Unconventional and unscripted, BYU rides Miles Davis and a series of under-used players to awake dormant offense

In win over Wyoming, BYU threw out different combinations to try to fix lingering issues. Players down in the depth chart finally answered

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young Cougars running back Miles Davis (19) puts in the yards as he carries the ball in football game action between the Brigham Young Cougars and the Wyoming Cowboys at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, on Saturday , Sept. 24, 2022.

Provo • Consider the case of the most targeted man on BYU’s offense Saturday night.

Miles Davis came into this year with 89 rushing yards in his career. He had played in just six college games and went into training camp as the fourth-string back behind a stable of veterans.

By the time the season hit, the understanding was clear: Davis might be the future, but this wasn’t his year. Chris Brooks and Lopini Katoa were meant to carry the load on the ground.

But then fast forward Saturday, when the sophomore became the featured target with 13 carries for 131 yards and four catches for 21 more. After two weeks of the rushing attack inexplicably grinding to a halt, and the once-potent offense struggling to move the ball, BYU had to try something different.

And as Aaron Roderick threw combination after combination of skill players to jolt the offense alive, it ended up being Davis and a bevy of backups that slowly woke up the offense. It wasn’t easy. It didn’t materialize immediately. But eventually it got there.

BYU 38. Wyoming 24.

“We needed something,” Kalani Sitake said. “The last two weeks haven’t been good enough. You can only blame the offensive line for so long. The challenge is for all those guys to step up… We have to utilize all of our players. We have good talent. We just have to keep plugging away at it.”

Coming into the opening act of BYU’s homestand, it felt like a time for the Cougars to recalibrate. It was the moment for starting running backs Brooks and Katoa to get back on track. The time when maybe the program could reintroduce receiver Puka Nacua into the mix and get a team to find its identity.

And BYU tried, in fits and starts, to have that be the storyline coming out of his fourth game of the season. Nacua came into the game early and BYU tried to get him the ball. On the opening three drives of the game, Sitake oscillated the running backs to give Brooks, Katoa and Davis a chance.

But it was fruitless. Wyoming took a 10-7 lead late in the first half. It looked like a rewind of a game against Oregon where BYU could not run the ball or stop the run as the Cowboys chewed the clock.

At one point, Wyoming had run 33 plays to BYU’s 17 and had held the ball for nearly 18 minutes.

“The rhythm wasn’t right,” Sitake said.

So, with no other card left to play, BYU abandoned trying to fix its issues and went with the hot hand. It ended with Davis getting 17 touches. It led to Keanu Hill, a backup receiver, leading the team in receiving with 160 yards and two touchdowns. Brayden Cosper, a man who hadn’t a receiving touchdown in his career, came in right behind him with 58 yards and a touchdown.

It was fitting that BYU’s final touchdown, that really sealed a comfortable win, came from Hill carrying his defender into the end zone on a 70-yard score.

Maybe it wasn’t conventional. But BYU was beyond convention.

“I talk to Miles everyday, just trying to stay positive,” Hill said. “He kept me in my zone [to be ready] and I did the same for him.”

By day’s end, BYU finished with 525 yards of offense and averaged 6.3 yards per rush. Jaren Hall finished 26-32 for 337 yards and four touchdowns. His passer rating was 211.

It was a change of pace from the 2.5 yards per carry the Cougars’ had averaged the last two weeks. And numbers BYU would take regardless of who produced them.

“The coaches told me Sunday, ‘Miles just be patient,’” Davis recalled. “’When your time comes, just do what you do. Just got out and just play and have fun.”

Because of the way BYU won it, there will be questions ahead. Where does BYU go when most of its main contributors were backups? And what about the injuries?

Nacua went out with an injury in the second half and was helped off the field. Sitake declined to say whether it was a serious injury. Chase Roberts was also not a full participant tonight.

And what comes next is a short turnaround for Utah State on Thursday.

But for a night, BYU got back on track. It wasn’t the way anyone expected, but enough to move to 3-1 and live to see another game.

“I’m glad we got away with a win,” Sitake said. “Our guys, they are resilient. They keep playing hard… There is a lot of things to look at the film and learn and get better from.”


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