PROVO, Utah — The honeymoon for BYU offensive coordinator Ty Detmer may be coming to an end. Boos rained down from the stands last week as the offense failed to score 20 points for a third consecutive game.
Even the faith in quarterback Taysom Hill appears to be wavering as he’s thrown more interceptions (4) than touchdowns (2) while completing just 58.6 percent of his passes.
Coach Kalani Sitake said Hill will remain the starter this week after the staff considered benching the senior at halftime of the 17-14 UCLA loss. Backup Tanner Mangum is the better pure passer and set BYU freshman records after Hill was injured in 2015.
“I know everybody looks at one position and likes to blame it on one person, but there are so many different things that go into it with the quarterback and talking about Taysom,” Sitake said. “The worst thing you can do is panic and make a change on stuff that you’re seeing on the field when it’s not just that one spot. There are a lot of different variables that go into it: protection, routes and the timing. It would have been a premature decision to make that decision then. I’m glad we didn’t.”
Detmer echoed those sentiments. The BYU receivers have not played particularly well, failing to run crisp routes, dropping balls and being stymied by press coverage. Running back Jamaal Williams rushed for 162 yards in the season opener against Arizona, but opponents have loaded up against him and he’s managed just 86 total yards in the last two games.
Still, Hill hasn’t looked like the player who threw for 2,938 yards and ran for 1,344 as a sophomore.
“When you have a guy like Tanner sitting behind you everyone always wants the new next best thing,” Detmer said. “The grass is always greener on the other side when things aren’t going exactly right. After watching the film a couple times you understand at times, he’s doing all he can do. There’s always going to be every game a couple throws you want back or a couple decisions you want back. But overall it’s a team effort.”
The Cougars (1-2) travel to face West Virginia on Saturday and Detmer plans to simplify things with hopes that will allow Hill and the offense to run smoother.
BYU’s scoring offense (17.0 points per game) ranks No. 119 in the nation and the 212.3 passing yards per game are tied for No. 78.
“Guys are maybe pressing now to make plays,” Detmer said. “So they rush in and out of their routes and don’t sell it at times. We miss on a protection. Allow a guy to get an edge because we’re maybe pressing too much to do too much or do it faster in a game. Maybe I’m paralyzing (Hill), paralysis by analysis a little bit where that’s not open, and now what? It’s going back to maybe simplifying things a little bit and running our base stuff that we know guys know and he’s comfortable with and then getting better at those things.”
West Virginia knows the BYU offense has had its issues, so coach Dana Holgorsen said his team is preparing for both Hill and Mangum. He also noted that it typically takes longer to adjust to a new offense than it does to adjust to a new defense.
“Everyone says they aren’t scoring a lot of points, well they are having some misfortunes,” West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said. “Tip balls for interceptions, fumbling at the wrong time, whatever it may be, penalty here or there, so they’re not that far off. They’ve played three pretty good teams and obviously have been competitive all the way down to the end.”
The odd part is that BYU has shined late in games. The offense put together a nine-play, 53-yard drive for a game-winning field goal against Arizona with four seconds remaining. The Cougars drove 75 yards in 13 plays to score a touchdown against Utah with 18 seconds left, but couldn’t convert a two-point conversion for the win. They also went 91 yards for a touchdown in nine plays against UCLA with 37 seconds left.
“I don’t know what it is, if we just start letting loose and letting the ball go and just playing ball,” receiver Nick Kurtz said. “I don’t really know why, it just works so well. We practice it a lot. We’re just going to try to come out with more fire and less nerves … just try to let it fly earlier in the game.”