Preseason Practices Compressed

The Cougar players and coaching staff were able to use this past bye week as a sort of compressed preseason practice session. Fundamentals were reapplied and stressed, those with nicks and cuts healed up, and a lot of reevaluation took place. Now that they're ready to take to the field again, the Cougars collectively feel reinvigorated and ready to roll.

"We're ready to go. We're definitely ready to get back out there," said center Sete Aulai. "The bye week came at the right time and we used it well so we can finish out the season strong."

Healing Up

First and foremost among the advantages a bye week brings is the ability to rest up and heal from the various nicks and cuts experienced throughout the season. Those with more serious injuries are now more fully able to regain their form before the hitting resumes.

"All of us are bumped and bruised," said Aulai. "So that's the number-one thing. We got to rest up and let ourselves heal, and I think we'll be able now to go a little harder as a team because we were able to rest up a bit."

Playing games for five weeks in a row takes its toll, and being able to rest up for a full two weeks until your next game can be a huge advantage.

"I feel better than I have since before the season started as far as my body goes," said Aulai. "We all feel fresh and we're going to be raring to go against UNLV and for the rest of the year."

Sharpening up Assignments

The bye week also allowed for a lot of film-viewing. But instead of watching other teams and scouting them out, the Cougar players poured over film of their prior games to reevaluate where they are this season. Through the viewing of film, the Cougar players were able to see what areas they needed to improve on.

"I don't think any of us are happy with where we're at as an offensive line," said Aulai. "We haven't been bad, but we had bigger expectations going into the season and we haven't met those yet. So we watched what we've been doing and it's become more clear to us what we need to work on."

With a full week as their disposal without having to focus on a specific opponent, the Cougar offensive line focused on themselves. Fundamentals were stressed as the team went over basically everything they did prior to the season in August practices.

"Yeah, it was sort of a short version of two-a-days," said Aulai. "Coaches worked with us a lot on our footwork, technique and getting low. That was the biggest thing and will be the biggest thing for us. We need to get lower when run-blocking."

By getting low on their blocking assignments, linemen are able to win the leverage battle more often than not, allowing them to block effectively and acquire a good collective push upfield. Getting low and subsequently drive-blocking effectively becomes a bit more complicated in the wide splits and crouch stance so often utilized by the Cougar offensive front.

"It's tougher, but we have to get it done," noted Aulai. "It's about getting low. If we do it then I think we'll dominate. We should dominate with the guys we have. We shouldn't just be doing okay, we should be dominating and we haven't done that like we should."

Strong Down the Stretch

With being able to heal up a bit and sharpen their technique and assignments, the feeling is that the Cougar offensive line and team as a whole will be able to elevate their game down the home stretch.

"We're confident," said Aulai. "We have sort of that same optimism we did before the first game this year, except now it's clearer what we need to do and how we can do it. I really think we're going to dominate opponents from here on out more than we have done."

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