Performance Review: Washington Game

Overall, the Cougars performed well in their season-opener against the Washington Huskies. Both the offense and defense executed what they needed to in order to pull out the close victory, but they also know that they can do better in the future.

Going into the season, the Cougar offensive line was billed as being as good as it's been in any year. After its performance against Washington, it's hard to argue against that billing. While the line graded out well, it still has a lot of room for improvement according to right tackle Braden Brown.

Brown was one of the last players to leave the practice field Monday night. When approached for an interview, he was noticeably gassed after doing some extra cardio work following the practice session.

"I was a little winded during the first quarter of that game and it surprised me that I was," he explained. "So I'm doing some extra work here after to make sure it doesn't happen again. It's something that I don't want to happen again."

Saturday's game against Washington saw almost flawless execution in pass protection, and run-blocking that hit its stride during the second half. The offensive line wasn't quite perfect in its pass protection and other facets of the game, and will look to improve upon some specifics as it prepares for Air Force.

Overall the offensive line graded out with a 2.0, which indicates a job well done but also indicates that there is room for improvement. If everyone scores a 2.0 on a play along the offensive front, then its termed as a "perfect play" by Coach Weber, but if even one of them scores a 1.0, the entire group gets docked down a point.

"Getting at least a 2.0 in every game is our goal, so we're happy about that," said Brown. "Every lineman graded out with a 2.0 or higher, so that's just about ideal for us, but it's not perfect and that's what we're striving for. We didn't give up any sacks, which is always what you want, so we're very happy about that."

Offensive line coach Mark Weber grades a 1.0 for not completing one's assignments as a whole, a 2.0 for completing the assignments, and finally a 3.0 for going above and beyond what one's assignment is. Braden Brown graded out with a 2.0 but is striving for a 3.0, and hence the extra work after practice.

"I'm happy with how I did, but there is so much I could have done better I felt," he noted. "This week it's all about working as hard as I can to not only score a 2.0, but strive toward a 3.0, and we're all working to do that."

As good as the offensive line did, it wasn't alone in picking up blitz after blitz against Washington.

"Bryan Kariya did an outstanding job picking off extra guys that they'd bring to try to get to the quarterback," said Brown. "J.J. [Di Luigi] did a great job as well and I don't think any of their blitzes worked. It was an all-around team effort and we're very happy with how we protected the quarterbacks."

One aspect that Brown feels the offensive front needs to work on is its overall run-blocking.

"We need to work on finishing," he said. "We need to get more nasty. Sometimes we'd get a little tired and wouldn't finish blocks, guys would come off of us too easily and make tackles, and that's what we need to get better. We just need to get more nasty and make sure we're not just blocking guys but throwing them around and really dominating them. That's what we need to get better at mostly I think."

Overall the new quarterbacks were extremely happy with the protection and overall play of the offensive line.

"I can't say enough about those guys," said Jake Heaps. "I would be bold enough to say that they're one of the best offensive lines in the country, if not the best. They're tremendous and they protected me and Riley [Nelson] all game long and they battle, they're physical and they really get after it. They're smart and that's one of the great things about playing here at BYU is that great tradition of the offensive line that they have."

Hill reveals some tricks in his bag

Defensively the Cougars threw out some pretty unique formations which all but stalemated the Husky offense during the second half. Fans saw a lot of different formations and schemes other than the base 3-4 defensive alignment, and according to cornerback Brian Logan, they can look for even more in the coming weeks.

"Coach Hill with his coaching history, he's really unique with his book of things he can throw at a defense," he explained. "He can do all kinds of things, people don't even know. He's been a lot of places and he has a lot of different things he can throw at a defense, but he molds it so it fits his personnel. I can't be more pleased with what he's done for us this year with what he's letting us run."

Logan noted that the unique formation that can't really be called a straight "nickel" defense called for two defensive linemen and either five linebackers or defensive backs depending upon the situation.

"I was great having myself, Brandon Bradley, Corby Eason, Steven Thomas and Andrew Rich all out there at the same time and we hope we can do that more," he said. "Mostly we went with five linebackers, and when it's like that we all man up on specific coverage assignments, but it changes with every situation, so we're not doing the same thing every time."

So how did it work?

"I was surprised with how well it worked because we seriously made a ton of mistakes," said Logan. "We've been practicing a bit, but we really didn't do it right on most occasions. We really haven't done it right every time we've practiced it since spring, so when we do finally learn to do it right every time, then you're really going to see some great plays I think."

Subtle nuances in containing Locker

Twenty-nine rushing yards were all Jake Locker had against a Cougar defense that was very prepared for what he brought to the table.

Among the subtle things the defense did was show Locker a different rush stance than what it would actually follow through with during the play. For example, the defensive ends learned from defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi that Locker checks what stance each end takes on every play, and if they took an inside-rush stance, he'd subsequently take it around the end.

The ends were taught to take a neutral stance every time they lined up in formation until they made eye contact with Locker, and then take either an inside or outside position or just remain in a neutral stance.

"Whatever the defensive line did worked, that's for sure," noted Logan. "We never really had to tackle Locker the whole game because the containment was so good. We all did well, but it was really the defensive line that won the game for us I think."

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