PROVO — Those who remember BYU offensive coordinator Ty Detmer from his playing days recall an often-fiery competitor, who at times let his emotions boil over on the sidelines, or even on the field of play. That same firey competitor then becomes reserved, polite and even self-deprecating whenever he's away from the field, and even when coaching, according to at least one current player on the BYU football team.
On Monday, however, the passionate Detmer showed up at team meetings and into the practice session
“It was good to see Ty today kind of go off on us,” said BYU receiver Neil Pau'u during Monday's press conference. “I think we needed it to kind of (light a) fire or something. He’s kind of let us be men, and kind of conduct ourselves and control ourselves to produce, but obviously (we’re) 1-6. A little change up is necessary and today he kind of went off on us, which is good. I respected it and I listened to it.”
A hallmark of the Cougars' 1-6 start has been atrocious offensive production, to the tune of just 11.4 points scored per game and 242.2 yards per game. Those averages place the Cougars 128th out of 129 FBS football programs in the country in both categories.
But how to improve? That question has been posed since BYU's opening game against Portland State, where the offensive production was severely lacking, despite a 20-6 win.
According to Pau'u, one thing that's changing is Detmer's demeanor.
“He got more riled up,” Pau’u said. “Normally Ty is calm, cool and collected, but today his voice — I guess he raised it a little bit. But again, it was good.”
The raising of voices wasn't entirely on the offensive side of the ball. Neil's older brother, linebacker Butch Pau'u, told the media Monday of defensive coaches, specifically defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki, taking a similar approach prior to last Saturday's 35-10 whooping at the hands of Mississippi State.
“He called us out,” Butch Pau’u said. “He said, ‘You guys, you’ve lost some passion since losing to Boise State. You could see that in the way you came in today.’ So he called us out, and we had a great week of practice."
Tuiaki's directives didn't immediately bear fruit, however, as the Cougars forged one of their worst defensive outings of the year in allowing 546 yards of offense, on top of the 35 points.
According to Butch Pau'u, the next step has to be more accountability during this week's preparation.
"So this week we made sure it wasn’t the coaches calling us out — that it was the players calling each other out," Butch Pau'u said, while pointing out other players rising up to hold others accountable — most notably senior linebacker Adam Pulsipher.
As for BYU head coach Kalani Sitake, he approves of varying the way messages are conveyed, so much as it holds one common factor.
“Sometimes the truth is the most important thing, right?,” Sitake said. “When you gain the trust of your players, when you have a great relationship, I don’t think it matters how you say it, as long as it’s honest and it’s true.”
What is true is the Cougars' current state of producing a shockingly ineffective offense and a defense that has shown gaping holes in recent weeks. A game this Saturday versus a struggling East Carolina team, that is also 1-6, can perhaps help right a ship that has very much been lost at sea.