Cougar defense looks to right itself

With a backup quarterback, Oregon State's offense passed for 332 yards against BYU's secondary. The Beavers added another 118 yards on the ground, and when it was all said and done, scored 35 offensive points against what was considered a very good BYU defense. So what happened?

Last Saturday was a tough game for a Cougar defense that had only given up a total of three points in the prior 13 quarters of play. Oregon State was able to reach the end zone five times.

"We didn't execute," Coach Howell said. "It's just that simple. We didn't execute and they made plays and we didn't. If we had made plays, we would have had a chance to win that game. When they make plays and we didn't, that hurt us, and that was kind of the first time this year that we didn't execute consistently."

Not executing against a top-10 team is problematic, to say the least. In the post-game show, Coach Mendenhall mentioned there were route combinations that caught the Cougar defense off guard and put them on their heels.

"I guess he thought the routes were good. I mean, I think their routes were coverable, but we just didn't cover them because we had some missed assignments," said Coach Howell.

"I feel like if we execute and play our game and play within our assignments, we can play with anybody," Spencer Hadley said.

The Cougar front seven struggled to pressure on backup quarterback Cody Vaz, and the route combinations by the Oregon State receivers forced more one-on-one situations on the outside.

"It's just game-time adjustments, and not even that, but we had the right calls in," said Hadley. "It just came down to executing, getting more pressure. Sure, they held more in [for pass protection], but we had our opportunities but we didn't capitalize."

"They had a few hard concepts that put our guys in one-on-one, but you have to win those one-on-one battles and we didn't," Coach Howell said. "We didn't put ourselves in the best chance to win them, so the frustrating part is we feel like we could have done a better job and we didn't."

With BYU now going on the road to face No. 5 Notre Dame, things won't be any easier. It's certain the Notre Dame coaches watched film of the Oregon State game and saw a chink in the Cougar armor, which the secondary will have to fix to stand a chance in South Bend this Saturday.

"That's my job and we're going to fix it," said Coach Howell with a laugh. "That's what we do is fix it. My job is to coach them to do what's right, and their job is to do what's right as far as they can and that's what I expect them to do."

Hadley spoke on behalf of the defense, saying what was seen last week wasn't the real Cougar defense. They want to come out and prove they can play their opponents in the same manner as they've done in the past.

"We believe we can play [like we did in our other games] against anybody and we need to play that way against everybody," said Hadley. "We want to go out and let everyone know that how we played wasn't us. We watched the film [Monday] and the film was insightful and we're anxious to go out and play a quality team and show what we're all about."

This will be the first time these Cougar defenders have ever been to South Bend to play the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. Likewise, it will also be a first for many of the younger coaches on the Cougar staff.

"I've never been out there for game day," Coach Howell said. "I've only been out there for spring ball, so this will be my first time experiencing Notre Dame on game day. It will be fun. We want to go play football, and, really, when you strip it all down – the fans and the stadium – nothing really matters. The team doesn't matter, the stadium doesn't matter and what matters is that we play our very best. That's what matters."

BYU's defense and secondary better be ready. The Irish offense totaled 587 yards against Miami two weeks ago, and more recently put up 334 total yards against a ranked Stanford team.

"I see good athletes and I think their o-line is pretty big and very physical. Their quarterback is athletic and can scramble," said Coach Howell. "They have three running backs that are pretty dynamic guys that can run around, and then they have pretty good receivers all around. They've got pretty good guys.

"They do one- and two-tight-end stuff. Every offense all does similar things, and there are some good concepts out there, but they also have their little flavor they add to their offense. So, every offense does similar things week in and week out, but they add their own little concepts. We're going to run our defense and play as hard as we can."

It's a chance for BYU to redeem itself, but it's going to be a tough challenge. The Cougar secondary can't have any breakdowns or execution issues like they did against Oregon State. BYU's defensive front has to find a way to pressure the quarterback and not have a repeat performance.

"I think we're a hungry team," Hadley said.

We shall see.

Jordan Johnson

Cornerback Jordan Johnson talks to the media about last week's game against Oregon State and the upcoming contest against Notre Dame.

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