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November stretch is time for BYU to go on needed win streak

The pressure is full on for BYU's football team to finish with a run of wins.

The Cougars had two months of close games, razor-thin dramatic finishes that could have gone either way — and they batted .500.

That’s old news.

Now comes the final push.

It all starts in Ohio, where BYU has never played a football game.

The time has come to make November a winning experience, and the pressure is on Ty Detmer’s offense to, well, rise up.

With the loss of defensive linemen Travis Tuiloma and Merrill Taliauli for the rest of the season to knee injuries, that side of the line could use an assist. They’ll get that with more opportunities from Kesni Tausinga and Tevita Mo'Unga.

But they'll need a boost from the offense Saturday against Cincinnati, and throughout the homestretch.

Detmer is not going to depart from his season-long philosophy to have a balanced attack, run the clock and ride the run as much as Jamaal Williams can hold up. But the passing game must become more polished, more productive and more efficient.

It doesn’t mean the passing game needs gobs of yards, it just needs the right yards in a timely manner.

Taysom Hill has to be more accurate.

Receivers have to stop dropping drive-killing passes.

Hill and the receivers must get on the same page.

When the defense produces turnovers and gifts of short fields and momentum, it’s time to draw blood, not water.

Pass protection has to be as good as it can be, especially on third-down plays when defenses bring the house. Harried, yes, but opportunities abound.

The most important stat at the end of the season is the number of wins, not glossy game stats, Detmer told the media this week.

“We have showed that when we need to move the ball down the field for a win, we’ve done that and I am confident we are capable of doing that,” he said.

November presents great opportunities for the Cougars. In fact, the November opponents the Cougars will face do not resemble the teams they have in the rearview mirror. The Power 5 schedule is over.

Yeah, it is time to go on a winning streak.

BYU’s past opponents are a combined 37-28, including 7-1 Boise State, 6-1 West Virginia, and 7-2 Utah.

The Cougars’ November opponents are a combined 13-20, beginning with the 4-4 Bearcats fresh off a loss at Temple.

BYU’s offense doesn’t need to be explosive and go crazy with the pass, but it must be far more efficient through the air against these November opponents.

To date, the Cougars have outrushed opponents 1,541 yards to 1,047. They’ve scored 17 rushing TDs to 12 for their opponents. The Cougars hold an edge in scoring, too, 224 to 204, an average of 28-25.

The difference is pass efficiency. Opponents have averaged 292 yards through the air to BYU’s 202 and scored 13 passing touchdowns to the Cougars’ nine.

Crazy numbers needed? No, the 300- and 400-yard passing games would be impressive and entertaining, but not necessary to post wins. Washington beat Utah last Saturday by going 12 of 20 for 186 yards in the air. At 9.3 yards per pass, it was a productive Husky weapon.

What is necessary is for Detmer’s pass offense to improve from its 113 pass efficiency rating to somewhere past its opponents' average of 144.85. Even a 135 would do the job. Hill is capable of 150-plus if everyone steps up.

Doable?

Of course. The November schedule begs for it.

I think Hill is going to finish his BYU career on fire, so will Williams. They'll go out heroes.

An undefeated finish would give the Cougars an 8-4 record and a chance at 9-4 with a bowl win.

A nine-win record is better than I thought they’d get back in August when 7-5 looked like a reasonable expectation and achievable record for the Cougars.

If this team finishes the month 4-0, it is a major achievement worthy of high praise for Kalani Sitake and his staff. If they get a bowl win, it would be a remarkable effort.

But for now, November is a time all of us plan to enjoy big feasts.

And it's a time for BYU to feast on opponents and gobble up some wins.