Putnam and Second-Stringers See Action

Big 6-foot-6-inch, 240-pound freshman linebacker-turned-defensive end Matt Putnam nervously anticipated a hard-fought contest against the Bruins of UCLA last Saturday. Many of the younger, more inexperienced players on the team likely felt the same way, at least until Coach Mendenhall spoke to them prior to the game.

Just prior to taking the jog through the tunnel out into the midst of nearly 65,000 screaming fans, Coach Mendenhall gathered his team together and spoke words of encouragement. It wasn't anything elaborate or poetically groundbreaking. Rather, it was short and simple. But the impact of the words he spoke to his intently focused players quickly pushed aside any doubts, concerns or pre-game jitters that many may have been experiencing.

"I was kind of nervous before the game," said freshman defensive end Matt Putnam. "I thought it was going to be really tough and possibly a closer game, but when Coach Mendenhall was talking to us before the game I just knew that it was going to be over. I mean, after he spoke I just felt like we had already won the game and we hadn't even started it yet. I just knew right then that it was over."

In reflection, Putnam couldn't remember exactly what was in the short speech that Coach Mendenhall gave to his players while in the locker room. He just remembers the effect the words had on him and the other players.

"It just seemed like it wasn't anything big at all," he said. "The team felt as a whole like it wasn't that big of a deal, as if we weren't playing UCLA or anybody like that."

Following Monday's practice, many of the players mentioned how surprised they were that they were able to dominate UCLA so easily on both sides of the ball. There may be some leniency towards the Bruin offense given the fact the team had suffered some key injuries and has been learning a new offense. But, it's hard to find an excuse for the defense. For Putnam, his feelings were no different.

"Yeah, it was a little bit of a surprise to look up at the scoreboard and [see] what the score was," Putnam said. "But then again in looking back and remembering the things Coach Mendenhall said before the game, it doesn't surprise me at all. I think we all kind of felt we were going to beat them, but didn't think it was going to be like that."

With the Cougars putting up 42 points and allowing none in the first half, the backup players took the field in the second half. The starting defense had shut down UCLA's offense by holding the Bruins to just 13 first downs (to BYU's 30), nine yards rushing on 16 carries (to BYU's 184 on 45), and 230 passing yards (to BYU's 337). There is something to be said about a backup defense being given the responsibility of capitalizing on the previous performance of all the starters.

"The second-team defense went out there and played great," said Jan Jorgensen. "They really did, they played well. They went out there and didn't let UCLA's starting offense score, which says a lot. That says a lot when our second team came out and didn't miss a beat and kept the momentum rolling."

"When I went out there I felt like I had a responsibility to keep UCLA from scoring," said Putnam. "I felt like I owed it to our first-string defensive guys. I was not going to let these guys accomplish that and then go out there and spoil it for those guys, so I just felt like I had a responsibility to keep UCLA from scoring. I think all us felt that way, that all of us on the team had the responsibility and owed it to the first-string guys to keep that zero on the scoreboard."

Putnam finished the game with four solo tackles (the highest of any defensive lineman), one quarterback hurry and one interception. He credits his performance to those that gave him the opportunity to see the field and participate.

"Well, I owe that to Jan and the whole defense for job they did," said Putnam. "They held UCLA's offense to no points and allowed our offense to score 42 points on them in the first half. If it wasn't for that I may not have had the chance to going into the game, so I owe a lot to how those guys played, which gave me a chance."

Although Putnam had a great first day performance, he feels it was just another day on the job.

"I don't feel like I did anything special," said a reserved Putnam with a smile. "I just feel like I was just doing my job. I think if Jan was in there he would have scored on that interception."

That interception of Putnam's will likely be something he remembers for a long time, but it wasn't the only memorable moment from Saturday's game for him.

"Some memorable moments for me were just all the turnovers we caused all right in a row," Putnam said. "I couldn't believe that and it was just amazing to me. I just couldn't believe how many fumbles we caused all in a row, and then it was just done after that. The game was pretty much over by then."

The younger players on the team can only benefit from being able to play in a game that had so much relevance and hype surrounding it. Those younger players know that all the hard work and effort they put into practice can indeed pay off on the football field, and may even allow them to play in a big-time game against the likes of a UCLA.

"I think what happens to [the younger players] is they see that coming out to practice every day and doing all the hard stuff isn't worthless to them," said Jorgensen. "They got in and played almost an entire half of football against UCLA. I think it helps them to realize that they have to come to practice and work even harder every day because they will be called upon to come out and play.

"I think what you're going to see are those guys coming out here during practice and being a little more sharp, being a little more quicker, being a little more focused and prepared because they know there is an opportunity for them to come out and play in any game."

Putnam has received a great deal of preparation and experience thanks to having faced BYU's offensive line every day in practice. During Saturday's game the Cougar offensive line allowed only three quarterback hurries and no sacks, compared to the seven quarterback hurries and two sacks allowed by UCLA's line.

"I think our guys are some of the best in the nation," Putnam said. "For us to compete against those guys every day in practice makes playing against other guys not that big of a deal."

BYU's second-team offensive line came out and faced a first-team Bruin defense comprised of talented players the likes of linebackers Kyle Bosworth and Reggie Carter and defensive tackles Brigham Harwell and Brian Price. Despite that talent up front, the Cougars didn't give up a sack and only added to the numbers on the scoreboard.


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