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PROVO — Breaking down the season into segments, in this case 25% of the schedule, BYU football is right on target to achieve realistic goals.
Forget about going undefeated and making the national playoff, neither was ever going to happen this season. Dialing it down a bit, the Cougars have much to play for heading into the heart of the schedule.
At 2-1, beating South Florida and Baylor, they still can finish with at least nine wins to go along with a national ranking. But a humbling 41-20 loss to Oregon on Saturday opens a new round of issues that call into question the team's ability.
"Everything has to be evaluated for us," coach Kalani Sitake said immediately after the game.
Two days later, he wasn't interested in making any excuses, saying: "I don't think we were disciplined enough as a team. I gotta do a better job making sure our guys are playing correctly, and that we show up better. I feel like it was a missed opportunity."
The defense was an abomination in every which way. Not once, when the game mattered, did BYU put up any resistance against an Oregon offense that scored on every possession in the first half.
Oh, sure, in defense of the defense, BYU was without two injured starting linemen. But unless Tyler Batty and Earl Tuioti-Mariner were a combination of Mean Joe Greene and Merlin Olsen, their presence would not have made enough of a difference.
BYU's ineptness up front was best illustrated by the first play of the second half. Seemingly pinned in at the line of scrimmage, Oregon running back Bucky Irving somehow managed to escape several would-be tacklers to scamper for an 11-yard gain.
We're talking Bucky Irving here. Wrap up, already.
The BYU offense had moments of respectability, moving the ball through the air with some degree of success without injured starting receivers Puka Nacua and Gunner Romney. But for the second consecutive game, the Cougars mustered virtually nothing on the ground.
The lack of a running game, which netted only 61 yards, is especially concerning for a team supposed to have NFL talent along the line. A one-dimensional offense would lead to another nobody-cares bowl game, no doubt.
"We pride ourselves in running the ball at BYU," tight end Isaac Rex during Monday's media session with reporters. "We want to get better. We want to improve on that. We will get better this week at the run game."
As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder. BYU clearly misses star running back Tyler Allgeier, who rushed for 1,601 yards last season who now plays for the Atlanta Falcons.
In Allgeier, offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick could count on a talent with the ability to gain the difficult yards between the tackles and produce explosive plays on the outside. At times last season, BYU rode Allgeier to the point of exhaustion.
As far as the special teams, BYU has a problem that needs a quick solution. Kicker Jake Oldroyd is mired in a slump, there's no other way to say it.
After missing two makable field goals that would have clinched BYU's win over Baylor, Oldroyd did not convert on a 38-yard attempt in the first half that would have cut the deficit to 7 points.
But his miscues are low on the priority. Right now, the entire BYU team needs a hug.
Good thing for them, though, is the schedule turns easier the next two weeks with home games against Wyoming and Utah State, respectively. A loss in either game substantially diminishes any shot at a third consecutive double-digit win total and finishing with a national ranking.
"We will get this thing back on track," Rex said.