Good news: the BYU football team is undefeated. The Cougars have amassed a 4-0 record with convincing wins over UConn and Texas. The two other wins, Virginia and Houston, had some great moments but also left some question marks.
At moments, this does not feel like a BYU defense of recent memory. Bronco Mendenhall has always had a bend-don't-break mentality, but it seems that big plays are happening with more frequency against the Cougars this year. The defensive secondary was supposed to be the strength of the defense, yet are giving up a ton of yards through the air. The defensive backs are currently giving up 275.5 passing yards per game.
Opposing quarterbacks are 111/190 for a completion percentage of 58 percent. Although the completion percentage is not that bad, if you look at the last two games, it is giving up 348 passing yards per game. In addition to the high number of yards given up, the defense is giving up a completion percentage of 59 percent with an average of almost 11 yards per catch.
While the Cougars have had trouble the last two games in the air, the defense had been stout against the run until the Virginia game. In the first three games, the defense was giving up 54 yards per game, although Houston doesn't run much so that game was an outlier. The defense did shut down a Texas rushing attack, allowing only 82 yards, that averages 144.5 yards per game against the rest of their schedule. Against Virginia, the defense was gashed for 192 yards.
One explanation for the passing yardage against Houston could be that Houston didn't really try to run the ball against BYU, which is true -- but that does not explain how a Houston offense that averaged 190 passing yards against their other opponents, threw for 315. Virginia, on the other hand, only averaged 130 on the ground and 203 through the air, and piled up 192 rushing and 327 passing against BYU.
Another concern for the defense is the points allowed in the last two games. The defense only gave up 17 points in the first two games combined, and have given up 58 in the last two. To be fair, there have been some flukey plays, like the Hail Mary at the end of the first half against Houston, that would have turned that game into a solid win instead of feeling like the team escaped with a win.
The last thing I find concerning, and it is probably the most concerning because of their consistency, is the penalties. BYU is currently averaging 11 flags for 105 yards per game. I understand Bronco's explanation for "aggression penalties," but even some of the aggression penalties have been very silly and unnecessary, like Lapuaho's personal foul on Saturday.
Some flags have been just stupid, like Fua's fishing celebration (I know I'll get hammered for that opinion, but that was very stupid, the rules say you're not supposed to have choreographed celebrations), the taunting by Tautu, and the delay of game after Daniel's interception against Virginia. You can't keep putting yourself in negative situations and expect to keep winning.
Now, all that being said, BYU is 4-0! They have a chance to have a very special season. It is extremely hard to go undefeated in college football, and that is why I have concerns. To finish undefeated, and hopefully make some national noise, BYU cannot continue making mistakes that can cost them. The defense needs to return to form, the silly penalties need to stop, and the Cougars will be fine.
I believe that the coaches will fix these issues and the team will still roll along as they did the first two weeks of the season. BYU has now won 2 of the 4 games that I was really worried about, and I hope that they can continue this success.