Offensive Fireworks

With only two more practices left until the annual Blue and White Game concludes spring practices, the Cougar offense came out and made the most of Friday's scrimmage.

After becoming the whipping post of Bronco Mendenhall's defense for the past few "thud" scrimmages and full padded practices, BYU's offense had reason to celebrate Friday. Sophomore quarterback Max Hall took the reigns of the first team offense and lit up a defense that basically had its way with them three days ago at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

Though today's scrimmage may have started off a bit slow, by the time the final period whistle blew the Cougar offense was riding high once again.

The first series took some time to get going but once it did, things clicked for the offense. Hall was perfect in his first series and went 3-3 for 21 yards, but the one that was arguably responsible for putting the offensive momentum in gear was freshman running back Harvey Unga.

"They played really well today," said defensive back Corby Hodgkiss, who played with the first team defense. "They came out and didn't really try to go deep or get big chunks, but worked the ball downfield. Our defense is set up to allow for some of those under routes but at some point someone has to make a play. Today that didn't happen and they just kept coming and coming, throwing those under routes, the curls, the comebacks and crossing routes."

Unga became the main focal point, starting out the first and second series by either running or catching the football a combined six times for 30 yards. Unga was joined by Ray Hudson in the backfield, who touched the ball one time during the first series. Hudson was met by inside linebacker Kelly Poppinga, who was able to quickly shoot the gap for a one-yard loss.

The second offensive series was led by Snow J.C. quarterback transfer Cade Cooper, who went for 1-2 for 10 yards, with a completion to Tyler Kozlowski. The defense held strong and forced the second team to three and out.

Hall again led the first team offense out onto the field and went 4-5 for 21 yards on the series. Unga was the recipient of the longest pass, which went for 14 yards and a first down. Fullback Zed Mendenhall was the recipient of the second-longest pass from Hall, a pass that went six yards. Following an incomplete pass, defensive linemen Brett Denney recorded a sack to turn the series over to the second team offense.

Following a slow start by the second team offense, their second series fared much worse. The Cougar defense effectively put a quick stop to their second attempt when junior Kellen Fowler rushed from his defensive back spot to score a sack and a safety on quarterback Cade Cooper.

Because of the safety from Fowler, the second team defense turned to ball over to the first team offense within the "blue zone." After a run by Unga and a five-yard run by Hudson, Hall found Unga who was able to scamper 14 yards into the end zone for a touchdown.

"I think they're getting more and more on the same page under tougher practice conditions," said Hodgkiss. "The guys are growing exponentially every day, and they're young as far as the system goes but they're going to get better as we saw today. They've got a lot of talent and they're going to be very good."

Following the touchdown by Unga, the offensive unit ran and celebrated with him in the end zone. The sight of the offense celebrating together following a score was something that had been missing for some time, and with Unga giving the offense their first of what would be four touchdowns on the day, the offense seemed to have found their groove.

"I think they're realizing they have a lot of weapons within that offense," said Hodgkiss. "There are a lot of guys within that offense that can catch the ball, and the more they realize that the more successful they're going to be. We came out flat today on defense and I think that also obviously helped, but overall they're doing a great job out there and this is what it's all about. They came out here and took it to us like we did to them in previous scrimmages. Today was their day."

The second team offense took the field in an effort to redeem themselves after the safety by Fowler, but the outcome wasn't quite what they were looking for. Following a minimal gain by running back Wayne Latu, Cooper wasn't able to connect with his receivers, and the offense went three and out. The first team offense got the ball back in what would become the easiest series of today's scrimmage.

On the first play of their fourth series, Hall connected with tight end Vic So'oto for a 20-yard pass. So'oto was able to elude the linebackers and outrun the Cougar safeties for the score. Once again the offense ran downfield and met in the end zone to celebrate, while disappointed defenders were nearby.

Now you can listen to So'oto talk about today's offensive performance and well as his touchdown catch from Hall.

The offense began to find its rhythm. On the first team offense's fifth series, Hall would go 5-5 for 60 yards. Sophomore walk-on receiver Daniel Tervort would catch two passes for 15 yards and Bryce Mahuika would haul in an 11-yarder. Hall would later find tight end Dennis Pitta for a 26-yard strike in the end zone in what would become his third touchdown in three consecutive series.

Coach Mendenhall called his team together at the center of the field and allowed the team to go one full series of full contact scrimmage to the delight of the team.

"I think Coach Mendenhall was trying to get some fire into us," Hodgkiss said. "Like I said we kind of came out flat today, and I don't really know why we came out flat but we have to fix that. But I think this is what he was trying to do and used this time to do that."

The first team offense would again get it going on their sixth series, now playing under full contact scrimmage conditions. Hudson busted off a six-yard run but would later meet Poppinga, who was able to record a tackle for a loss. With the offense executing within the blue zone, Hall would later find Latu, who was able to break a tackle and scamper 20 yards downfield for the touchdown. Hall was able to use four different weapons on his offense for four touchdowns in four offensive series.

The second team offense was close to punching the ball into the end zone when time expired to end the day's practice session.

On the day, Hall was able to lead the offense downfield and within the blue zone to hit pay dirt four times. Now you can listen to Hall talk about today's overall offensive performance and progression.

Practice Tidbits

On hand to watch Friday's practice was California defensive back Steven Thomas, who signed with BYU back in February in the 2007 class. Thomas hails out of Chino Hills and was observing BYU's defense. He was watching the Cougars practice with bridled enthusiasm.

Jason Munns, quarterback out of Southridge High School in Kennewick, Washington, and future Cougar, was also there to watch Friday's practice. He had also attended Thursday's practice.

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