"We're just coming out of the starting line," said Coach Anae. "I hope that, you know, we can learn to come into this stadium, secure the football and be physical, and they were trying. They were trying. I'll put it that way. They were trying to secure the football. They were trying to be physical, and that's really a choice. It's simply a mindset to come into this stadium and be physical and secure the football. We're just leaving the starting gate with that."
Always striving for and demanding perfection, Coach Anae was less than pleased with the overall offensive results despite the watered-down offense.
"Like I said, they were trying to be physical today. They were trying, and if you have a deal on your computer, kind of spell it lamely 't-r-y,'" Anae said, drawing out the word try. "Put your lamest attempt into 'try.' I think we have to emphasize that when you come into this stadium. It's a capital with a bold when you 'try.' It's not a left-handed scribble."
Although the physical play may not have met the level of Coach Anae's expectations, the good thing is ball security wasn't much of an issue. Running back coach Mark Atuaia was pleased with the results of this specific focus.
"All of my guys secured the rock, so I was happy about that," said Atuaia. "We'll check all the rest on film, but I'm happy about today's performance. We know there's a lot more to improve on, but today's goals were to secure the rock and blocking. That's the objective every time and for the most part they did it."
From Jamaal Williams on down to walk-on Nate Carter, the running backs received a lot of work in regards to running, blocking and catching the ball out of the backfield.
"I'm pleased with their performance but I'm not satisfied," Atuaia said. "If we are peaking right now, then we're not peaking at the right time, and I want to make sure that we're peaking at the right time."
Along with evaluating ball security and physical play, Coach Anae also wanted to see who among the depth chart could rise up and take ownership in a game-like setting.
"We accomplished a couple of things," Anae said. "At the top, identify personnel to see who can suit up, walk onto the field with a crowd, and be physical and secure the ball. That was the primary deal for me."
Both sides of the ball saw a mix of players from various levels of the depth chart. Cougar fans got a chance to see some of the lesser visible players such as Eric Thornton, Adam Hine, Colby Pearson and Skyler Ridley, among others. On defense, Dallin Leavitt saw a lot of action at the boundary corner position. Manoa Pikula, Toloa'i Ho Ching and Mike Wadsworth – who picked a pass off from Jason Munns for a touchdown – also all got into the mix.
"Today was really good for the younger guys," said Kyle Van Noy. "I mean, they built a lot of confidence in here. They flew around, they played really well, they played really well and it showed. They flew around and they made plays and I'm happy for them. I mean, they made plays and we'll go back and look at the film and go on from there."
When the media was last allowed to view practice on Wednesday, the offense had its way with the defense. According to Ross Apo, it was as though the offense was "living in the end zone" because they were celebrating so much. However, on Saturday the defense definitely got the better of the offense in what is always a seesaw battle between the two units.
"[The defense] came out and did what they needed to do, and Coach Mendenhall is probably going to build a lot of trust in a lot of them because they did a phenomenal job," said Van Noy. "We need as much depth as we can and I'm happy to see the improvement all around."
Total Blue Sports caught up with a few Cougars to get their thoughts on Saturday's overall performance.