Three games into the 2017 college football season, it’s no secret that BYU is struggling to put points on the scoreboard.
One national writer described BYU's offense as a "disgrace," while a former Cougar player said it's the "worst" he's ever seen.
It’s also no secret that the offensive issues, slow start and seventh straight setback to rival Utah has Cougar Nation frazzled. Don't look now, but No. 10 Wisconsin is up next.
Rise and shout?
That describes what some disgruntled fans are doing at their screens.
The frustration — Sighs and Pout? — has sparked how-to-fix-it discussions and plenty of finger-pointing, of course.
Which brings up some questions:
What’s vexing BYU fans the most heading into a scary showdown with the Badgers this Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium?
And who’s to blame for the sluggish start?
Offensive coordinator Ty Detmer?
Quarterback Tanner Mangum?
BYU’s MIA running game?
Receivers? Linemen? The kicking game? Missed assignments? Penalties? Media? Whoever didn't protect the Cougar statue in plastic wrap during rivalry week?
All of the above?
Early results of an informal and very unscientific Twitter poll on yours truly's account showed that Detmer and Mangum are taking the brunt of the blame.
Regardless of who’s to blame, the struggle is real for BYU and its loyal-but-lamenting fans.
There’s reason to be concerned.
The Mangum-led Cougar offense is the 107th ranked passing team (of 129 teams), averaging a meager 155.3 yards through the air after games against Portland State, LSU and Utah.
The missing-in-action rushing game is also struggling to the tune of just 76.3 yards per game (118th), while the overall offense has advanced the ball only an average of 231.7 yards (124th).
Even worse, BYU has the fifth-worst scoring offense in the nation after putting up just 33 combined points in three outings. Only UTEP (10.5 ppg), Georgia State (10.0 ppg), Georgia Southern (9.5 ppg), Florida State and Charlotte (7.0 ppg) are averaging fewer points than the Cougars (11.0 ppg).
Former BYU offensive lineman Jason Scukanec, now a sports radio host with ESPN 1080 in Portland, Oregon, summed it up for Cougar faithful who are feeling disappointed if not disillusioned with Detmer’s offense.
BYU finds itself listed much higher in another set of national rankings, which isn’t an enviable position to be in.
USA Today Sports reporter Paul Myerberg has the Cougars ranked high on his list of the top 10 most disappointing college football teams.
BYU is ranked as the third biggest disappointment so far, trailing only Texas A&M (1-1) and Georgia Southern (0-2). East Carolina (0-2) and North Carolina (0-2) round out the top/bottom five.
Myerberg didn’t pull any punches in describing BYU’s woeful production.
"The Cougars’ offense is a disgrace," he wrote. "BYU has gained 695 yards across three games; Louisville had 705 yards in Saturday’s win against North Carolina alone. The team’s lone win came in 20-6 snoozer against Portland State, which was followed by a 27-0 loss to LSU and a 19-13 loss to rival Utah."
Deseret News columnist Dick Harmon weighed in on this topic in his Tuesday column:
"What is unsettling and even surprising to this coaching staff is that during August camp, this offense showed a lot of potential, some real firepower and big plays. That has never surfaced so far in three games."
Harmon pointed out that Moroni Laulu-Pututau's foot injury derailed BYU's plan of using a potentially potent double tight end formation with Matt Bushman. In turn, that has impacted how the Cougars are able to use receivers Talon Shumway and Micah Simon.
Ula Tolutau's camp injury hurt the Cougars' running game, Harmon noted. But the freshman's solid late showing against Utah offers some hope on that front.
Former Cougar standout Jamal Willis offered some suggestions and hope for BYU’s struggling running game and offense.
"Third," Harmon continued, "as a receiver and running back group, BYU’s offense has struggled to make the right reads and pick up blitzes, like the blindside hit by Ute safety Chase Hansen on Saturday. At times, receivers have cut off or extended routes and spacing has been off, as in Tanner Mangum’s first interception Saturday to Boobie Hobbs. BYU’s wideouts were clumped together, drawing three defenders to where Mangum threw the ball.
"Fourth, Mangum, for whatever reason, has struggled in these three games, trying to find a comfort level with all the operations. It isn’t all his fault; if an offense isn’t in sync, with linemen, receivers and backs all doing their parts together, it looks like what it’s been."
BYU was encouraged by Mangum's production in quick-tempo situations against Utah, too. The quarterback is expected to be fine for Saturday's game, by the way, after tweaking his foot on the final play vs. the Utes.
Detmer believes the Cougars are headed in the right direction, and he's not about to place the blame on one person or aspect of the offense.
"You can’t let these things linger and hang over you. You’ve got to move on," Detmer said during his weekly BYU Football Coordinators’ Corner appearance Monday night. "The effort’s there. We’re playing hard. We’ve got to be cleaner on the little things."
Detmer reminded fans that BYU got off to a slow start his senior season, too. Part of the problem was that the Cougars were an overall inexperienced offense that year, which is also the case this season. The fact that his final college team bounced back to have a nice season after an 0-3 start offers hope a few decades later.
For what it's worth, not all BYU fans are giving up hope on Detmer.