I have yet to give out a grade to the coaching staff but after Saturday's coaching it is time to now give it a grade. The biggest fault with the coaching strategy in that game was the conservative play calling on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. On defense there was not enough pressure to force Stave into bad throws. On the other side of the ball, Anae’s offense become too complacent with running the ball on long 3rd downs (worked well one time). Also the coaching staff elected to punt from the Wisconsin 32 yard line, the punt would go into the end zone for a touch back (net punt 12 yards). Conservative play calling will not win against a great team like Wisconsin. Also the poor play, especially on offense showed a lack of preparation coming off a bye-week (usually bye-weeks are a big boost to Mendenhall coached teams, this season they have been killer).
The offense was not able to consistently move the ball down the field during Saturday’s game, as too many 3-and-outs led to the Cougar defense being on the field for 12 more minutes than BYU’s offense. The inability to put points on the board after the defense came up with big turnovers in the first half also proved detrimental. Anae’s offense came out too soft, too conservative and too inconsistent to put its self in a position to win the game. However, hats off to Gary Andersen and a solid Wisconsin defense.
Saturday was a rough outing for Hill who looked as if he was back in early September throwing incomplete passes and running for his life. Hill was 19/41 (46%) for 207 yards, 2 TD’s and an interception and also added 53 yards on the ground. Although Hill was sacked 4 times in Saturday’s game he was unable to make the necessary throws to sustain drives. Because the offense wasn't able to sustain drives they could never really get the fast pace offense going, which resulted in a BYU defense being on the field far too long. As the quarterback Hill has to make sure that the offense is able to sustain drives and put points on the board.
Running Backs C+
Running backs had a sub-par day in Madison. Williams had a respectable 76 yards on 14 carries and Lasike added 29 yards on 4 carries. Running Backs ran for over 100 yards combined, however that is below the season average and showed a lack of ability in the run game against a stout front seven from Wisconsin led by Chris Borland. BYU did not have a single rushing TD and was not explosive at all on Saturday.
Wide Receivers C+
Cody Hoffman again provided some highlight-reel worthy plays Saturday, particularly his 34 yard TD catch in which he had a Wisconsin DB draped all over him. The PI was called (one of the only ones on Hoffman of the day…) and Hoffman was able to hang on for the TD showing yet again spectacular concentration and play-making ability. Hoffman would finish the day with 7 receptions for 113 yards and 2 TD’s. On Saturday Hoffman became BYU’s greatest all-time receiver with most yards (3,355), touchdowns (32) and catches (239) in a career. Sure the passing game was hurting due to game ending injuries to Mahina and Mathews including the loss of Falslev, but this unit as a whole needs to be consistent and able to make plays. I’m not saying they have to make the types of plays Hoffman makes but the longest reception outside the TD pass to Hoffman was 15 yards, not much of a threat to a good Wisconsin secondary.
Offensive Line D+
The offensive line was never really able to control the line of scrimmage as Hill was sacked 4 times and the offense was held to only 370 total yards. BYU was only able to run the ball for 163 yards which showed its lack of tenacity in the trenches and inability to play with the big boys from Madison. Everything on the offense has and always will start with the O-Line, Taysom Hill and the rest of the offense can’t do a whole lot without solid play from the line.
The defense had a hard time stuffing the run and because of this Wisconsin was able to run for over 200 yards on what has been a solid rushing D. Because of their ability to run the ball, Wisconsin dictated the game tempo from start to finish, wearing the Defense down for 36 minutes. The Defense also allowed scores on all 5 of Wisconsin’s red-zone attempts. The best way to avoid getting worn down by opposing offenses is to make plays and force them into three and out situations; something the Defense was not able to do well on Saturday.
Defensive Line C-
The defensive line was essentially a no show on Saturday as Wisconsin rolled up 229 yards on the ground against BYU, led by James White who had 147 yards on 23 carries. Wisconsin’s big offensive line was able to open big holes that allowed White and Melvin Gordon (86 yards rushing) room to work with. This unit needs to eat up blocks better, holding offensive lineman at the line of scrimmage to allow linebackers to make plays.
The loss to Hadley hurt but is no excuse for the deepest and most talented position on the entire team. Linebackers were not coming up fast enough on the run to hold Wisconsin’s running backs to short gains. However on a positive note Van Noy did have a surprise that fell right into his lap that resulted in an interception and a great play for the defense. And Uani Unga brought his season tackle total to over a 100 on the season (101 total) with 15 against the Badgers. However, this unit needs to be more resilient, even when it has been on the field for long periods of time like it was Saturday.
While the secondary was not gashed like the defense’s front 7 were it also had its struggles on Saturday. Stave only threw for 196 however he was able to connect with Wisconsin receivers in key situations. Bill’s recovered fumble was a bright spot for the secondary. The secondary did have however the best performance for a defensive unit on Saturday.
Special Teams C+
The return game (KR, PR) was not much of a factor in Saturday’s game, nor was any other part of the special teams. Sorensen was 1/1 kicking FG’s and Arellano punted 8 times with a 41.6 yd average including a 73 yard bomb. However one play in particular summed up poor play by the special teams as an Arellano punt from the Wisconsin 32 yard line went into the end zone and resulted in a net punt of 12 yards. For a unit that has been a key factor in games all season, Saturday’s game showed how a struggling special teams unit can hurt both momentum and field position for this team.