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PROVO — BYU started out fast against South Florida Saturday, but the defense gave up yards and the Bulls offense had their way in the second half to make the game closer than BYU would have liked.
The Cougars came away with a win behind backup quarterback Baylor Romney and remain unbeaten on the season, but it got ugly for the Cougars in the second half.
Here are three lessons from BYU's win over USF:
BYU's QB situation is in good shape
Starting QB Jaren Hall sat out the USF game and Romney got the call to lead the Cougars. Out of the gate, offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick allowed Romney to let it fly, and on the second play of the game Romney connected with his brother, Gunner Romney, on a 49-yard toss. A few plays later, Romney hit Masen Wake for a 5-yard touchdown.
Romney was in the zone the entire game and hit receivers all over the field. He finished the day 20-of-25 for 305 yards, three touchdowns and 14 yards on the ground. With the exception of two errant throws, Romney was in the zone and looked like QB1.
Hall will likely still be the starter when he's healthy, but if anything happens to him or if he's out for another game or two, BYU's QB situation should be just fine.
USF exposed BYU's defense
Leading up to the game, the BYU defense looked as stout as it has in years. They hadn't given up more than 17 points and were stuffing opposing offenses and controlling the line of scrimmage. It seemed to be more of the same when the game started Saturday, too.
BYU stuffed the Bulls play after play and forced multiple punts, and at the end of the first quarter BYU controlled a 21-0 lead. USF made some progress in the second quarter and scored two field goals, but 6 points didn't do much damage against BYU's 28.
In the third quarter, the Bulls' offense turned it on and started running all over the Cougars. Missed tackles, a loss of containment and a failure to get a push at the line of scrimmage led to USF scoring 21 second-half points to BYU's 7.
BYU's offense was in control nearly every time they had the ball, but the problem was the defense couldn't get a stop or get the ball back in their hands. BYU only ran 21 plays in the second half to USF's 39. BYU's defense could not get the Bulls off the field and BYU's offense may have contributed to their inefficiency.
The offense was efficient at scoring quickly and it put the tired defense right back onto the field. There were also injuries on defense that undoubtedly had an impact, but that still isn't a great excuse.
The defense seemed to be missing urgency, leadership and intensity — something that has to be fixed moving forward. BYU is currently 4-0, but with the defense playing like it did, losses to Baylor, Boise State and USC seem very likely — not to mention possible struggles against teams like Virginia, Washington State and Utah State on the road.
There are too many injuries
There are obvious injuries to some big players keeping starters off the field for BYU. Hall, linebacker Keenan Pili and kicker Jake Oldroyd are a few of the notable injuries, but many of the Cougars seem to struggle to stay healthy.
For those who watched the game, they saw at least one Cougar go down on nearly every series. It may not have taken them out of the entire game, but it caused a constant stream of substitutions that can throw off the consistency of the squad.
Tyler Batty was missing from the defense and starting offensive lineman Harris LaChance left the game with an injury. Kalani Sitake talks about how happy he is with the depth of his team, and I even called it out as one of the lessons from last week, but when all of these players are going down again and again it raises two questions: how deep does the depth actually go and what do the Cougars need to do to stay healthy on the field?
While it wasn't always pretty, the Cougars never trailed in the game, made plays when they needed to, and most importantly, they won the game.
The Cougars are now 4-0 and hit the road for the first time in three weeks. Next up: BYU will take on in-state foe Utah State in Logan on Friday.