Getting It Right

The Rebel run game against BYU was not near what was anticipated - 64 yards on 29 carries. Junior Center A.J. Hawkins believes all those issues can be ironed out.

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One thing the Rebels were hanging their hats on during the preseason was the perceived ability to run the football behind a big offensive line and with TB Brandon Bolden being the chief ballcarrier.

In the opener against BYU, that didn't pan out.

The Rebs got some things going in the run game, briefly, with Bolden, but when he went out with an ankle/foot injury, the run game went from a strength to almost a liability.

After watching the film of the game, junior Center A.J. Hawkins left the room knowing things could, and should, get better.

"We had a couple of new players out there and there were times when we were a little unsure of what to do," he explained. "BYU was very sound, but we were doing a pretty good job with Brandon in the game.

"When he went down and then Enrique (Davis) went down and Jeff (Scott) was hobbling a little, we tried to grind it out and we couldn't make it happen. BYU adjusted, we adjusted back and they got the best of it in the long run."

A.J. Hawkins
Chuck Rounsaville

Hawkins said the movement by the MYU defensive line gave them some problems at times.

"They moved around a lot and that will mess with your mind a little, especially with a couple of new guys out there. I think it messed with our confidence for a period of time there, but after that, I thought we were OK," Hawkins said.

"There was a stretch out there when we were not playing as fast as we can because of a little bit of uncertainty, but I think we righted that as the game went on. The problem from there was that we didn't have our top two backs."

Some the difficulty the OL had, according to A.J., was a lack of trust.

"With BYU's movement, sometimes we were not trusting what we saw and it made us hesitant. A guy shading to a gap instead of being head up, can change what you are supposed to do and we were second-guessing ourselves a little on what we were actually seeing," assessed Hawkins. "When you doubt what you see, and you are 'iffing' what you see, you can't fire out and block with authority.

"BYU didn't really do anything differently than what we were prepared for, but it's a little different when live bullets are flying and you have two brand new players out there. I am not saying they didn't do their jobs, but any little bit of hesitation gives the defense the upper hand."

Hawkins doesn't want to minimize the ability BYU had or take credit from them.

"We were big, they were big. It was a battle in there," he said. "Not many teams play a 3-4 with big guys on the end, so we had to adjust to that. And while they didn't have any stars that just pop off the screen at you, they are very, very sound. They just did not make mistakes. If you take a bad step, they take the right one and take advantage of that mistake.

"SEC teams are probably more physical, but those guys (BYU) just didn't make a mistake. They were tough."

With Bolden and Davis likely out for the next game, at least, the Rebel line will be working with different frontline backs.

"With Brandon, he can find a crease and get yardage," A.J. explained. "Now, we are going to have to make the hole clearer. We have to give our backs an obvious hole and not wait on Brandon to pick and choose.

"We won't have to change our style because we have been out there with Jeff and Devin (Thomas) for a long time. I just think we are going to have to do a better job of opening bigger lanes than we do with Brandon. We will trust in whoever is back there."

A.J. Hawkins
Chuck Rounsaville

Hawkins was asked about the play of QB Zack Stoudt, who came in the game in relief of Barry Brunetti in the first half and played the rest of the way.

"I called him after the game and told him I thought he did a great job managing the game," said A.J. "In his first game in front of a crowd like that, he communicated well and controlled the huddle.

"We were getting a little anxious out there after not having any success offensively, but when he came in the game, he settled us down. He even cracked a smile or two and let us know he had things under control. His leadership was real good. He gave us a needed lift and calmed us down. He gave us focus."

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