Provo • Playing like it had something to prove after losing the first scrimmage last week at LaVell Edwards Stadium, BYU’s defense bounced back Friday night and was the clear victor in the 12-series exercise, by coach Bronco Mendenhall’s estimation.
The offense scored just three times — two touchdowns and a Trevor Samson field goal — and one of those TDs came after it was given a reprieve after being stopped on third down.
“I think they did win last Saturday,” said linebacker Mike Alisa. “But we were better tonight. We definitely came in, like, ‘hey guys, we have a game in two weeks, let’s step it up.’ We definitely took it seriously and wanted to get a real look at what we have as a defense.”
Offensively, the winner was backup quarterback Christian Stewart, who outplayed starter Taysom Hill, although both veterans threw interceptions and Hill threw the game’s only touchdown pass. Alisa picked off Stewart on a deflected pass and freshman Garrett Juergens intercepted Hill on a poorly thrown ball.
“We were too sloppy offensively. I was disappointed in the way that we played as a whole,” said Hill, who completed just half his passes — 9 of 18 — for 89 yards. He did throw a pretty 20-yard touchdown pass to Kurt Henderson on his second series, the scrimmage’s third.
Stewart completed 11 of 15 passes for 128 yards and ran for a TD, despite getting just five series (including the prolonged one) to Hill’s seven.
But rest assured, BYU fans, there is no quarterback controversy in Provo this year.
Asked if he could foresee a scenario in which Stewart plays on Aug. 29 in the opener at UConn, Mendenhall said: “Probably not … My intent is to have Taysom go as long as he can go.”
Offensive coordinator Robert Anae was less direct than Mendenhall when posed with the same question, but acknowledged that Stewart was the sharper QB under the lights on Friday.
“The scenario in this game is always there [for the backup to play], so we coach the kids that can play. So we have to be prepared for all scenarios, to answer your question,” Anae said.
Stewart looked so good during one drive when he threw a beautiful 30-yard strike to freshman Trey Dye that Mendenhall turned to football operations director Zach Nyborg and said he would have no worries about playing the senior from Snow College.
“That might be the bright spot from today. … I feel a lot better now that I saw Christian play that way,” Mendenhall said.
Echoing what Alisa said, senior safety Craig Bills acknowledged the defense wanted to show better Friday than it did last week, although he sat out that scrimmage with a strained groin.
“We have been focusing on our run defense,” Bills said. “We came out hungry tonight. I don’t think the offense could get into a rhythm. It was fun seeing our guys out there playing physical.”
Still, the defense struggled again to stop the run, as Jamaal Williams picked up 42 yards on seven carries and Adam Hine got 59 yards on four carries and also caught a pass for 25 yards.
“Coming out here in the stadium was a little shell-shocking at times,” Anae said, summing up the offensive play. “We got some work to do, still.”
• Mike Alisa and Garrett Juergens intercept Christian Stewart and Taysom Hill, respectively, as the defense “wins” the scrimmage attended by 12,000 fans.
• Backup QB Stewart completes 11 of 16 passes for 128 yards.