Halloween is threatening to come early for BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick. His nights are haunted by third downs and his entire day is occupied with finding a remedy.
“I’ve thought about everything. I literally don’t sleep. I’m working on this 24-7,” Roderick said as BYU (4-2, 1-2) prepares for Texas Tech (3-4, 2-2) Saturday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium (5 p.m., FS1). “We are looking at every option we have — every player and every scheme.”
The Cougars have sunk to No. 124 out of 131 Division I football teams in third down conversions (.304). Their average down and distance on third down is nine yards — which Roderick says is way too many.
“It sounds too simple, but you just have to play better on first and second downs. We are not making enough yards on the early downs,” he said. “This year it has been a struggle being in third and long all the time. The goal is to be more efficient on the early downs.”
Easy to say, but without a running game, it’s almost impossible to do. BYU averages 67.5 yards per game, which ranks No. 129. The inability to move on the ground has often left quarterback Kedon Slovis dead in the pocket.
“The best pass protection is a great run game. The last few years, when we have been able to run the ball well, our play-action pass has been pretty deadly,” Roderick said. “With our struggles, you become more reliable on the straight drop-back pass and once the other team can pin their ears back it gets tough. The best way to fix that is to run the ball better.”
Therein lies the unsolved mystery — how to kick-start the ground game. The offensive line is relatively healthy, and the eventual return of injured UNLV transfer running back Aidan Robbins might help, but the bulk of the heavy load remains on the back of freshman LJ Martin, who graduated from high school last May.
Roderick doesn’t put the blame on any individual or position group. In his nightmare, all he sees is the perplexed face staring back at him in the mirror.
Cougars on the air
Texas Tech (2-2, 3-4)
at BYU (1-2, 4-2)
Saturday, 5 p.m. MDT
LaVell Edwards Stadium
Radio: 102.7 FM/1160 AM
“It starts with me. I told the players Monday the product on the field is my responsibility and it hasn’t been good enough,” he said. “When we have been really good on offense, that’s been nice, but lately we have not been good enough.”
Trick-or-treating is still two weeks away, but Texas Tech is knocking on the door this weekend. The pressure is on. Roderick and his staff still have a couple more days to figure out how to keep Halloween from arriving early.
Dave McCann is a contributor to the Deseret News and is the studio host for “BYU Sports Nation Game Day,” “The Post Game Show,” “After Further Review,” and play-by-play announcer for BYUtv. He is also co-host of “Y’s Guys” at ysguys.com.