What the idle BYU Cougars worked on last week in three physical, hard-hitting practices that resembled fall camp workouts more than in-season rehearsals is no secret.

“We worked on running the football — over and over and over again,” said running back Miles Davis, who came off the bench in the 35-27 win over Cincinnati on Sept. 29 to rush four times for 17 yards in his first significant playing time of the 2023 season.

“It has been a pain, because he is able to do some things in practice, but he is not quite able to play yet. I think we are getting close, but I don’t know yet.” — BYU OC Aaron Roderick on Aidan Robbins

Why not?

As has been trumpeted since the opener when questions first emerged over the ineffectiveness of a rushing attack that was supposed to be so much better with the addition of UNLV transfer Aidan Robbins, a 1,000-yard rusher last year for the Rebels, the 4-1 Cougars have one of the worst run games in the country through six weeks.

If it hopes to upset 3-3 TCU on Saturday (1:30 p.m. MDT, ESPN) at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, BYU knows it has to establish some sort of offensive balance, balance that has been spotty, at best.

The Cougars are No. 129 of 130 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision in rushing yards per game, at 62.8. That kind of production won’t get it done at TCU, which is 46th in the country against the run, allowing just 126 yards per game.

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The BYU offense will get a boost with the return of receiver Kody Epps, who has been bothered by hamstring issues since fall camp, but offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said Wednesday that Robbins’ availability is still in question.

Robbins has been slowed by a rib injury and hasn’t played since getting only three carries, for 6 yards, in the 41-16 win over Southern Utah in Week 2.

“Not sure yet. That one I do not know yet,” Roderick said when he was asked if Robbins will be able to play.

“It has been a pain, because he is able to do some things in practice, but he is not quite able to play yet,” Roderick said of Robbins’ injury. “I think we are getting close, but I don’t know yet.”

Getting Epps back will be “huge,” according to tight end Isaac Rex.

“Kody has had some great games in the past,” Rex said. “He’s going to come out and play well for us. I am excited to see Kody back out there, along with Parker (Kingston). Those guys are great.”

BYU’s passing game hasn’t been an issue, however, as Keelan Marion, Chase Roberts, Keanu Hill and Darius Lassiter have filled the void. The running game has been subpar, and it is not any one player, or any one position group’s fault, Roderick said.

It makes one wonder where the Cougars would be without true freshman LJ Martin, who has picked up 289 yards and four touchdowns on 72 carries. The El Paso, Texas, native leapfrogged Robbins and Colorado transfer Deion Smith on the depth chart before Week 3 against Arkansas.

“LJ has been amazing,” Davis said.

Roderick said the Cougars went “back to the basics” last week with an emphasis on fundamentals and technique.

“We just emphasized being a better blocker in all positions,” Roderick said. “We worked it all last week and again this week, just looking for everyone to block better.”

BYU’s offensive line has been nicked up, too, but nothing out of the ordinary. Starting left guard Weylin Lapuaho sustained an arm injury against Kansas and didn’t play against Cincinnati, but could also be back Saturday.

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The Utah State transfer has practiced this week and is listed as a co-starter on this week’s depth chart with Missouri State transfer Ian Fitzgerald, who got the start against the Bearcats. 

“We are going against some physical teams (in October), so we have had some physical practices these last few days,” Rex said. “It has been good for us to practice that physicality in the run game so when we go out there we are not caught off guard.”

Overall, Rex described the offense as being hot and cold through five games.

Cougars on the air


BYU (1-1, 4-1)
at TCU (1-2, 3-3)
Oct. 14, 1:30 p.m. MDT
Amon G. Carter Stadium
(Capacity: 50,000)
TV: ESPN
Radio: 102.7 FM/1160 AM


“When we are clicking, we are really clicking. We look super good. We are scoring fast. We are playing well,” he said. “But there have definitely been some low points in some games, with the turnovers and stuff like that. … We need to ramp it up these next couple of games, because we’ve got a crazy schedule coming up. We need all the help we can get.”

Roderick said the tonic for a lackluster running attack is better execution and better blocking. Simple as that.

“It is not so much coming up with new magical schemes or whatever,” he said. “It is just executing the plays better. A lot of that comes down to doing your job, each individual player doing his job with the technique we are asking him to do it with.”

BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick watches from the sidelines during practices in Provo on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023.
BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick watches from the sidelines during practices in Provo on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News