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BYU’s `D’ is OK, but `O’ has been . . . offensive

SHARE BYU’s `D’ is OK, but `O’ has been . . . offensive

No offense, but . . .

That's pretty much the problem of late with the BYU football team."We are not nearly as explosive offensively right now as we were last year," said BYU coach LaVell Edwards, whose Cougars take a 5-3 overall record and 3-2

WAC mark into today's noon game against Tulsa (2-6, 2-3) at Cougar Stadium. "But we are playing pretty good defense."

Yes, the defense is fine and has been for a good share of the season. The Cougar "D" gave up a touchdown against Texas-El Paso last week, a field goal and a final-minute desperation score by Texas Christian and a field goal against Hawaii.

And while the defense gave up plenty of points and yards against Rice in a 27-14 loss a month ago, it did force two fourth-quarter turnovers that could have been used for a possible comeback had the BYU offense not been nonexistent.

And before the 42-35 score-o-rama against Utah State in early October, the defense allowed just 16 points in over time at Southern Methodist and 10 on the road at nationally ranked Arizona State.

But the offense . . . oh, the Cougar "O".

The scoring has been subdued, with the Cougars averaging fewer than 20 points a game (19.9 - 11th in the WAC and 83rd in the nation).

The passing is somewhat passe (250 yards a game, still good for second in the WAC but 28th nationally).

And the Cougars are blushing when it comes to rushing, averaging just 81.3 yards a game (last in the WAC and 106th out of 110 Division I-A teams). BYU had zero ground yards last week and were outgained by the UTEP goalposts, which found their way down the field, up the stands and over the side of the Sun Bowl follow the 14-3 upset in El Paso.

Part of the problem has been the inexperience, inconsistency and injuries at quarterback.

Sophomore Kevin Feterik, the starter in four of the Cougars' first five games, is back sooner than expected after missing the previous three games with an ankle fracture. Other than staging a comeback victory in the Utah State shootout, junior Paul Shoemaker did little to solidify his case as a starter in Feterik's absence before stepping aside with knee and ankle injuries, and true freshman Drew Mil-ler has shown some spark at times while struggling as a starter who got banged up himself last week at UTEP.

"It's been a struggle there ever since the Utah State game," said Edwards of the Y. QB position.

Two other positions on offense that Edwards identifies as unproductive are at fullback and tight end. But senior Dustin Johnson, who has been jockeying back and forth between the two spots isn't necessarily to blame - instead he's been like the little Dutch boy trying to plug leaks at both positions.

Early season injuries have bothered BYU at both positions. Backup tight end Nate Foreman suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener, and Kalani Fifita Sitake - whose talents as a redshirt-sophomore fullback prompted Johnson's initial move as a backfield starter to tight end - ended up joining Foreman on the sideline not too much later with a back injury.

It has seemed as though wherever Johnson isn't playing, that position has struggled. Reserve tight end John Moala - whose weight woes initially had him moved to guard at the start of fall practice - hasn't been much of a catch in passing situations, with the Cougars' attack relying heavily on an involved tight end. And backup fullback Aaron Cupp is fine as a receiver swinging out of the backfield but doesn't provide the same bang busting through the line.

GAME NOTES: BYU tackle John Tait is still nursing a hamstring injury and will likely not play. Cougars who are hurting but probable for today's game include tackle Eric Bateman (ankle sprain), Chris Hoge (neck sprain) and Kevon Morton (groin pull) . . . A win moves Edwards into a tie with Michigan's Bo Schembechler for eighth place among all-time Division I coaches . . . Next week's BYU-New Mexico game in Albuquerque has been picked up by ESPN2, with the kickoff moved back to 3 p.m.