BYU tight end Isaac Rex’s five-month-old son Luka is not sleeping through the night particularly well lately. The fifth-year junior and his wife, Lexi, have been “sleep training” the infant lately, and Rex reports that it requires a lot of patience, consoling and ignoring what feel like “really long” periods of crying. 

“So he’s not sleeping great, but he is awesome,” Rex said after practice Wednesday. “He is a joy and he makes our life go around. I love him so much.”

“We are not down on ourselves at all. Obviously watching the film was tough. It was a lot of messy mental mistakes and a lot of things that kinda cost us.” — BYU tight end Isaac Rex on the offense’s play last week

Of equal concern for Rex is the way the BYU offense performed in last Saturday’s 14-0 win over Sam Houston, but the 6-foot-6, 255-pounder who caught two passes for 15 yards — part of the Cougars’ paltry 145 passing yards — said neither he nor his teammates and coaches are dwelling on that lackluster outing.

The Cougars (1-0) have already turned 100% of their attention to Southern Utah (0-1) and Saturday’s in-state clash at LaVell Edwards Stadium (1 p.m., ESPN+).

“We are not down on ourselves at all. Obviously watching the film was tough,” he said. “It was a lot of messy mental mistakes and a lot of things that kinda cost us.

“But we got the (win),” Rex continued. “It is better than losing in that situation. We are going to come out and play a lot better Saturday. We are worried about SUU right now and putting that game in the past.”

The Cougars played their opener without projected starting receivers Kody Epps and Keanu Hill, but Rex, receivers coach Fesi Sitake and offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick refused to use that as an excuse for arguably BYU’s worst offensive performance since 2017.

What’s their status for Saturday?

“We are trying to get them back,” Roderick said. “It is a day-to-day thing. They are not serious season-threatening type injuries. … But I just have to work with whoever is available.”

Sitake said after Wednesday’s practice that both receivers “look really, really good right now,” but how they do “in the next three days” will determine their availability against SUU.

“I am very optimistic that we will get at least one of them back,” Sitake said.

Backup tight end Mata’ava Ta’ase played Saturday despite learning hours before kickoff that his father, Tunufa’i Ta’ase, died of cardiac arrest earlier in the day. His funeral is Tuesday in Mesa, Arizona.

Roderick said Mata’ava Ta’ase is expected to play against SUU, his former school, although “everything is his choice” on if he wants to play or not.

Here’s Roderick’s assessment of how the offense looked against the Bearkats:

“We didn’t play well at all, and we need to play better, for sure. And we will. I expect us (to),” he said. “We are going to be a really good offense this year. It was not a good day. We had a pretty heavy day (dealing with Ta’ase’s death) leading up to the game, and then we looked pretty sluggish out there, pretty sloppy.

“But we are working to correct our mistakes and we have a lot of good players out here. We will play better,” Roderick concluded.

Sitake, who is also the passing game coordinator, said his group of receivers — which included returners Chase Roberts and Parker Kingston and newcomers Darius Lassiter and Keelan Marion — struggled in the opener. Roberts caught five passes for 42 yards, while Lassiter had four catches for 43 yards.

“We didn’t have a great game, and that’s on me as a coach. Just getting them right mentally (is the task),” Sitake said. “We had a couple missed assignments that were uncharacteristic of us. We didn’t have them throughout camp.

“There is a lot you could factor into that. But the reality is this is a production-oriented business and we didn’t get it done,” Sitake continued. “I thought there were some good things out there, but ultimately overall it wasn’t the standard we have had in our room over the last several years.”

Freshman running back LJ Martin delivered the best performance, picking up 91 yards on 16 carries after entering the game in the second half.

“I felt that the offensive line played really well — no sacks given up and we ran the ball extremely well towards the end,” Rex said. “It was fun getting the run game going with LJ and yeah, I know Aidan (Robbins) and Deion (Smith) are going to play really well, too, this Saturday.”

The scary news for BYU is that SUU’s defense looked stout against Arizona State in a 24-21 loss in Tempe last Thursday.

“These guys (SUU) are as good or better than the team we played last week,” Roderick said. “If you saw the Arizona State game, their defense played very well against ASU. ASU had trouble moving the ball, had trouble running the ball. They had a couple of big plays, explosive plays where one great player made a big play, kind of thing.”

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Graduate transfer quarterback Kedon Slovis rushed for two touchdowns and didn’t turn the ball over, but looked a bit out of sorts against Sam Houston. Rex, who has bonded with Slovis and spent a lot of time this past spring and summer working out with the former USC and Pitt QB, said the “veteran” will be fine.

“We as receivers and tight ends and running backs need to do everything in our power to help out Kedon,” Rex said. “I could have made a couple more plays out there. Kedon trusts me and we need to connect on those.

“Even though the quarterback gets the brunt of the blame sometimes, it is definitely not all his fault. It is a whole team effort,” Rex continued. “I believe that we will help Kedon out better this week.”

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The Cougars would also like to get Louisville and UNLV transfer Robbins going, after he got just seven touches — for 23 yards — in Week 1.

Cougars on the air

Southern Utah (0-1)
at BYU (1-0)
Saturday, 1 p.m. MDT
Provo, Utah
TV: Big 12 Now on ESPN+
Radio: 102.7 FM/1160 AM

“Aidan didn’t play badly. We had a lot of drive-killing mistakes where we kept getting in bad down-and-distance situations, which made it harder to run the ball,” Roderick said. “We were often in second-and-long, third-and-long, which wasn’t conducive to running the ball. I am not down on Aidan at all. I think he will keep making a lot of progress.”

Roderick said the plan wasn’t to hold things back. He wasn’t able to get deep into the playbook because of the aforementioned struggles on first and second down. 

“And then we had some silly penalties and stuff that really cost us some drives,” he said. “You never really get a chance to get into the fun stuff when you are always (behind the chains). In those long yardage situations, your cool plays don’t really work.”

Aaron Roderick, BYU offensive coordinator, talks to media at the end of opening day of BYU spring football camp.
Aaron Roderick, BYU offensive coordinator, talks to media at the end of opening day of BYU spring football camp, March 6, 2023. Even though the BYU offense appeared sluggish in the season opener against Sam Houston, Roderick remains confident in his squad. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
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