Has offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick found a running attack that can service BYU’s offense the rest of the season?

Maybe.

Almost certainly this is the case when playing a Group of Five opponent like South Florida and Wyoming.

The jury is still out if BYU can run the ball consistently and productively against teams like Baylor and Oregon — the nationally ranked kind of opponent.

In Saturday’s win over Wyoming, Miles Davis showed he has both the speed and breakaway capability to get after defenses and force them to respect his abilities. It was the first major playing time Davis has seen so far in his career.

Against a physical and very well-coached Wyoming defense, there were at least three run plays in which Davis got to the edge or outside the tackles and faced a pair of Wyoming defenders waiting to make the tackle. Davis planted his foot at full speed, changed direction and exploded into the third level of the Cowboy defense for big gains.

In Davis, it is evident BYU has an additional weapon alongside three-game regulars Chris Brooks and Lopini Katoa. His changeup speed and explosiveness were evident. Now it’s a matter of seeing if he can hit the wide zone-blocking holes with more velocity and really add something to what Roderick wants and needs.

During Monday’s “Coordinator’s Corner” program Roderick made it clear that nobody has lost their running back job, or as he put it, nobody “got fired.” He claimed going forward he would go with the hot hand out of that trio, but all three would definitely get a lot of touches.

No running back on the sidelines had a long face when Miles was churning up yards, Roderick claimed.

Head coach Kalani Sitake called it a “running back by committee” situation.

It is interesting to break down the rushing numbers BYU’s veteran offensive line helped produce and who they did it against. The big runs by Davis against Wyoming came when the Cowboys were a little worn down.

Related
No. 19 Cougars expect to get Gunner Romney back for game against USU — and other injury updates
How LaVell Edwards played a hand on both sides of BYU-Utah State rivalry
Is BYU’s receiver depth the best it’s ever been?

It does matter who you play against.

BYU rushed 37 times for 314 yards in the opening win over South Florida, an average of 8.5 yards per tote. Against Wyoming, BYU runners rushed 30 times for 188 yards for a 6.3-yard-per-carry average. Against those G5 defenses BYU gained 492 yards rushing or 77.3% of the season’s total rushing of 636 yards.

Against Baylor, BYU rushed for 83 and managed just 61 yards rushing against Oregon for a total of 142, an average of just 71 yards per game.

Duh.

It’s the foe.

Baylor’s defense ranks No. 9 in the country in rushing defense at 79.5 yards per game; Oregon ranks No. 16, allowing an average of 86.5. 

Conversely, Wyoming’s rush defense ranks 66th (138.6 ypg), and South Florida’s rush defense ranks 128th of 131 FBS teams.

Thursday’s opponent, Utah State, has a rush defense ranked 118th. What this tells us is regardless of whether it’s Brooks, Katoa or Davis, the Cougar run game will look very effective. But perspective is needed.

Just for giggles, let’s look at a few of BYU’s future opponents and how their rushing defense is ranked through one-fourth of the season. Arkansas is the toughest at No. 27. Liberty is 69th and Notre Dame is 70th. Those last two are similar to Wyoming — if we ignore what opponents they’ve played and just take the numbers as raw data.

One regret Roderick said he had over BYU’s last outing against Wyoming is that he knew the Cougars could gash the Cowboys with the pass and do it with precision and effectiveness, yet he elected to press the run game the first two possessions and not get after what he knew would be deadly.   

Those first two possessions by the Cougars resulted in three-and-outs as BYU’s lack of offense and a BYU defense caught off guard with some alignment and scheme issues simply gave the Cowboys first-quarter momentum.

Live and learn, they say.

BYU running back Chris Brooks (2) rushes 52 yards for a touchdown during BYU’s season opener against USF on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.
BYU running back Chris Brooks runs for a 52-yard touchdown during BYU’s opener against USF on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. | Robert W. Grover, for the Deseret News