Cougars Learn Meaning of "Principle Defense"

Tulsa opened up the play book as senior quarterback Paul Smith threw the ball for 454 yards and five touchdowns against the Cougars. After the third offensive series, things changed for the Golden Hurricane. So what was the difference?

It's not that often that a quarterback throws for 454 yards against these Cougars. The Cougars and the Golden Hurricane combined for a total of 49 points in the opening half of play.

However, Tulsa didn't start out with much success until the coaching staff switched their offensive packages.

"We went three-and-out, three-and-out, and then a pick," said BYU defensive end Jan Jorgensen. "The first three series we just shut them down really fast and they couldn't really move the ball on us."

All week long the BYU Cougars prepared to face the conventional Tulsa offense that was seen during the Louisiana-Monroe game. With two weeks to prepare for the Cougars, new Tulsa head coach Todd Graham changed the offensive scheme following his team's third offensive series.

"They were doing their conventional offensive stuff they used two weeks before," said Jorgensen. "I think they realized that if they were going to beat us or move the ball on us they couldn't do what they were doing, because we were just stuffing it. They changed things up and pulled out their bag of tricks."

Tulsa changed their offensive scheme from what BYU faced in Provo last year to a variation of the spread offense. This variation, similar to the option offense that Air Force now employs, was used to create mismatches with the linebackers.

"They busted out their throw-backs, which is something we had worked on before," said Jorgensen. "At the same time, it was a mismatch with their receiver on a linebacker. They got the matchup they wanted and it worked, so they started pulling out more tricks, like the double reverse passes.

"It kept working and finally they ran out of their bag of tricks. After that they just said, ‘Okay, now we're out of our bag of tricks, so now we're just going to send our fastest guy downfield as fast as we can to catch the ball.'"

"I just feel that when they came out with the misdirection stuff, play action and play action misdirection, we weren't assignment-sound," said senior cornerback Ben Criddle. "We weren't able to be on our assignments and unfortunately we weren't able to make plays, and that's pretty much what it came down to."

With only one week to prepare for a Golden Hurricane offense no longer represented on the field, the Cougars found themselves adjusting on the fly.

"[Tulsa] did what they showed in the Louisiana-Monroe game the first three series [against us]," said Jorgensen. "When they realized that wasn't going to work, they didn't do it any more. Then they pulled everything else out that we hadn't seen before.

"The problem was, we were still playing our keys from what we had seen before, and it kind of worked against us. It's really tough because we started pulling out blitzes and stuff that we haven't done since we played Arizona. Sure, we know them, but we're going against things that we haven't seen before and it can be tough.

"A lot of that comes from preparation," said Criddle. "Some of those things they threw at us we weren't prepared for, but some things we were. But still, we know our assignments and we have our scheme that was implemented last season and we know exactly what we're supposed to do in certain situations. We go a little outside of that."

Listen to Markell Staffeiri give insight into BYU's defensive struggles against Tulsa, and how assignment-sound football preached by Coach Mendenhall has truly hit home.

When trust is thrown aside, uncertainty creeps in. Players begin playing outside of themselves and the defensive philosophy, and feel they have to compensate. When a team is playing an offense built on speed, there is no room for playing outside of the defense philosophy or defensive calls on the football field.

"If we would have just done our jobs we would have been fine," said Jorgensen. "If we just would have executed our defense and done our jobs, things would have been different, but like I said, they started doing something completely different than what we've seen, and people started making mistakes. People started getting outside of their comfort zone and tried to do too much and [do] things they weren't supposed to do."

"It becomes an in-game adjustment," said Criddle. "Mentally, it's a tough thing, and I don't really know how to necessarily describe it, but you just have to communicate off the field when they had success with a play and adjust. That's what we didn't do. They definitely had the advantage."

Not only did Tulsa turn over quite a few pages within their playbook, but they also changed up their offensive formations. Some of the elements the Cougars saw after the third offensive series with Tulsa had similar elements to Air Force's offense.

"[Tulsa] did a little bit of what Air Force does this year," said Jorgensen. "Knowing that, I'm sure Air Force will now try to bust out 80-yard passes on us too from that offensive formation, but we'll be ready for Air Force this weekend. But this time, everybody has to do their job and do what they're supposed to do within the defense and nothing more. If we do that, then we'll be fine.

"Air Force does a lot of the option and stuff like that, but they do it from out of different formations. Last year, and in years past, they ran the option from one formation. They ran everything from out of the wing-t formation.

"Tulsa ran that a little bit on us. They did have the wing back in the backfield and ran their offense from that formation. Air Force runs a lot of things out the I-back formation like Tulsa did, and the two tight ends with two backs on each side. Air Force still runs a lot of option, but they run it out of different formations."

Having already played a Tulsa offense with glimpses of the new Air Force mixed in it, the challenge for the Cougars will be to play within the defense and trust one another.

"It's never easy preparing for Air Force," said a chuckling Jorgensen. "We'll know what to expect playing against Air Force, but they are just a different animal. Tulsa became a different animal, but we didn't really know what to expect and that caused problems for us. We just have to do our job, stay disciplined and make your plays when you have them."

"I think we'll see something similar," said Criddle. "I mean, we're not going to face someone with as good of an arm like Paul Smith had. He was a good quarterback that got us on a few tricks and was able to chuck the ball 75 yards downfield and complete a pass. I think people will [use] play action or misdirection play action plays and try to exploit that weakness we've shown during the Tulsa game.

"However, it's good experience and hopefully we've learned from our mistakes from watching film. The plays that we run and practice out here this week will help us to execute against those things more properly. We'll know what to expect and we'll feel much more comfortable against the misdirection play action passing game in the future."

Outside linebacker Chris Bolden gives his take on the Tulsa learning experience.


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