Proof Will Be in the Pudding

After an embarrassing loss to Florida State, the Cougar defense looks to reassert itself as a disciplined, confident and aggressive defense on the field. Coach Mendenhall and the players feel they've identified some of those areas that caused last week's debacle. For the conference opener against CSU, BYU fans will get a firsthand look at whether the Cougars have made progress on those issues.

It's the conference opener and BYU fans, as well as the Cougar players, want to bury last week's game as far away from memory as they can. One way to do that is to come out and win, and win by excelling in the areas that caused last week's loss. Colorado State will field one of the best offensive lines in the Mountain West Conference and two very capable running backs as the Rams strive to reach 4-0.

"The thing about conference play is everybody wants to get the big shiny ring on their finger," said Terrance Hooks. "Everybody has the goal to win conference and it's anybody's game when it comes to conference."

"I remember how good of a football team Colorado State was last year," said Brandon Bradley. "I got hurt that game so I wasn't able to finish it, but watching the game from the sidelines, I remember they were a pretty good football team. We're going to have to be more assignment-sound. One of the biggest keys for us that made us successful in the past was being a disciplined and being assignment-sound. Coach Mendenhall told us that there were times in the [FSU] game where we weren't doing those things and being assignment-sound. There were times when we weren't doing what we were supposed to and they took advantage of that. I think the biggest thing going into the Colorado State game is taking care of the small things and making sure we're in the places we need to be in."

During this week of practice, the coaches worked on remedying the problems that led to the team surrendering 313 rushing yards to Florida State. Players admitted their faults and coaches revamped some practice drills to compartmentalize technique and position mastery, but it's always easier to know what your weaknesses are by playing a game than knowing what those weaknesses are from team practice or from the scout team.

"As far as looks-wise, I was talking about this with a couple of different players that it's always easier to get looks in games than at practice," said Hooks. "At practice you get your looks from the scout team, but in games you everything is much more clean, the spacing is right, the reads are a lot better and I feel there is no clutter and everything is clean and open.

"The last two years we've had some good scout teams. We were definitely exposed during the FSU game, but we aren't looking at that game anymore other than a learning lesson."

Okay, but what about in-game adjustments? Didn't the coaches see what those issues were as they developed and try and to make adjustment on the field?

"There were adjustments made throughout the game," said Bradley. "I just felt like the small things we didn't do as well as we normally do with those adjustments. We didn't get into the positions that the coaches expected us to be in and we weren't always there. I just feel like it was more of a technique and assignment issue than a coaching error or scheme."

"What the Florida State game did for us was good because it exposed some weaknesses that we had in a lot of things," said Coleby Clawson. "It really hit home that we have to be more gap-sound, and everyone has to be perfect in their gap assignments in this system. There were a lot of plays that if someone would have just done their play or assignment right, Florida State wouldn't have had some of those long plays and we would have gotten out on those third downs. I think we've learned and will see how far we've come for the conference opener."

"No team wants to take a loss in the way that we did last week," said Bradley. "We just have to learn from our mistakes and bounce back from it. We have to continue full speed ahead knowing what we know now."

While the team feels that those issue have been, the results of this week's focus won't be fully understood until game day.

"I think those issues have been addressed really well," said Coach Mendenhall. "You never really know until the game. My hope was by playing the schedule that we played early that we would be able to find out more about ourselves, and then it gives you a chance to work on those things prior to conference. We've certainly have seen where we need to improve, and I think the kids and the coaches are applying it well and we'll see how fast it shows up."

Hopefully those fixes show up quickly as BYU now heads into conference play against a tough Colorado State team.

The two primary running backs for Colorado State are 6-foot, 216-pound junior Leonard Mason and 5-foot-10-inch, 211-pound junior John Mosure. Mason was ranked by as the No. 3 running back in the nation at the J.C. level before he transferred to CSU.

"They've got two very good backs that we feel can run hard," Hooks said. "They can run downhill and are very smash-mouth, so they have a system that has the two backs in it. They also do some I-formation and have a really good fullback that has some experience. He's a great fullback and they've got some skill guys in the backfield that can move the ball."

To further help their running backs gain more yardage, Colorado State's offensive system sometimes employs one or two tight ends.

"Their tight ends aren't like the tight ends we have here," said Hooks. "Dennis Pitta and [Andrew] George do things really well in terms of blocking and can catch the ball really well downfield like receivers. The way Colorado State uses their tight ends is more in a blocking scheme. So they'll have 22-personnel [meaning two running backs and two tight ends] or 21-personnel [two running backs and one tight end] to bring more power up front in their run game."

"They run a lot of pair-type stuff," Clawson said. "They'll bring in a tight end and will sometimes bring in a fullback and try and overload you on one side. Their fullback is a really good blocker, but that's kind of what they do. They just want to establish the run and overload you on one side and try and beat you that way, basically get more blockers on one side or the other, and they've got some good running backs and blockers to do that so we just have to be more assignment-sound."

After watching film of the loss to FSU, Colorado State coaches will likely test the weaknesses BYU showed and attack BYU's front seven.

"They run a pro-style offense and like to run between the tackles," Clawson said. "They also like to run a lot of gadgets when they get close to the end zone. They have a lot of two-backs and I-back formations that they like to run out of. I would say it's more of a run-oriented style offense. They want to establish the run first and that's kind of what they're all about. After they've established the run, then they'll use the gadgets in their passing packages to get you."

Meanwhile, CSU's offensive line is experienced, aggressive and a bit rough in the middle, to say the least.

"If I was to compare CSU's offensive line to the previous line that we faced, they're a lot more stout," said Tevita Hola. "Their guys are all returning starters, and that's good for them. From what I've seen on film they're really physical and very disciplined. They go until the whistle stops no matter how close or far away they are from the play.

"Their center is physical and rough, but I want to say more dirty. Last year I couldn't count how many times he was grabbing legs and things like that, but we just have to fight through things like that. We feel that one man shouldn't be able to block you, and that's the mentality that we have as nose guards [and] take pride in. We should never just let the center just cut us off or anything like that. We know they are a very experienced o-line, but we know we need to come out more hungry and prepared than we did the last game."

"They have a good offensive line that is back from last year, so they'll be big and solid up front," said Clawson. "I think one of the biggest differences from last year to this year is that their offensive line is more experienced and overall more confident."

So far Colorado State's offensive line has helped the Rams rush for 136.6 yards per game. This weekend's contest will either show that the Cougars did indeed learn their lesson and addressed properly, or that they still have some work to do. The proof will be in the pudding, so let the game begin.

Jordan Pendleton

Total Blue Sports caught up with sophomore outside linebacker Jordan Pendleton to get his thoughts on heading into the conference play against the Rams of Colorado State.

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