BYU has a couple issues — recurring problems, really — that are sort of related to work out and deal with as Saturday’s first-ever matchup with the SEC’s Arkansas approaches.

Slow starts in almost every game this season, and a penchant for playing poorly in afternoon games the past few seasons, are under the microscope as the 4-2 Cougars get ready to host the 3-3 Razorbacks at 1:30 p.m. at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

“We wake up earlier to lift and do different things. Our sports scientists, they have come on to our staff this year, have made a lot of great changes for us, and we have been emphasizing that. (We are) getting up earlier, getting the juices flowing and just being ready to do the same thing on game day.” — BYU QB Jaren Hall

What are the Cougars doing to correct those deficiencies?

For starters, especially as it relates to the poor performances in afternoon games, BYU coaches have adjusted their players’ schedules this week. Wakeup calls come earlier, and weightlifting sessions have been held in the mornings instead of after afternoon practices.

“We wake up earlier to lift and do different things.” quarterback Jaren Hall said Wednesday. “Our sports scientists, they have come on to our staff this year, have made a lot of great changes for us, and we have been emphasizing that. (We are) getting up earlier, getting the juices flowing and just being ready to do the same thing on game day.”

After the Cougars lost 41-20 to Oregon in a day game in Eugene, the Deseret News asked head coach Kalani Sitake about BYU’s struggles in day games the past few seasons, and he said he “hasn’t even thought about that” and it was “the first time I have heard of it.”

After being told the Cougars’ record in night games is much better than in day games the past few years, he acknowledged, “Yeah, maybe need to re-do things when it comes to day games. … That’s a good thought. I will make note of that. Thank you.”

Since the 2020 season started, BYU’s last six losses — Notre Dame and Oregon this season, Boise State, Baylor and UAB last season and Coastal Carolina in 2020 — have all kicked off at or before 5:30 p.m. Mountain time. In that 11-1 season (2020), BYU’s second-toughest game was played in the afternoon — a 27-20 win over UTSA in Provo.

In 2021, they did beat Washington State, Idaho State and Georgia Southern in day games, but weren’t all that impressive in any of them. This season, the opener at South Florida, an eventual 50-21 win for BYU, was supposed to kick off at 4 p.m. EDT, but was pushed back several hours due to lightning in the area.

In a bit of a twist, the Cougars scored 38 points in the first half against the Bulls. Since then, BYU has averaged just 9.4 points in the first half over their last five games.

According to Cougarstats.com, BYU is 94th in the country in total offense in the first half and eighth in total offense in the second half.

Why the slow starts, particularly on offense?

“Yeah, if I knew the answer we would have fixed it a long time ago,” said offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick. “So it is a programwide thing. We have started slowly a lot this year, something we are talking about as a team.”

Roderick confirmed Hall’s revelation that they have made “a few tweaks” to their routine this week.

“Yeah, we are just doing a few things and seeing if that makes a difference,” Roderick said. “Bottom line is we just have to focus better and be ready to play right from the first snap.”

Rodrick acknowledged there is danger in overemphasizing something too much to the point where a team develops “a complex,” but said he would rather err on the side of overemphasis.

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“I think anything worth doing is worth overdoing,” he said. “So I would rather just address it, be honest about it with ourselves and try to fix it.”

Hall said the first-team offense has gone against the first-team defense in practices this week, which is sort of a rarity for in-season practices.

“We call it good-on-good,” Hall said. It is designed to get them “starting fast in practice and emulating a game.

Linebacker Ben Bywater said the lifts are taking place at 7:45 a.m. this week.

“Just so we can get up, get going, get the juices flowing,” he said. “So by Saturday, we will be locked and loaded. … There is a lot of cerebral stuff that happens behind the scenes that we are not a part of, but it just gets implemented. We gotta be ready to go. You gotta start dialing it up at 7:45 in the morning, not at 4:45 in the afternoon. Simple as that.”

Cougars on the air

Arkansas (3-3) at BYU (4-2)

Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MDT

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LaVell Edwards Stadium

Provo, Utah

TV: ESPN

Radio: KSL NewsRadio 102.7 FM/1160 AM

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