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Offensive line tops Cougars' priorities

Published September 3, 2013 9:52 am

BYU football • Up-tempo attack failed in season opener.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Provo • After reviewing the film of BYU's 19-16 loss to Virginia over the weekend, coach Bronco Mendenhall said on Monday that it didn't take Cougar coaches long to pinpoint how they lost their season opener for the first time since 2006.

The offense was horrible.

"The brutal facts are we need to get better up front, get better at throwing and catching [the football]," Mendenhall said.

It was evident throughout the game that BYU's revamped offensive line was struggling, and became even more clear upon review, Mendenhall said.

As a result, the same five starters who played the bulk of the plays against Virginia — left tackle Ryker Mathews, left guard Solomone Kafu, center Terrance Alletto, right guard Brock Stringham and right tackle Michael Yeck — won't necessarily start on Saturday when BYU plays host to No. 15 Texas at LaVell Edwards Stadium (5 p.m. MST, ESPN2).

"It will happen, and it started happening today [in practice]," Mendenhall said. "So I am not going to say it is "open season," but really, every spot is being challenged."

Offensive line coach Garett Tujague concurred, saying Mendenhall is "100 percent accurate" in his assessment that the offensive line was not physical enough, not dominant enough, and was mostly manhandled by Virginia's defensive line.

"I was very disappointed in our effort, and that's on me," Tujague said. "A hundred percent. And so I am disappointed in myself that that was able to happen on Saturday."

Mendenhall and Tujague said there were some promising signs from the unit. They said reserve Manaaki Vaitai went in at guard and played well, and Yeck mostly held his own, save a few plays. Juco transfer De'Ondre Wesley spelled Yeck at right tackle for a couple series and earned more playing time.

"We are looking at finding the best combinations, to put the five most physical guys out there every snap," Tujague said, adding that he believes the problem can be fixed and it is simply not just a lack of talent.

"It will be fixed," Tujague said.

The Cougars ran 93 plays, surpassing their stated goal of 90 or so, but there were times that it appeared they were more concerned with getting plays off than running plays that would work.

Mendenhall's response: "I think we could have played harder up front, meaning more physical, and I think we sacrificed, or, they were trained to sacrifice some of the physical play and continuity and execution for the speed. So what we have to take a step in is not only going fast, but actually playing physical in our offensive front with that tempo. And that to me is like the biggest adjustment. The other players handled it pretty well."

Tujague was on the same page as Mendenhall in that regard as well, saying it is dangerous to compromise the quality of the play for the quantity of plays.

"But you still have to be able to embrace the speed at which we go," Tujague said. "If you are just running plays to run plays, that beats the point of running the offense. ... So, that is all being evaluated. The quality is way more important than the quantity."

Although Tujague said Alletto "showed signs of understanding the offensive philosophy," the center must do a better job of getting the ball back to the quarterback.

The coach said nine of the 11 offensive linemen who made the trip played. Freshman Brayden Kearsley did not play because of the two-plus hour delay and other factors related to timing. He said he will make the call on Thursday regarding which five guys will start against the Longhorns, but "every job, every spot, is open."

drew@sltrib.com

Twitter: @drewjay —

Texas at BYU

P Saturday, 5 p.m.

TV • ESPN2 —

BYU's offense against Virginia

Plays Yards First Downs Rush Yards Pass Yards

93 362 21 187 175