Practice Report: Day 10

In front of a packed sideline and balcony of BYU fans, the Cougars ran through a series of blue zone drills. While it may have appeared to have been an offensive and defensive stalemate from, both units were able to accomplish their objectives with some degree of success.

There weren't many fireworks during Wednesday's open practice for fans to get pumped up about, but that didn't mean the practice was a failure. Following position developmental drills with the individual position coaches, the team met on the near side of the practice field, in front of the many spectators, to put into affect the day's practice script.

"Today we were doing more situational type drills," said outside linebacker David Nixon. "Over in skeli we were doing a lot of third-and-seven situations where the offense had to convert and the defense had to get off the field. We focused on that today and then we focused a lot on the blue zone.

On offense it was much the same. As the defense was looking to accomplish specific goals, the offense was also looking to focus on specific areas of their game.

"We just ran through a lot of situational things," said Manase Tonga. "We did a lot of third-and-seven stuff and blue zone work."

"[In] the blue zone, certainly we believe offensively that we have to score touchdowns every time we are there," said Coach Mendenhall. "Defensively we know we have to hold them to field goals, and so you saw a mixed bag today, a little of both. But the learning that happens is exceptional."

Last year, BYU's Cougar offense dominated in the blue zone. Along with the third-and-seven situational skeli drills, the Cougar coaches wanted to work on building upon that successful aspect of their program. The focus offensively was making sure the players knew their assignments and the play calls, and executed according to the high expectations of watchful coaches.

"The insertion is what they already know and because they already played the same things," said Coach Mendenhall. "Yet, what's happened because there isn't much insertion, their position mastery - the specifics of applying the tools of their trade - that part is improving. We asked them to focus on those things and then the communication and helping the players around them."

"Last year we had a lot of success in the blue zone," said Tonga. "We want to keep that up and make sure we're able to execute when we get into that position. [One thing we emphasize] is to be good in the blue zone, so that's what we wanted to work on today."

The defense was able to hold the offense out of the end zone most of the time through 15 offensive sets that included the first- through third-team offenses.

"As a defense we accepted the challenge," Nixon said. "We were able to keep them out of the end zone quite a bit and I think they only had around one or two touchdowns out of 15 drives, which wasn't too bad. I think overall we as a defense were pleased."

However, Max Hall was able to reach pay dirt a few times during blue zone drills. After a slow first series mixed with a run package, quarterback Max Hall was able to connect with Manase Tonga for 11 yards after checking off his primary receiver. The second series left Max Hall completing 2-of-3 passes. Hall's third series resulted in similar stats, including going 2-for-3, but this time with a touchdown.

"A lot of it comes because of our big guys up front," said Tonga. "We have a lot of experience on the offensive side of the ball up front and with our receivers. We're really comfortable when we get into the blue zone. Obviously we still have a few things to work on, but overall we're very comfortable with what we're doing on offense."

On the defensive of the ball, the coaches installed some new packages that yielded results, despite Max Hall being able to connect with his offensive teammates a few times for pay dirt.

"We felt comfortable with our movement, calls and strategy and execution in the volume that we've received," said Coach Mendenhall. "There are, as you know, other parts of the game and other specific areas that need to be addressed."

Now you can listen to inside linebacker Kelly Poppinga give insight into the overall success of what the defense was looking for with Wednesday's new defensive wrinkles.

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