BYU Football: Penalties hold back Cougar offense
Published: August 29, 2014 11:32PM
Updated: August 29, 2014 11:39PM
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BYU quarterback Taysom Hill (4) looks to pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Connecticut in East Hartford, Conn., Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Fred Beckham)

East Hartford, Conn. ­• Summing up Friday’s 35-10 win over UConn at Rentschler Field, BYU receiver Mitch Mathews said if the Cougars had cut down on the penalties and turnovers, they probably would have scored every time.

But that was a big if, it turns out.

The Cougars committed 15 penalties for 150 yards — including 11 for 95 in an ugly, flag-filled first half that seemed to last forever. They also fumbled the ball away twice and missed a 33-yard field goal.

In other words, there’s plenty to work on in practice week, coach Bronco Mendenhall said after improving to 7-3 in season-openers.

“Things to improve on and things to address [are] special teams play in general,” Mendenhall said. “… Then just clean play overall. Some of it might be first-game, some of it might be aggressiveness, but in general it reflects the preparation that they received.”

UConn wasn’t much better, committing an early turnover that quickly turned into a 14-0 lead for BYU, and throwing an interception (by Craig Bills) when it got close to the goal line in the first half. The Huskies committed nine penalties.

Bills said the personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties will have to be curbed if the Cougars are to put together a special season.

“I don’t know why it was [so bad in the first half],” he said. “I mean, we have aggressive players out there, and we were excited. You have to be smart, too ... You have to play hard and aggressive, but be smart also. It is definitely something that can be fixed and needs to be fixed.”

Mathews said the Cougars were determined to play confidently and aggressively.

“I think the knowledge that our stuff was working, even with the flags and the penalties … that gave us confidence,” he said. “Play nasty, but don’t play dirty, that was kind of the motto, I guess, in the locker room [at halftime]. Play like your hair is on fire, and go hard, but play smarter.”

Actually, it was veterans such as Bills, Mathews, offensive lineman Brock Stringham and linebacker Alani Fua who were flagged for some of the most egregious stuff.

The younger players who filled in for the five suspended starters — Jamaal Williams, Devon Blackmon, Robertson Daniel, Jordan Johnson and Marques Johnson — played well, Mendenhall said, pointing out the job done by redshirt freshman Jordan Preator at corner in particular.

Mendenhall said he expects all five to play next week against Texas.

“Yeah, I think my response to [the media] last time [he was asked] was I would love for them to be back. That is the hope,” Mendenhall said. “They all have very specific things that they have to do, and I think they will, and I will be very surprised if not all five are back … They have specific criteria that they have to work on and live by, and everything will be just great. They will have 12 more games.”

Opening-game miscues

• BYU is penalized 15 times for 150 yards

• The Cougars fumble the ball away twice after picking up first downs on promising drives

• Kicker Trevor Samson misses a 33-yard field goal, and has no touchbacks on six kickoffs