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6 numbers that define BYU’s first month of the season, and what they could mean moving forward

The Cougars enter October with a 4-1 record, though there are several things to work on with this ranked team

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BYU receiver Kody Epps fights for yardage during a game against Utah State in Provo on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022.

BrYU Cougars wide receiver Kody Epps (0) runs on Utah State Aggies cornerback Michael Anyanwu (22) in Provo on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

It’s been nearly a month since BYU opened its season at South Florida, and after Thursday night’s 38-26 win over instate rival Utah State, the No. 19 Cougars stand at 4-1 on the year.

While there have been plenty of success stories so far in the 2022 season, there are also several things to work on for this ranked team.

Here’s a look at six numbers that illustrate both what is going right and what is going wrong so far for the Cougars:

1,438 and 12: Jaren Hall’s passing yards and touchdowns

BYU’s junior quarterback is having a standout year — so far, he’s completed 70% of his passes for 1,438 yards, 12 touchdowns and just one interception. 

Assuming that the Cougars make a bowl and Hall plays every game — injuries kept him out of three games last year — that puts him on pace to throw for over 3,700 yards and more than 30 touchdowns, a significant jump from his 2,583 passing yards and 20 touchdowns in 2021.

These numbers make BYU a top 25 passing team this season, and the clear strength of the offense.

He’s making less of an impact with his legs — Hall has rushed for just 64 yards on a 1.9 per-carry average — but his ability to make throws into tight windows and complete long passes has visibly improved over last season.

How will Hall do against the rest of the Cougars’ schedule?

Boise State has the best pass defense of teams remaining on BYU’s defense — the Broncos allow just 159.8 passing yards per game, 13th nationally — while upcoming opponents Notre Dame (213.2) and Arkansas (302.5) rank 56th and 126th, respectively.

5 to 1: BYU’s turnovers forced to turnovers lost

The Cougars have just one turnover on the season — Hall threw an interception in the season opener. Lopini Katoa nearly gave up a fumble deep in BYU territory against USU, but the Cougars recovered.

BYU is one of just eight schools at the FBS level to have one or fewer turnovers on the season, and the only one to have played five games so far. USC is the lone team without a turnover this year.

The Cougars, meanwhile, have forced five turnovers, three of which came in the Utah State game Thursday. BYU turned those into six points, off a Max Tooley pick-six — Tooley has two pick-sixes this season.

Can BYU start forcing more turnovers, though? Currently, their five takeaways — an average of one per game — ranks tied for 81st nationally.

4: Number of BYU receivers with 15 or more catches and 190 or more receiving yards

Even though injuries have greatly impacted the wide receiving group this year — Gunner Romney played his first game Thursday and Puka Nacua has missed a lot of time — BYU’s young receivers have stepped up.

Four receivers have 15 or more catches on the year, led by Keanu Hill’s 16 receptions for 329 yards and four touchdowns. Kody Epps (21 receptions, 198 yards, three touchdowns), Brayden Cosper (15, 192, 1) and Chase Roberts (15, 223, 1)  — who’s also hurt right now — have made big catches so far.

Roberts led the team in receiving yards the first three weeks before getting hurt against Wyoming, Hill had 160 receiving yards against the Cowboys and Epps put up a team-high 86 yards and a touchdown against the Aggies. 

Romney is back from a lacerated kidney and had four catches for 51 yards against Utah State, while Nacua’s latest injury hasn’t been declared a season-ender.

It’s possible the Cougars could be even more stacked at wideout if they can all get healthy.

122.3 to 18: First-half rushing yards differential over BYU’s past three games

The Cougars have been getting off to slow starts the past three weeks, starting with a loss at Oregon, and the running game has played a big role in that.

While the Ducks used a balanced rushing and passing game to build a 24-7 halftime lead on BYU in the Cougars’ lone loss three weeks ago, Wyoming and Utah State have leaned on their rushing attack to slow down the game — particularly the first half — the past two weeks.

On Thursday, Utah State outrushed BYU 147 to minus-21 in the first half, and the Aggies used that advantage to go into halftime tied at 17 with the favored Cougars.

That’s a real issue, with Notre Dame and Arkansas coming up the next two weeks. The Razorbacks, in particular, are ninth in the country in rushing yards per game (243.8) and 28th in rush defense, allowing 100.5 yards per game.

1 of 6: Jake Oldroyd’s field goal conversion rate after a 4 of 4 start

It’s been a rough few weeks for BYU’s kicker who in 2020 was a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, given annually to the nation’s top placekicker.

He’s missed five of his past six field-goal attempts — ever since he had two chances to win the Baylor game with a field goal.

Right now, Oldroyd is struggling to find the rhythm and confidence he’s shown throughout his career — at one point, he made 16 straight field goals for the Cougars, a program record.

The question is, will BYU turn to either Justen Smith, who made a field goal against Wyoming, or Cash Peterman to take over placekicking duties?

72.8: BYU’s penalty yards per game

The Cougars are one of the most undisciplined teams in the country this season, currently ranked No. 118 nationally in penalty yards per game. 

There have been several penalties that have cost the Cougars in the early part of the season, and that undisciplined play showed up the past two weeks during BYU’s home stretch. 

Against Utah State, BYU had 10 penalties for 82 yards and several of those penalties — particularly on the defense — kept the game close throughout the first half.

Here’s just a couple examples:

Tyler Batty was called for a 15-yard personal foul on Utah State’s first drive, and the Aggies capped that drive with a touchdown.

Tooley drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty for throwing a shoe after BYU made a third-down stop, and then on a fourth-and-1 later on the same drive, BYU’s Joshua Singh jumped offsides to keep the drive alive. While USU ultimately turned the ball over, the Aggies drove inside the BYU 15 on that drive.

With teams like Notre Dame, Arkansas, Boise State and Stanford remaining on the schedule, the Cougars can ill afford to keep giving up so many yards via penalties.