The Offense Rebounds

Last Tuesday the Cougar defensive left the offense frustrated and with a foul taste in their mouths that lasted through Wednesday's practice layoff. During Thursday's light scrimmage, the offense tightened up and bounced back with success.

Prior to last Tuesday's defensive dominance, Coach Mendenhall addressed his defense and wanted to see things being run cleaner with even greater intensity. With the defense racking up seven sacks, multiple hurries and a few interceptions, he got exactly what he ordered.

"One thing Coach Mendenhall told us was he was pleased with how we performed," Gabriel said. "We went back in there on Tuesday and we looked cleaner, were more physical and played with more intensity, and coach was pleased with how we responded to what he asked of us."

On Thursday, the offense got its chance, albeit not quite under the same circumstances, to come out and respond. Unlike last Tuesday's scrimmage, the offense was able to move the ball better and even scored within the "blue zone" by focusing on doing the little things.

"One of today's focuses was playing more aggressive," said tight end Dennis Pitta. "We always want to play hard and come out and challenge the defense. Today we were able to punch it into the end zone a few times and the offensive line did a great job of blocking up front. It's still early and we have a ways go to, but I think we came out here and played better today then we did last Tuesday."

"I think they did come out and played with more intensity today," said safety Dustin Gabriel while chuckling. "Of course, I'm a bit more biased towards our defensive guys. I don't think coach [Mendenhall] was blowing the whistle as fast as he said he was going to, so I think he's letting them build their confidence a little.

It seemed like they were a little more aggressive out there today and just going for it. Things were working for them today, and even though coach wasn't blowing the whistle as fast as he said, it seemed like they wanted to prove themselves."

Now you can listen to wide receiver Bryce Mahuika talk about today's offensive results as well as his own personal progression within the offense.

With many experienced players still out nursing minor injuries, the offense has been working with younger, less experienced players to help move the offense against this tough defense.

Along the offensive line, Walter Kahaiali'i, Nick Alletto, R.J. Willing and Rick Wolfley have been thrown into the mix with more experienced linemen such as Sete Aulai, David Oswald, Ray Feinga (who has been off and on during spring with a minor injury) and Travis Bright. Along with these younger but extremely talented offensive linemen, the quarterbacks have been battling without the help of Manase Tonga, Fui Vakapuna and Joe Semanoff behind them.

"Really the only thing I've seen lacking is just the experience," said Gabriel. "They're talented and the players are very good, and now it's just a matter of getting reps and getting those players some experience. These scrimmages do provide some of that experience for them, but what will really help out those guys is getting some real game experience. I think that will really help them out."

With Jan Jorgensen, Russell Tialavea and Ian Dulan returning from last year's defense, the younger guys up front have had their hands full. Throw in the mix senior outside linebackers Bryan Kehl and Chris Bolden, the latter of which had a standout performance during today's scrimmage, and speedsters Kelly Poppinga and Shawn Doman, who round out spring's starting linebacker group, and you've got fire on top of fire.

"Up front is really where the battle begins and is won," said Gabriel. "That really is what determines almost everything. Our defense is going to help mold some of these younger guys quickly to help provide greater depth. That's really what is going on out there."

"We had a better performance today by eliminating some mistakes," said tight end Dennis Pitta. "We went back and watched the film of last Tuesday's practice and we saw that we were almost there. We just didn't do some of the little things that would have made last Tuesday's performance a different outcome. Today we just came out and tried to focus on some of those things and eliminate those mistakes and I think it showed more today.

"Football is a game about inches and beating the man in front of you, and that was what we wanted to focus on today. We understand what we did wrong and now we're working on those things to get better and better."

Although there may be some bumps along the way, as was evident during last Tuesday, the future is very bright, and the offense showed that is true by coming back with today's performance.

"I think they're going to be really good," said Gabriel. "I think the o-line is going to be good, the backs are going to be good, along with the quarterbacks and receivers. I think we're reloading at every position and we're getting some of the younger guys a chance to get some experience, which is good. This defense is really going to help them improve overall and individually in their game."

One lineman that took last Tuesday's disappointing performance to heart was senior center Sete Aulai. Now you can hear his comments about last Tuesday's performance and how the offense rebounded with a much better performance Thursday.


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