Coming off a fourth consecutive loss to rival Utah and already down running back Jamaal Williams, who suffered a frightening concussion and stinger Saturday, BYU is also without star wide receiver Cody Hoffman for Friday’s matchup with MTSU.
A tip of the hat to Lawless Republic for the details, which are admittedly scant at the moment. Hoffman is out one game for a violation of team rules, with no elaboration beyond that.
The BYU passing game has been virtually non-existent with Hoffman in the lineup. The likely early round NFL draft pick and 1248-yard receiver a year ago missed the Cougars’ Week 1 loss at Virginia and had just two receptions in the win over Texas.
His eight-catch, 108-yard performance against Utah was a decided bright spot in an otherwise bleak passing game. Quarterback Taysom Hill went 18-of-48 with no touchdowns and an interception, bringing his season output to 40-of-114 with one score, three picks and 564 yards.
Hill’s struggles with overthrows and a lack of timing with his receivers has contributed to the sluggish start for Robert Anae’s uptempo offense.
However, Anae told reporters this week that much of the blame for BYU’s offensive inconsistencies are attributable to line play.
The Cougar front surrendered five sacks Saturday, and has given up eight through three games.
The mobile Hill will have to shoulder an especially heavy burden in the ground game tonight. With no Hoffman as the safety net through the air, and Williams sidelined, Anae’s options are limited.
Good news for BYU is Hill’s demonstrated a game-changing ability via the rush once before this season. His 259 yards and three touchdowns against Texas virtually sealed former Longhorn coordinator Manny Diaz’s fate.
Undoubtedly, Texas has a more talent on the defense than MTSU. However, the Blue Raiders come to Provo holding opponents to a respectable 3.65 yards per carry. And without a reliable receiving or clear No. 1 ball carrier to spread responsibility, expect MTSU to load the tackle box and key in specifically on Hill.
Defensive end Dearco Nolan could prove cumbersome for the Cougar offensive line. Nolan is coming off a three-sack performance in MTSU’s win over Florida Atlantic last week.
The Blue Raiders may also have a measure of revenge to exact. Aforementioned Manny Diaz came to Texas from MTSU, by way of Mississippi State.
Tonight is close to a must-win for BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall. A 1-3 star would put the Cougars’ backs against the wall in a manner not seen since the 2010 season, when BYU overcame a 1-4 start to finish 7-6.
The remaining schedule this year is much more challenging, with dates against Boise State, Wisconsin, Georgia Tech and Notre Dame still looming.
BYU struggled on the defensive end early that 2010 season, prompting Mendenhall to relieve coordinator Jaime Hill midway through the slate. No such quick fix is realistic for the Cougar offense this year; Anae was just rehired this offseason after a two-year stint at Arizona.
The offensive woes plaguing the Cougars currently are more systemic than the coordinator. BYU failed to take off under Brandon Doman in 2011 and 2012, prompting Anae’s return to Provo.
Hoffman’s return to the stagnant offense will surely be anticipated with bated breath. His is the second notable suspension for BYU on the young season.
Linebacker Spencer Hadley is serving the second game of a five-game suspension for violating the university’s Honor Code by partying in Las Vegas.