About a month ago, I argued that the Brigham Young Cougars should part ways with offensive coordinator Brandon Doman at the end of 2012. I no longer feel that way. What I have seen the last four games has convinced me Doman deserves, at least, one more year.
The two reasons given a month ago to release Doman were turnovers and game plans. Having learned more about this team and the abilities and personalities of each player, I think Doman’s game plans have been fantastic.
Starting with the game against Utah State, BYU faced three of the best defenses on the schedule in back-to-back-to-back games. In each game, the BYU offense played much better than the average offense.
Utah State—The six points on the scoreboard don’t clearly represent how well the BYU offense played. BYU had 380 yards of total offense. Going into the game, Utah State had only been allowing 280. BYU also bested the Aggies’ defensive averages for rushing yards (145 to 106.4) and passing yards (235 to 174.4). These numbers were put up with a true freshman running back and quarterback. For a passing team like BYU, playing a freshman quarterback severely limits what you can do on offense.
The short and safe passing game that Doman used was still creative. Utah State was unable to stop it because Doman kept them guessing. When BYU needed to move quickly to score, Doman was able to have the offense switch to another speed and drove downfield in the final 28 seconds of the half to score a touchdown.
Oregon State—The Cougars hosted an Oregon State team with a defense that had been allowing just 17 points per game, 67.25 rushing yards per game, and 20 percent success rate on third downs. BYU scored 24 points, rushed for 81 yards, and converted 44 percent of the time on third downs. Also, BYU had 386 yards of total offense, which was approximately 10 percent above what Oregon State had been yielding all season.
Many people thought BYU was in danger of being shutout in this game. Although senior Riley Nelson was back at quarterback, the BYU offense was still limited by the skill set and decision making at that position (more on that later). Doman was able to get the quota of 24 points that head coach Bronco Mendenhall has for the offense.
Notre Dame—If the Oregon State defense didn’t shutout the Cougars offense, then the Notre Dame defense certainly would. It had been a month since any offense had scored a touchdown on the Fighting Irish defense. Notre Dame didn’t have one of the best defenses in the country in a couple of statistical categories; they were dominant in all categories.
All BYU did was score two offensive touchdowns and take the lead into the fourth quarter. BYU scored 14 points against a defense that was giving up just 8.7 points per game. Oklahoma only scored 13 points and one touchdown last week against Notre Dame.
The Cougars didn’t roll up a lot of yards, but Doman’s play calling got BYU into scoring territory five different times. A missed field goal, a sack, and an interception—all things out of Doman’s control—resulted in those drives ending with no points.
Georgia Tech—The Tech defense was bad … and look what happened. Using a slow moving, ball control style offense to help keep the Yellow Jackets’ option offense off the field, BYU still managed to gain 411 yards of total offense and scored 41 points. Doman even found a way to get a pass to Ross Apo 43 yards downfield.
Doman’s game plans and play calling this season have been well designed to WIN games with the existing personnel that BYU has. Against good defenses Doman has identified ways to attack them, and BYU has overachieved.
With regards to turnovers, first, and foremost, they have gone down. Against Georgia Tech, BYU turned the ball over one time. Twice against Notre Dame, but only once when it mattered. Only two of the three turnovers against Oregon State came when the game was in question. All of these turnovers have been interceptions thrown by Nelson.
Should Doman, as the offensive coordinator, switched to another quarterback? That would be ideal, but Doman has been, kind of, hand cuffed this season when it comes to using Nelson. There doesn’t appear to be another quarterback available on the team that can run the offense while the offensive line doesn’t block. While BYU would benefit if someone with a stronger arm and a little better decision making skills were taking the snaps, BYU wouldn't net any benefit due to offensive line deficiencies.
Like everyone else, I wish BYU was rolling up 500 yards of offense and scoring 30 points or more every game, and the offense had 5-10 long plays every game. Against the inferior competition that has happened. When BYU has faced tougher defenses (5 of the first 9 games) those numbers have dropped, but Doman has done his job well.
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