Run game key to Cougars' chance at upsetting Badgers

Jonathan Taylor has carried UW's rushing offense so far this season.

Image By: Brandon Moe

Head coach Kalani Sitake and the BYU Cougars’ football program isn’t having the start to the season that it was hoping for.

After a less-than-impressive 20-6 win against FCS opponent Portland State to open the season, the Cougars traveled to New Orleans to square-off against SEC powerhouse LSU in the Superdome. The stage was set for BYU to prove that it was ready to live up to the potential it showed in the early stages of the past two seasons.

Instead, the conference-less Cougars were blanked 27-0 by the Tigers. That game never was going to be easy, especially after Hurricane Harvey moved the game from Houston to New Orleans, making a “neutral site” game in their opponent’s home state, but it was over by halftime.

And last week against Utah, things didn’t get much better. BYU fell to its in-state rivals 19-13 in the “Holy War,” and continued a trend of discouraging traits.

First, the Cougars’ have exhibited little run game. Against LSU, five BYU rushers managed a total of minus-five yards on 14 attempts. Against Utah, things weren’t much better. This time seven different rushers managed just 63 yards on 24 attempts — or a measly 2.6 yards per carry. Both teams are known for strong run defenses, but the Cougars’ O-Line was overrun. To make matters worse, struggling junior quarterback Tanner Mangum is now injured, forcing backup redshirt sophomore Beau Hoge to lead the struggling offense against the Badgers.

Second, BYU lacks discipline. In their season opener against Portland State, the Cougars committed seven penalties, costing them 70 yards. Against LSU, five penalties cost them 39 yards. When the Utes came to town, it was four penalties for 35 yards. 144 penalty yards in three games is inexcusable and has not helped an already struggling team, especially when 105 of those yards came from your own stadium.

If the former Mountain West competitors want to have any chance against Wisconsin this week, they need to start by addressing these issues. The Badgers’ secondary could be exposed but the 14-time Big 10 champions will be able to pad their coverage team with the Cougars’ run game lacking teeth.

Overall, it looks like a bleak forecast in Provo this weekend for the Cougars as BYU could well be on its way to another 1-3 start.

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