Having gone through two games filled with a bevy of mental errors, the offensive line is working hard to change their performance and nip the problems in the bud. Aulai is confident that the necessary changes will come.
"It's just us not being smart," said Aulai. "We're experienced, we know what we need to do, and we're not doing it. I've had my problems just like everyone else and I need to cut way down on my mental errors, which I will do. I have to."
The Cougar offensive front is indeed experienced and talented. While all of them seeing success as individual players a year ago and collectively as a unit, they're still aiming for improvement as the season goes on. Being such a talented and physical bunch, they're working on now rounding out some of that physicality and aggression, and on cutting down on their mental errors as the season progresses.
"I think our offensive line is physical," said head coach Bronco Mendenhall. "I think that they're working very hard to finish blocks, and because of that attempt to finish, there has been some over-aggression penalties and some over-eagerness in regards to snap count that have also resulted in penalties."
"We haven't been smart at times, for sure," said Aulai. "It starts with me as the center. I've had dumb penalties in being too aggressive at times, which has affected the team and what we're able to do on the field."
Dumb mental errors by the Cougar offensive front came to a crescendo down the stretch against Tulsa, as the offense was consistently moved back by mistakes that simply should not be made by any experienced unit.
"Those penalties that are made after - or at the finish - of plays due to over-aggresion have to be eliminated if we are to maintain the field position and the momentum that we're working to have," said Mendenhall. "There needs to be stronger coordination between our linemen and our backs, as there have been one or two assignment errors each week that have caused turnovers."
The offensive line has bore down this week in practices to rectify what has ailed them. While the routines haven't changed, they are doing certain things to improve upon the plethora of mental errors that have set the offense back over the past two weeks.
"We're making ourselves accountable," said Aulai. "On Monday we did five up-downs for every penalty that we had. So, I had two penalties, so I did ten [up-downs], which was tough, but I have to learn just like everyone else that it's unacceptable."
Aulai and his offensive line cohorts recognize that the problems they're encountering are almost entirely mental. The physical imposition, coupled with improved technique, can only carry an offensive line so far. They need to think out there, which has been lacking over the past two weeks.
"It's all mental and that shouldn't happen," said Aulai. "The good thing is that it's something that can be fixed. They're stupid mistakes that we know we can fix. It's not like we're having problems out-muscling guys or not getting a good push; that's happening. It's just all mental now and correcting those mental mistakes."
A Wiley Foe
As Air Force is set to take on BYU this coming Saturday, Aulai and the rest of his teammates know that it's mental toughness and being assignment sound that has carried the Falcons so far this season and through the years. Air Force isn't the most physically imposing of opponents, but they're as sound in their execution as most schools, leading to a tough football team.
"Their defensive line isn't the biggest or even the most talented we'll face, but they know what they're doing," said Aulai. "In watching film, I'm impressed with how disciplined and assignment sound they are. They really know what they're doing and that will be the biggest challenge."
Aulai said he still believes that the offensive line will reach the lofty expectations that not only the fans and media, but Aulai himself, have placed upon them.
"I said preseason that I felt that we're the best offensive line in the country, and I still feel that way," said Aulai. "We have the best coaching, we're as talented as anyone as a group, and we work together well. Now we just need to cut out our stupid mental errors that we're making and we'll be fine."