.
The defense needs to change their motto from "bend, dont break," to "DONT BEND AND BREAKING IS NOT AN OPTION." Andrew Rich is a hard hitter, but he has got to wrap up. The defense in general needs to find another play maker on the d-line. With Fuga out for the season, its time for someone else to make a name for themselves, and it all starts this friday with in state rival, Utah State on the slate.
If Bronco's team wishes for any more success this year, they have got to tighten up on third down, and make plays. Other teams are doing that against them, and thats why the Cougars are sporting a 1-3 record for this first time since Bronco's first season, 2005.
Its likely to get worse, unless the third down play improves.