Defense Gives Offense A Statistical Donut

The defense polished up on some scripts implemented during Monday's evening practice. The quickness and reaction the defense demonstrated on Tuesday, accompanied with a few offensive errors, left the offense's performance a bit lacking in the statistics category.

It's not very often a defensive group, from the first string to the third string, can say they held the Cougar offense to no first downs or completions during a thud scrimmage, but that's exactly what happened on Tuesday.

"We have other teams in the conference like Utah [and] TCU that have good skill position guys like us," said wide receiver Michael Reed. "It's good to see them getting after us today. We weren't able to get the ball into the end zone and I don't even know if we got a first down today, but we know that and our coaches know that and we'll get that corrected today."

Whether or not the dominating defensive performance was due to a lack of focus by the offense, or the defense capitalizing more on their growing confidence and polished packages, one thing is for sure: there weren't too many happy offensive performers following practice.

"The defense came fired up today," said Reed. "I'll be the first one to admit that our offense didn't drive the ball, and we weren't successful in the blue zone against them today. They came at us with a nice blitz and we weren't able to pick it up, but that's one of those things we can correct, after we look at the film and during the next practice. My hat goes off to the defense and we need them as much as they need us."

"We haven't put anything new in this morning," said inside linebacker Matt Bauman. "We have been putting things in every other day for the last two weeks, and every time we do that the offense has to adjust to it. I think today there was an energy and fire on the minds of all of our defensive units. Coach Mendenhall focuses on our mindset and I think we had that today.

"We came out here with the mindset that it is no different in practice than it is during a game time situation. We just have to give it everything. The only difference is we try to keep people up off the ground to try and limit injuries. Other than that we're going at game speed as much as we can."

The defense was able to keep the offense from completing a single pass during Tuesday's scrimmage. Part of this was due to a few dropped passes that should have been caught. However, the defense can take pride in knowing they kept a single pass completion from occurring.

"Yeah, obviously they want to complete the ball," said a smiling Bauman. "On the other hand, we want to keep them from completing a pass. I guess it just worked out better for us today."

"We have no excuses," said Reed. "We'll go in and evaluate our performances. We'll go in with our position coaches and evaluate the routes to see if we are getting in and out of them, or see if we are running the right routes, catching the ball to see what we did individually at our positions."

Now that the Cougars move towards one-day practices, the chance for the offense to come out and redeem itself will have to wait until tomorrow.

"It goes back and fourth," Bauman said. "One day we'll put something new in and it might catch the offense off guard. Other days they'll put something new in that might catch us on our heels. It's a constant battle back and fourth. I'll tell you what, our offense is great and there are a lot of great players on that side of the ball. I just can't wait till game day when we will be able to stand together on the same sideline as teammates not competing against each other."

"This setback is going to make us a lot better," Reed said. "We want to face a tough defense because it's going to help us compete better against the TCUs, Utahs, San Diego States, [and] the Arizonas and UCLAs out there. Those teams are going to have a tough defense, so it's good that they got after us out there. We're a little frustrated but we can't hang our heads. We just have to come out tomorrow and come right back after them."

One drawback about playing against teammates is that the offensive and defensive units will often pick up on each other's habits and exploit them. Having played against each other, both units understand the formations and plays used by the other unit, which makes it difficult for one unit to gain an upper hand over the other. To minimize this in order to further challenge the offense, the middle linebackers talked about better disguising their defensive packages.

"I think we're feeling more and more comfortable with each other," said Bauman. "Part of this is knowing our positions better and playing with one another better. I know with us as middle linebackers, we were talking about not showing the offense things that we were going to do. We saw how the offense would pick up on things that we were doing, and they would make the audible from what we were showing but weren't going to really do. Just having that comfort knowing exactly what we're going to do, even though we yell out to our teammates we're going to be doing something else, tells you how well we're coming together as a defense."

After last Saturday's scrimmage, where the physical play of the offense pushed the defense to a breaking point, the defense has definitely made progress in the flexibility category. Tuesday's defensive performance exemplified that.

"We've absolutely grown," said Bauman. "You can see our progress every day we've been going through fall camp. We've become more and more sound on our assignments [and] that has helped us to perform our responsibilities faster. We are more sound in our assignments and there isn't quite as much hesitation as there was. It's not about, ‘Am I supposed to do this?' It's more about, ‘This is my job and now I can go out and do it.' The whole defense is coming out like that now, and we have some speed and we're able to get to where we need to be quickly with more aggression. It's been coming every day throughout fall camp, and that's been clear to us that we are making progress."

Following Tuesday's practice, Coach Anae spoke to his offensive charges.

"Coach Anae just addressed us," said Reed. "We obviously knew what the deal was. We got our butts kicked and there's no excuses. We came out here like we had the day off. If it were up to me instead of the rules, I would want us to come back out here later on today and practice again. Unfortunately we can't, so we'll have to get it together tomorrow."

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