Offense responds, tempers flare

After being taken to the woodshed on Monday, the Cougar offense rebounded in the final team period on Tuesday after a slow start at the beginning of practice. After a flurry of dropped passes by receivers, Coach Doman huddled up his offense in an effort to refocus his offense on a day when tempers flared.

Monday's practice seemed a little uncharacteristic for fall camp. The offense just couldn't get the ball rolling as the defense asserted its will with every new blitz and coverage package. On Tuesday there was some improvement, but Coach Doman wasn't quite satisfied.

"Well, with everything that we put in today our first-team offense was still able to drive down the field and score a touchdown," Coach Doman said. "They fought through it all and that was good to see. Then our last group came in and fought down to get a score, so we had some of our groups go eight or nine plays down to get a touchdown.

"Even though I feel we didn't do as well as I would have liked, I'm hoping now we will now build upon some of that success we had today, pick up the pace and regain our momentum as we continue to go forward."

After being out much of fall camp, Joshua Quezada got a few reps. One was in the blue zone, where he was able to split the defense for a touchdown after the offense mounted a sustained drive down the field.

On a separate drive, Marcus Mathews made a great catch in the end zone.

"Overall the offense has performed really well," said Coach Doman. "We've been able to establish a good run attack and then from that we've been able to have a good play action attack from that run game. Then you add the combination of throws, and the completion percentages have been high and we're getting into the end zone."

After a slow start when mental mistakes seemed to raise their ugly head once again, Coach Doman's offense righted the ship and was able to sustain a few drives against a very testy defense.

"Our defense kicked our butt yesterday," said tight end Austin Holt. "I think coming in, our offense wanted something but we started out a little slow during skeli and Coach Doman got on us a little bit. There's so much talent on both sides of the ball, it's become a dog-versus-cat situation."

It was very much a dog-versus-cat, prey-versus-predator practice. Tuesday was much like Monday, but with a little more offensive success.

"Well, the defense put in their base packages and it didn't incorporate a lot of blitz," Coach Doman said. "For the first eight or nine practices we didn't see a whole lot of blitzes, and now we're seeing a lot of that. We're not doing a good job in that, and so we're a little behind in our pass-blitz pick-up package which has allowed us to be very good in the past.

"We need to make up some gains in that area right now, and it's the only area that we're struggling with, but it's a significant part of practice the last couple of days and we've emphasized it so much and offensively we've been beat."

In the seesaw battles that took place on the practice field Tuesday, tempers flared a little.

"We've been playing each other now in two-a-days," said Holt. "I think we're ready to get going. We're out there fighting on both sides, and it doesn't mean we're not friends, but we might as well get into some fights to show some grit. I mean, brothers can fight once in a while, right?"

"I think it's more along the lines of everyone is just sick of going against each other," said Richard Wilson. "There's been some drama that has led up to both fights today."

Wilson took a nasty shot in the head by a defensive safety as he came across the middle. Coach Howell relegated the safety to running for the remainder of practice. J.J. Di Luigi was roughed up a little more than normal as he was being pursued out of bounds.

"There's some late hits, hits to the head, pass interferences, push-offs, and so the offense came out today with a little more anger and fire," said Richard Wilson. "You know, we have a great defense. They're physical and they're fast and after yesterday, when they whooped us with all those blitz packages, we were lost."

The offense got its revenge on Tuesday and it showed in the defense's demeanor as tempers began to flare.

"Today, we were able to clean up some of those things the defense did to us yesterday," Wilson said. "Then to make it worse, we put in some new packages and I think that frustrated the defense a little bit."

"It frustrates us when the defense is able to get to the ball and make plays because of new things they're doing," Holt said. "I guarantee you that it frustrates them when what worked yesterday doesn't today, and we're able to throw the ball around and score touchdowns."

Despite any frustrations and fights, when the battle is over the boys become a band of brothers once again.

"I think the most important thing to remember in all this is when we get frustrated and into fights, at the end of the day we're all still close friends," Holt said. "We give each other hugs and laugh about it in the locker room. We're still the band of brothers when it's all said and done. That's the one thing that's completely different with this team than the team last year. We might fight on the field, but when we get into the locker room we're fine and there's no contention."

"Everything is flowing better this year and it just feels more right, everything from the coaches to the players," said Wilson. "There's a much better vibe or feeling among this team, so even when there is a fight or conflict, it's quickly put to rest because the overall team has a different feel to it."

Practice evaluation

While the Cougar offense is still making strides to counter Coach Mendenhall's blitz-happy swarm defense, the intensity level on both sides of the ball bodes well for this program. There is a real sense of wanting to win out on the field and that can be seen – sometimes not in a positive way – by how competitive this team.

With about a week left in fall camp, the offense will continue to hash out its counter defenses while furthering its own offensive identity.The Cougar offense still needs to improve its third-down conversion rate, along with being consistent in picking up blitzes. Once that happens, it will be very difficult to stop this balanced 2011 Cougar offensive attack.

Sideline notes

The NFL was represented at BYU's Tuesday morning practice. Watching from the sidelines were NFL scouts from the Buffalo Bills, Seattle Seahawks and the Tennessee Titans.

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