Curing Cougar fumblitis

As the Cougars get set to face a tough UCF defense, curing a rash of offensive problems has become the focus. Make no mistake about it, George O'Leary's top-caliber defense saw the film and are licking their chops after BYU coughed up the ball seven times against Utah last week. So what is BYU going to do about it?

UCF ranked 13th overall last year in rush defense. The Knights only allowed an average of 72.33 yards a game as they entered the nation's top 25. The Cougar offense will have a challenge on their hands, as the Knights have increased their defensive performance in 2011, and the Cougar are preparing for it.

"UCF is a very good football team and we need to be ready to play at a high level come Friday," Coach DuPaix said. "They come in here with a chip on their shoulder because they just lost a close game [against Florida International 17-10], and they feel like they gave the game away much like we did by turning the ball over.

"So they're going to come in here hungry and eager to play. They're athletic and they have a good team. Their front is very strong and they have quick, fast linebackers. Their secondary is very good and they have an all-world cornerback [Josh Robinson] who is an All-American that plays on the field side of their defense. They've got a great defense that's fast, and so we have to be ready to come out and play at a high level."

Many speculate what the outcome of the Utah game would have been if BYU hadn't fumbled the ball so much and given Utah 27 points off turnovers. The game might have looked much different. So, what are the Cougars doing to ensure that doesn't happen again?

"Every drill, you catch the ball and the drill is over or the play is over, you run back with the ball high and tight until the ball boy comes over and gets it," Di Luigi said. "That's kind of our mentality now and that's the way we have to be. We can't drop the ball low now and hold it out on our side or at our waist running back to the huddle. We can't do that anymore."

This week the running backs have been engaged in doing extra ball-security drills.

"Me and Juice [Joshua Quezada] and Bryan [Kariya] during special teams period went over there and worked on ball security by trying to knock it out of each other's hands by running through the gauntlet," said Di Luigi.

"Then after practice we would get the ball with the slippery sleeve on it and we have to hold it high and tight and we can't put the other arm on it," Di Luigi continued. "We had linemen out there just jacking up our arms trying to get at the ball and rip at it."

But the extra work on ensuring the Cougar backs don't have a repeat Utah performance doesn't stop there.

"Coach DuPaix had us sit within five yards and near the sideline, and we all had to kind of sit there and cram together and try and pop the ball out," Di Luigi said. "Whether you're double-teaming the ball on one guy's arm, or just sneaking up behind somebody to try and pop it out, if you lost it the whole group had to do push-ups."

This went on all week long, and Di Luigi believes the Cougar running backs got the message.

"Definitely, it's going to make a huge difference," Di Luigi said.

"Overall, if we come out and take care of the football first and foremost, and execute our assignments in terms of blocking schemes, it's going to be a fun night," Coach DuPaix said. "But we have a lot of work to do to be able to accomplish that."

Well, the Cougar backs better get things squared away quickly, or else next week Coach DuPaix will have more gauntlets and arm-hacking drills for them to run through. In the meantime, Coach DuPaix thinks his players will respond well to the UCF defense come this Friday.

"I think our guys are going to come out and play well," he said on Tuesday. "They're hungry and I think they'll do well. I'm not in a rush to get there because I think there's still some more work to do between now and then, but at the same time I can't wait for Friday night to be back at LaVell Edwards Stadium to see our guys go out and play at a high level."

UCF scouting report

"They run a similar defense to what Utah runs, but it's not identical," DuPaix said. "They do a little bit of an over and under front but will bring different pressures from different areas like Utah does, so in that aspect it will be somewhat similar. They play some man coverage and they play some zone and that will also be somewhat similar."

Establishing the run against the UCF front seven

"The type of personnel they have up front is little bit different than what we saw against, say, a Texas or a Utah," DuPaix said. "They have stout players up front.

"We certainly need to establish the run and continue throwing the ball like we have been here. For us to do that we have to bring a much greater mentality from the running back position to gain more out of each run, and that includes the tough yards. Every week it's been a learning experience for us and that can be said to be the case even when you win.

"It's a day-by-day deal and we're just trying to become better football players every down, so this has definitely been a learning experience. Our football players are hungry to get better and so I'm looking forward, like I said, to Friday night."

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