The west stands at LaVell Edwards Stadium were packed full to with eager fans waiting to see the BYU Cougars' spring game. The east stands nearly rivaled the west in attendance as the parking lots were full of Cougar spectators’ vehicles.
“It’s great to see all the excitement and the fans turning out for a spring game,” said BYU outside linebacker Fred Warner. “There’s a new buzz in the air and I guess everyone wants to come and see us play.”
Former BYU linebacker David Nixon was even impressed at the size of the crowd in attendance saying, “I’ve never seen it like this.” He’s right. Even Jared Lloyd from the Provo Daily Herald noted that he hasn’t seen this many Cougar fans attending BYU’s annual spring game since following the 1984 national championship season.
“The environment was exciting for the guys,” said head coach Kalani Sitake. “There were a lot of fans that attended. The energy in the stadium was high and the players used it well. We have great fans and we’re the type of program where we want our fans to feel ownership of this team.”
BYU Sports Nation host Jarom Jordan commented that the parking lots were full all the way up to the BYU Broadcasting Building. The BYU Broadcasting parking lot, along with the west and south east parking lots full, made for a great turnout of fans ready for a new era of BYU football.
“There’s a great turnout for today,” said defensive lineman Kesni Tausinga. “Today was a great day to be in LaVell Edwards Stadium among the fans for a day of scrimmaging. It was a good day today.”
The Cougars treated the fans with seven-on-seven skeleton drills, pitting the skill players against one another prior to the team’s full 11-on-11 scrimmage. While there were many players held out of competition for safety reasons, the fans got a little taste of what’s to come.
“We want to play a game format and make it exciting for the fans and for the team,” Coach Sitake said. "With a limited number of offensive lineman available, we determined a way we could do that was to have our offensive line play for both offenses. We were excited to see our guys play in a game situation at LaVell Edwards Stadium."
Quarterback Tanner Mangum completed five out of eight passes for 82 yards and scoring a touchdown on his only scrimmage drive of the game. He completed a 63 percent of his passes on the day in what was a very efficient first team drive for the white team.
“I thought we had a good day,” Mangum said. “We kept everything limited. We held out a lot of guys so what we had in was pretty simple. Obviously there are things that we can clean up, but overall, we took some steps forward today. The Cougar fans are awesome. You can feel the energy that was brought to the game.”
Beau Hoge completed five out of 10 passing attempts for a total of 83 yards and one touchdown. Hoge also ran the ball seven times for 37 yards, averaging 5.3 yards per carry. His longest run was an 11 yard scamper getting around the edge prior to running out of bounds. Hoge also scored one rushing touchdown on a keeper inside the five yard line.
“I think our offense did really well out there and I think we completed what we wanted to do for the spring game,” Hoge said. “It was a lot of fun getting after it out here in front of all the fans. We’ve have our foundation in place now. I think what we’ve accomplished over spring camp has set us up for a great off-season.”
Squally Canada was the standout ball carrier of the day. He showed tough running between the tackles and showed he has the speed to bounce it outside if needed. The 5-11, 200-pound sophomore carried the ball five times for 45 yards, averaging nine yards per carry. His longest was a 22 yard scamper after picking up a fumbled exchange that set him off to the races. The quick thinking play of Canada brought the crowd to cheers.
“I think our running backs did well today,” said quarterback Beau Hoge. “They did ran hard and made plays between the tackles and gashing the defense on the edge. It was good to see.”
Trey Dye followed up Canada’s performance with thrills of his own. The quick and shifty back carried the ball 10 times for 41 yards, averaging 4.1 yards per carry with his longest being a nine yard scamper.
The BYU wide receivers are going to have a field day in Coach Detmer’s passing attack offense. While senior receiver Nick Kurtz caught a touchdown pass in the pass-skeleton session of the scrimmage, he was held out during the scrimmage. The two that stood out most during the scrimmage were 6-4, 211-pound wide receiver Moroni Laulu-Pututau, who was wearing number one and was often confused with Micah Simon, who also was wearing the same number, and slot receiver Garrett Juergens.
Laulu-Pututau led all receivers with four receptions for 73 yards and a touchdowns to the delight of cheering fans. Laulu-Pututau showed his ability to get open down field as well as in the medium passing game. He’s a star in the making and BYU fans will have to get used to hearing his name being called over the loudspeaker for years to come.
“I thought the wide receivers did really well today,” said safety Micah Hannemann. “They were able to make some plays today, but overall I think we had our victories on the defensive side as well.”
The defense was stripped down for the most part, but there were a lot of bright spots from guys trying to make a name for themselves. Some defensive standouts were linebacker Adam Pulsipher who added four tackles in limited play and defensive lineman Tevita Mounga, who plugged up the trenches on run plays.
“Overall I thought the defense did well even though we had a lot of guys out today,” said Pulsipher. “I think we played hard and were physical in the time that we got to go to work. I think our defense is coming along really well and guys at every level made plays.”
In the defensive backfield, Michael Shelton made excellent plays, shedding blocks to make tackles on Trey Dye and others on the edge. He also covered well in long and short yardage situations and even recorded a pass breakup.
Defensive Newcomer Alert
Some Cougars who recently returned home from serving LDS missions made some noise last Saturday. One was former Kahuku High School star Johnny Tapusoa, who recorded two tackles.
“Kuj” Tapusoa has only been home from his mission for about four months now, but he showed he still has those ball-hawking instincts to read and attack. Former Bountiful linebacker Rylee Gautavai also showed well with similar stats in his limited play. Gautuvai showed some good physicality at the point of attack
Overall it was a very good day for both fans and players in what was Coach Sitake’s first spring game in charge as BYU’s head coach.