Provo • All BYU’s defense did against Hawaii on Friday night was stop the Warriors’ 182-game scoring streak and hold UH to its lowest yardage output since a 1996 home loss to BYU and its lowest passing yardage since 1998.
“We love it,” BYU safety Daniel Sorensen said. “I think this is the most fun I have ever had playing football, and I think the guys would agree with that. It comes down to the enthusiasm that our coach shows, and the hard work that we have put in.”
The Cougars, who were ranked seventh in the country in defense entering the weekend, should be in the top five when the new NCAA statistics are released Sunday morning. They could be in the top 10 in scoring defense, rushing defense and pass defense as well. They were 13th in scoring defense, ninth in rush defense and 21st in passing defense heading into Week 5.
Cornerback Preston Hadley nailed it when he said the Cougars shouldn’t “walk off just patting ourselves on the back” because Hawaii isn’t the best team BYU (3-2) has played this season. But Hadley, Sorensen and defensive end Ziggy Ansah all said the defense’s confidence is at an all-time high as Utah State and the best quarterback the Cougars will have seen this year, Chuckie Keeton, roll into Provo on Friday (8 p.m., ESPN).
“We know we are a good defense, but we know we can do a lot better, so we are not going to stop putting in extra effort,” Ansah said. “We are not going to stop working hard.”
The Cougars amazingly have held offenses coached by masterminds Mike Leach, Chris Petersen and Norm Chow to just one touchdown this season. It was the first time since a 28-0 loss to SMU in 1998 that Hawaii failed to score in a game.
Coach Bronco Mendenhall, who also serves as the team’s defensive coordinator, talked like a proud father after the Cougars held Hawaii to just 149 yards Friday night.
“I take great pride in it. And it is what I like to do,” he said. “There are a lot of things being the head coach that I am not as suited to. But I like coaching defense, and I like coaching football, being in the room with the players and sharing in their joys and successes. It reminds you why you are coaching.”
If the defense was lacking one area of dominance heading into the UH game, it was the failure to force any turnovers in the losses to Utah and Boise State.
The Cougars got three takeaways Friday — Sorensen had an interception and Hadley and Kyle Van Noy forced fumbles on sacks that were recovered by Bronson Kaufusi and Spencer Hadley. Still, Mendenhall said they can get better defensively.
“We have really high expectations, and they are just a fun group to be around,” he said. “We have good players — our front three and our inside backers and outside backers, our corners and our safeties. It is just a fun group to coach because they are not only willing, they have good ability.”
Utah State at BYU
Friday, 8 p.m. MDT
TV • ESPN