PROVO — Ty Detmer always knew this might happen, that his reputation as a BYU legend could take a hit as the football team’s offensive coordinator.
Everybody, from the fans to the players and administration, wants immediate and lasting success. Detmer’s boss, coach Kalani Sitake, even admitted patience is not his strong point.
With Detmer in charge, BYU’s offense has not come close to replicating what the Heisman Trophy winner produced during his time as the program’s quarterback. Nobody is expecting Detmer to work miracles, but the offense this season has been an embarrassment to the illustrious BYU tradition.
“The Cougars’ offense is a disgrace,” USA Today wrote in listing college football’s worst offenses this season.
Hard to argue with facts.
Only three of the 127 teams in major college football have scored fewer points and gained fewer yards than BYU through three games. The Cougars have gained a total of 695 yards and are averaging 11 points a game, having gone scoreless against LSU when they failed to cross the 50-yard line.
“Obviously, we just need to be more productive on the offensive side,” Sitake said. “That’s what it comes down to.”
From a coaching standpoint, the coordinator is taking all the criticism. In the years before taking the job after the 2015 season, the easygoing Texan often joked about knowing all the goodwill he built up with BYU fans could slip away if he ever went into coaching.
Detmer could readily recite all the abuse directed at Robbie Bosco and Brandon Doman after the former BYU great quarterbacks began calling plays for their alma mater. Bosco eventually left the coaching staff to become a fundraiser, while Doman got fired when Bronco Mendenhall purged the offensive staff after the 2012 season.
“I think there is a lot of pressure right now,” Doman said during his weekly appearance on 97.5-FM and 1280-AM The Zone. “I think the coaches are feeling it. They are underperforming according to all critics. Look, I’ve been there, I get it and I understand, so you start pressing. And the coaches are pressing.”
As they are prone to do when things don’t go well, some fans already are calling for Detmer’s job. They point to his lack of qualifications, having coached only at the high school level before becoming BYU’s coordinator.
Running a pro style offense, BYU's offense does seem to lack creativity. The schemes are not in keeping with the wide-open philosophies that dominate college football.
“I have empathy for him,” Doman said. “He’s working his tail off. It weighs heavy on him every day and every night, especially right now (when) you’re 1-2. It matters to you. You’re a BYU guy, you’re a former player and you know that the fans are just begging for something to happen. Nobody wants it more than Ty.”
Seeing it come to pass may require more patience until the schedule softens. The offense was overmatched in the losses to LSU and Utah and probably won’t be much different this week against No. 10 Wisconsin.
To complicate matters, BYU is expected to be without quarterback Tanner Mangum, who could miss several weeks after suffering an ankle injury against Utah. Redshirt sophomore Beau Hoge, who played in three games as a freshman in 2015, is expected to start.
“I think you have to go back to simplicity of fundamentals,” said Doman, who added the Cougars are “better skilled from the spread offense than they are from playing their power sets and their pro style sets.”
The problem is, BYU has few playmakers. Only freshman tight end Matt Bushman has shown the ability to make plays downfield.
BYU is a mess at running back, unable to find a replacement for all-time leading rusher Jamaal Williams. In their seventh consecutive loss to Utah, the Cougars got production out of the backfield from Trey Dye and Ula Tolutau.
“I don’t know that I’d play anybody else,” Doman said. “I think those are the two guys I’d play at running back unless they’re injured or something else.”
Whatever he decides, unless fortunes change, Detmer will continue to take heat. Just like the beloved former BYU hero suspected all along.
“This reaches deep,” Doman said. “It matters. I know he’s feeling the pressure of it in a way that he’s never felt it before.”