An Offense With Attitude

With Tuesday's morning practice opened up to the public, Cougar fans lined up on the outskirts of the practice field to watch their team run through drills and engage in a fast-paced, energy-filled scrimmage that both excited the crowd and yielded impressive results.

The offense may not have wowed many with an overpowering downfield aerial assault (although the first play of the scrimmage was a 35-yard bomb to wide receiver McKay Jacobson to the delight of onlookers), but in terms of efficiency, speed and attitude, the offense came together nicely.

The defense held following the Jacobson pass, as the offense stalled in the blue zone. That defensive stand, accompanied by a Corby Eason interception on the first play of the second-team's first series, only seemed to spark the offense with a greater determination.

"The defense had decided to turn it on the past couple of days and get more physical with us," said running back J.J. Di Luigi. "What that did was push the tempo up on both sides. We kind of got pushed over the other day and so the coaches wanted us to come out here with more attitude, so coming out here today and playing more physical with a higher tempo is what they wanted. When the defense started hitting it really got us pumped up, and in the end it was a good day for the offense."

"I think the way to describe today's practice is sharp," said Max Hall. "We kind of got together as a group and talked about what kind of attitude we wanted to have as an offense. I think we looked really good today and did exactly what we wanted up and down the field. I was very proud of how the offense played today."

With attitude, the offense reasserted itself by methodically moving the ball up and down the field. Wide receiver Luke Ashworth got the first-team offense going on the second series with a 12-yard reception, which was followed by a 15-yard catch by Dennis Pitta two plays later. Di Luigi put on a show for fans Tuesday, as he was involved in just about every facet of the offense. Running the ball through holes created by the offensive line and catching passes out of the backfield, Di Luigi played a large part in the offense's success.

"I felt I did good today," said Di Luigi. "The offensive line was opening up holes in the line and I was able to hit them. Max was able to hit receivers and was making great reads out there. The whole offense does a great job when that happens. Today it was running smoothly."

"J.J. came out with a great attitude today and he ran the ball hard and did great," said Hall. "He's going to be tough and is going to be a nice complementary back to Harvey [Unga]."

Di Luigi's assessment of Tuesday's offensive performance as one that was "running smoothly" is a good description. Although there were still a few mistakes here and there, the offense was running at a higher pace, but more importantly, it was effective at that pace. The defense had a difficult time keying in on specific players as Hall distributed the ball to a number of different players.

"We ran the offense smoothly and everyone got the ball," said Di Luigi. "It was a lot of fun because we were able to go down the field with everyone involved. It was pretty solid. We're getting the substitutions in easier and everyone seems to be on the same page. Guys are coming in and out fresh and things are flowing smoothly. When we're spreading the ball out, we're effective there. The offense line is blocking well in the passing game and when we run the ball the line is opening up huge holes."

"Coach Anae told us today that we have to pride ourselves on being physical," Hall said. "We have to pride ourselves on making plays, catching the ball and being assignment-sound. We've had too many mistakes and things going on that we just can't have. Today we came out here with an attitude and played really well. Right now both sides of the ball are kind of matching each other. Pretty soon here is when we're all going to really start coming together and that's when we'll be our best."

Hall went 4-of-5 for about 40 yards on the final drive of Tuesday's scrimmage. The drive was capped off with a touchdown pass to Di Luigi, ending a very good day of practice for the offense.

"I think we're kind of finding where everybody fits in and where their strengths are," said Hall. "I think Coach Anae did a great job today with calling the plays, and everything just kind of became masked together today."

Cougar tight end Dennis Pitta had three catches for about 32 yards on Tuesday. As expected, he played an instrumental part in the offense's methodical drives down the field. Pitta talks about Tuesday's performance in the audio interview below.

From The Sidelines

Also in attendance watching Tuesday's performance was Manase Tonga. Tonga was standing alongside Harvey Unga's father Jackson as the team ran through drills, and he seemed excited to get back on the field at BYU. Physically he looked good and in shape despite having missed a year due to academic issues. However, it is still unknown whether he'll be able to rejoin the team or when that might happen.

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