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Friday, Oct. 31, 2014

Dick Harmon: BYU coaches will take the win but left Hartford hungry for fixes

By Dick Harmon, Deseret News

Published: Sat, Aug. 30 5:55 p.m. MDT

 Connecticut Huskies linebacker Reuben Frank (47) recovers a BYU fumble during a football game at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn., on Friday, Aug. 29, 2014.

Connecticut Huskies linebacker Reuben Frank (47) recovers a BYU fumble during a football game at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn., on Friday, Aug. 29, 2014.

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — The victor’s celebration did happen, but in the back of the minds of BYU’s coaching staff loomed thoughts of Texas and a pyramid of work to do in coming days.

Offensive line coach Garrett Tujague, receivers coach Guy Holliday, quartersback coach Jason Beck and veteran inside linebacker coach Paul Tidwell may have rehearsed the same lines right after BYU’s convincing 35-10 win over UConn.

“It was a nice win, but we have a lot of work to do, a lot to clean up.”

The words echoed from BYU’s locker room. It was kind of an anthem. And it followed a full-blown flag fest Friday.

The 15 BYU penalties for 150 yards against UConn was, frankly, obscene. It was the most penalties for the most yards by any Bronco Mendenhall coached team.

Even when a high-ranking school official came in and told the staff ESPN commentators were scratching their heads wondering about some penalties, the fact remained the flags were pulled and hit the ground and sloppiness abounded.

“We have to look at the film and figure out what it was and if there are corrections that needed to be made, we’ll work on it,” said Tujague. On the positive side, his offensive line did not have a single false start and Taysom Hill’s uniform got dirty only when he slid after runs. He was not sacked in the game.

Holliday too, was cautiously optimistic over the win in which his receivers did not drop a single pass. The one drop was by a running back late in the game. “We work hard on that but we still have a lot to work on to get where we want to be,” he said.

Tujague, who started freshmen Ului Lapuaho and Tejan Koroma at left tackle and center respectively, was concerned his front didn’t get a bigger push for the run game. UConn used a lot of three-man rushes and chose to drop into coverage, so evaluating how BYU blockers may handle a loaded blitz out of a stacked line is still a mystery.

Texas will likely provide the answer. And fast.

“We got split a few times and we have to fix that,” said Tujague.

Saturday, Mendenhall’s staff spent the day breaking down the UConn film to set a course of corrections and prepare a game plan for the Longhorns. We’ll hear more about what they found on Monday.

“Happy for the team, players, the coaches, but there were too many penalties, turnovers, missed assignments,” said Tidwell of the stop in East Hartford.

“It’s a good starting point,” said Beck. “Now we have to clean it up — just the sloppiness of the penalties and turnovers, that’s what you have to fix to beat good teams.”

Holliday, very familiar with Texas and what it’s going to take, was pleased by BYU’s fast start against UConn; he liked big plays but disliked the penalties. “It will be interesting to see what that was all about,” he said. “This was a win and we’re one game ahead of where we were last year. We’ll get Devon (Blackmon) back and Nick (Kurtz) back when he’s healed and we will keep moving forward.”

Holliday doesn’t know when Kurtz will return but expects Blackmon back for the trip to Austin.

Overall, Holliday is right, starting 1-0 is better than last year’s disappointing loss at Virginia.

BYU looked significantly more poised, prepared and seasoned Friday night than a year ago — as expected.

Taysom Hill’s experience and leadership and increased accuracy stood out Friday. He had a career game in completion percentage (77 percent) and pass efficiency (177.1). He was responsible for five touchdowns, also the best game of his career.

But UConn is not Texas and East Hartford is not Austin.

The Eyes of Texas are upon these Cougars.

“We played hard, played well but we were complacent in the second half,” said Tujague. “Ului played well, but we have to be more stout with the run. Tejan was phenomenal and both played well for their first starts. The no false starts was a positive, but we have to play more with our hands inside and run block better. I’m excited about that.”

A win, but ….

It’s right where Mendenhall likes to be.

Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at dharmon@desnews.com.

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1. mufasta
American Fork, UT,
Aug. 30, 2014

The Cougs looked good in some areas that have been weak in recent years but we could certainly use some fixes to mindless penalties, special teams, and defence. The return of our missing starters should help together with some concentrated effort. All will be tested in Texas. Go Cougs.

2. Taysom4Heisman
Heber City, UT,
Aug. 31, 2014

I personally don't think the penalties need a whole lot of fixing. If you go back and look at a lot of those calls, the refs were very picky. And not just on the calls against BYU. This went both ways. There were lots of holding or PI calls where there was very minimal grabbing or contact, but the call was still made.

I think this was simply a very strict team of refs. It was very clear at certain times that they were pretty focused on laying down the law and keeping the game under control, even if it meant a handful of picky, and possibly incorrect, calls.

If the refs for the Texas game are less strict, which will probably be the case, I don't see much of a need for BYU to clean anything up.

3. sammyg
Springville, UT,
Aug. 31, 2014

I will gladly donate 3 months worth of Wheaties to the kicker if that will make a difference.

One of the most embarrassing displays of poor performance in a position since Jake Heaps lost his job to Riley.

Please fix this immediately.

4. Pipes
Salt Lake City, UT,
Aug. 31, 2014

Will be good to have Williams back. I'm surprised no one has mentioned the fact that the BYU running backs do not hit the hole hard. Lasike scoots around looking for a hole rather than running hard. Run blocking was also very weak. I'm hoping that Anae has some better planned runs up his sleeve for Texas or Hill will have to do a lot more running. I'm also hoping that Anae's well documented predictability in play calling was so as not to give Texas film on his better plays.

5. Duckhunter
Highland, UT,
Aug. 31, 2014

@Pipes

BYU runs a read option offense. That means on the majority of the running plays the QB reads the defense and then decides whether to hand it off, pitch it, or run it himself. The read option will be called over and over again because that is what you do with that offensive scheme. So if by "predictable" you mean the read option will be called a lot as a running play then yes you are correct, it will be called a lot and that is predictable. What Hill reads and does with it each time it is called is less predictable although you should be able to tell what he is going to do if you pay attention to the specific players he his reading.

For instance if the weakside end is coming hard at him he will hand it off to the back, if that end is angling for the back he will keep it himself and run outside, if the play involves a second back who is going wide he may then run an option and either cut it up himself or pitch to the back if the next defender comes to him.