Finding Answers after Arizona

Very little about BYU's 16-13 loss to Arizona was anticipated by followers of the Cougar program. The offense that ended the 2005 season ranked 14th in the nation squeaked out a paltry 13 points and just over 300 yards, but one of the NCAA's most porous defenses of a year ago shut down Pac-10 starlet Willie Tuitama and his much-touted offensive attack.

BYU beat Arizona in just about every statistical category except the one that matters most, the score. Even though the Cougar defense turned in a stellar performance that bodes well for games against less talented teams, there was a gloomy mood permeating Monday's practice.

"First off, my hat goes off to Arizona," said BYU receiver Michael Reed. "They played a pretty good game and had a good scheme."

BYU's offense averaged 7.8 yards per pass attempt with a 10.3-yard average per catch. Arizona's 4.8 average per pass attempt and a 9.8 average per catch. When not hampered by penalties, BYU ran an effective ball control offense. The Wildcats schemed to take away the long game so the Cougars exploited the underneath stuff.

"The shorter stuff was there for us," said Reed. "We were successful when we were hitting it and we were able to drive the ball really well against the Arizona defense. We just kept setting ourselves back because of a lack of concentration by the offense and got too many penalties here and there."

"We were going to take what the defense gave us," said BYU quarterback John Beck. "Coming into this game we did want to take our deep shot but we wanted to be cautious of not pushing it to much because of how they ran their defense. We felt that if we could have been consistent we could move the ball down the field on them. We didn't feel like we had to rely on big plays in order to be able to play with them."

With Arizona already playing to take away BYU's longer passing game, the extra yards necessary to overcome 10 Cougar penalties for 76 yards proved too much for the offense to overcome.

"They were trying to take the long ball away," Reed said. "They were crowding the box and a lot of guys were blitzing so a lot of the underneath stuff was open and John saw that. We were able to be effective against their defense, it's just we would make a mistake that would make it that much harder for us because they were covering down field with their safeties. I don't think there is anyone on the offense that can say they had a perfect game last Saturday. Everybody had mistakes, we had people false starting, jumping off sides and receivers not running crisp routs like we had been doing throughout all fall camp. It was just a lack of concentration on offense and we're going to get that all straitened out while we prepare for a good Tulsa team who just came off a good victory against Stephen F. Austin."

Beck echoed Reeds Wildcat secondary analysis.

"We did take a few shots but they had safeties over the top a lot of the time," Beck said. "Maybe if we were able to take a few more shots it wouldn't have been on the outside because they were very protective of the outside receivers."

Reed believes BYU's coaches had the right game plan for attacking the Arizona defense. He thought that it was better for the offense to play to its strengths than to force something that an opponent in prepared for. He knows that the long ball will be there in future games and that BYU was doing fine against the Wildcat secondary without it.

"We have the abilities to do many different things on offense and we're able to take what the defenses give us," said Reed. "If there is underneath stuff, we're going to take it. If the long ball is there we'll take that too, and if the running game is there we'll do that as well. We just gotta concentrate more on not making mistakes which hinders us from executing our game plan. Stat-wise we probably had about 200 yards worth of penalties."

Beck did not feel like Arizona beat his team. He feels like the Cougars gave the game away.

"I think we beat ourselves," said Beck. "We were moving the ball within our game plan, but the thing that hurt us were the penalties and stuff like that. Obviously in a ball control game where you're trying to establish long drives based on what the defense is giving you, you can't have penalties that put you in second and 20 or third and 15. That's what happened and we put ourselves in those situations and it's much more difficult to get those third and longs. It doesn't matter what the defense does. It's always going to be much more difficult going third and 15 than third and four, and when you put yourself in those positions it just makes it more difficult."

Many of those penalties came on false starts by the offensive line. The coaches addressed all of the possible causes for those mistakes in practice today, whether it was the new faster clock rule or the faster pace at which the offense was running.

"The no huddle thing, that should not be a problem for us," said BYU center Sete Aulai. "As a center, I already know what the calls to make are, and if John makes an audible I should have enough time to tell the guards where to go and to tell the tackles were to go. If there isn't enough time, then the call that I already made should be good enough against what the defense is giving us."

According to Aulai, the time issue was not a problem for the offensive line. Rather, the problem with their performance came from a different area.

"On Saturday as an offensive line, I think we were just too tight," said Aulai. "Me personally having not played in a game in a year, and with this being the D-I level game and my first game starting, I went into this game a little nervous. After that first play where I was able to hit somebody, the butterflies went away. Unfortunately, the first play led to a fumble, so that didn't really help us to much, but I have a lot of confidence in Jonny [Harline].

"In regards to the false starts, I'll take a lot of that blame. I couldn't hear John because it was so loud out there. It was so loud that I couldn't hear what he was saying which made it kind of hard during the audibles too. I could barely hear him but my guards could hear him which is why our timing was off. We made the adjustments to that and whenever the offense went into the shotgun, the offensive line went off of me, and we did a little bit better when we did that."

According to Aulai, lack of rotation by the O-line to pick up crossing D-linemen was additional evidence that that the offense was uptight going in to the game.

"That happened to us a few times during the game," said Aulai of getting beat by Arizona's stunts and twists. "Those are things we've seen the whole two weeks during practice that we prepared for Arizona. Those things are nothing new to us. It was just another part of us being to tight and tense and not communicating out there. We should have been relaxed and playing our game instead of being tense out there. We as an offensive line unit just got done talking about that now. We shouldn't struggle with those things out there and we talked about it."

Despite the early problems, Aulai is very confident in his teammates and feels that many of the first game problems will be fixed in time for Tulsa.

"I guess you can say we all learned from this being the first game," said Aulai. "Going into the Tulsa game we should have all those little things worked out. We should be looser and will be able to communicate better in the game to play our game. Those guys that line up on that with me, I'll walk through the fire with them. They are very good players and I have a lot of confidence in them. I really believe we have a good offensive line, and that D-line of Arizona knows that. They know we have a good offensive line. I have no doubts in our abilities as an offensive line and that we will bounce back against Tulsa and dominate that game."


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