Cougar Defense Suffers Blow

After last Friday's evening practice, the Cougar defense looked to make adjustments and come out to reassert itself over the offense. Following last Saturday's full-contact scrimmage, it was apparent that the defense lost more than just its pride.

Max Hall and the Cougar offense again came out sharp and on fire as the Cougars marched down field with a combination of effective running plays and passing plays on Saturday.

"Overall as a group I think it was kind of a disappointment," said outside linebacker Chris Bolden. "We didn't come out and play the way we feel we could have come out and played. They moved the ball a lot on us, especially on the ground, which was surprising because they haven't really been able to move the ball on us that way through camp."

Behind BYU's big and experienced offensive line, Cougar backs Harvey Unga, Joe Semanoff and Manase Tonga ran through and around the defense on their way towards the end zone.

"I think our offensive linemen are more physical then they've been and I think they're playing a lot more physical," Bolden said. "They're trying to finish blocks and that's what they've been doing. They're pushing guys back five or six yards every time.

"You notice it when a lineman comes around and he's still hitting you six yards downfield. Most players on teams will come out and put their hands on you and if they can't get you they'll leave you alone, but not our guys. These guys are pushing six and seven yards down field and then still come after you."

"They did great," said Bryan Kehl. "The offensive line was able to make their blocks, which allowed Max to make his reads and to throw the ball. They moved it well and scored touchdowns, which is what they're supposed to do."

The offense performed well against the defense by using both physical play on the ground and finesse through the air. For members of the Cougar defense, the play of the offense was bittersweet.

"Going against our defense, you always want to shut them down even though they're your teammates," said Bolden. "It is encouraging though to see how they practice and how hard they focused. One thing that is promising from a defensive standpoint is we're getting more people to the ball to make the tackle. Gang tackling is one of the strengths of our team."

Last Friday, the Cougar offense came out with a hurry-up offense that put the Cougar defense on their heels a bit. On Saturday, the defense was expecting much of the same things from the offense and was looking to adjust to it. However, the Cougar offense didn't just rest upon last Friday's hurry-up offense performance, they improved upon it.

"We were told to expect that," Bolden said. "They didn't do it as well as they could at first, so when they came out later and did it the way they did, I think it did catch us even more off guard. I think they would have caught anyone off guard with how they ran things. The pace of the offense and how they move around is really fast, and it makes it tough for us as a defense to get situated. It's also really exhausting."

"[The offense] came out ready today and came out and executed," said a Kehl. "We came out flat and it showed and they drove down the field on us."

The fast paced offense left many defensive players out of position. Add to that the highly effective and down-your-throat running game, and the Cougar offense put the Cougar defense in a back peddle all the way to the end zone.

"I don't think we were assignment-sound," said Bolden. "I think a lot of the success they had on their runs was because a lot of guys weren't in the right defensive fits. I think this is how they got a lot of their long runs on us. The shorter five-yard runs were due to guys not being in the right spots where they were supposed to be. I think the offensive play helped forced our execution off."

The Cougar defenders know they'll be hearing it from Coach Mendenhall on Monday as he breaks down their performance during their team meeting.

"I expect us as a defensive team to be in the team room come Monday watching film with Coach Mendenhall," Bolden said with a slight grin. "I feel it's coming and I'm expecting it's not going to be pretty."

"This has to be addressed and we have to switch it around," Kehl said. "We can't continue to play this way."

On Monday, the Cougar defense will fix and tune-up those facets of the defense lacking during last Saturday's full-contact scrimmage. However, there was one blow the defense took that simply can't be repaired so quickly: sophomore starting nose guard Russell Tialavea went down with a possible season-ending leg injury.

"That is a big blow," said Kehl somberly. "Especially to our run game. He's the biggest part of our run game because he knocks the center back every play."

The defense was visibly shaken with the loss of their fellow teammate. While being worked on over on the sidelines, many players on the defense came over to console the big defensive tackle. Now, it's time for someone to take his place.

"It's time to step up," Kehl said. "Someone now has a chance. One man's loss is another man's opportunity, but this is a big blow to us because [Tialavea is] one of the most athletic guys on the team. The guy is just a player and just stones the run. We gotta gather around and someone has to step up now."

Hear outside linebacker David Nixon talk about last Saturday's performance and how the Cougar defense will bounce back.


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