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Jay Drew
Jay covers BYU athletics for The Salt Lake Tribune. You can follow him on Twitter @drewjay.

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Much-criticized offensive line eager to prove worth in BYU's bowl game

When the BYU football team last played a game -- it seems like a long, long time ago, for some reason -- backup QB James Lark captured all the storylines with six touchdown passes and no interceptions in the 50-14 win over New Mexico State.

Lost in the hype over Lark's only career start was the fact that the Cougars had a difficult time running the football in the first half against the Aggies.

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Is BYU's offensive line really that bad?

I posed that question to offensive line coach Mark Weber and offensive coordinator Brandon Doman earlier this week for this story that is in today's Tribune about how the unit has persevered despite more injuries than Weber can remember in his 34-year coaching career.

"What we did was we took advantage of what they were giving us," Weber said, a little testiness in his voice. "They loaded the box, and we threw the ball for whatever we threw it for. If they want to do that, we can do the other. It is OK. Points are points. If you throw for a touchdown, it is still six points.

So you always want to establish the run. And because they knew we could run the football, they loaded the box. Because they loaded the box, we could throw the football."

Weber agreed, however, that the Cougars are going to have to establish some sort of running attack a week from today when BYU and SDSU meet in the Pointsettia Bowl. If nothing else, BYU will need to slow down SDSU's pass rush and blitz packages.

"We have played against it and had good success against it," Weber said. "So we will target it well. Our guys are sharp and are getting plenty of good work at it. We get a lot of good work against our defense, bringing pressure. Even though it is not always the same thing, it is good training and good work for our linemen. So we will be in good shape."

Doman said that BYU's offensive game plan has been designed around the strengths and weaknesses of the offensive line.

"Yeah, that plays a big part of how we prepare the plan, and what we do both in the run game and the protection stuff," he said Tuesday. "But today I think our kids on the offensive line did a good job executing our plan, and I think it is a good plan. So hopefully we can continue to iron it out as the days go on, and like I said, with our offensive line, we will have to be real smart with what we choose to do in the run game."

Freshman left tackle Ryker Mathews said he and his mates long the offensive line have heard the criticism, and are eager to show in the bowl game that they've made some major strides.

"Obviously, we are not ready yet. We still have more preparation to do," Mathews said. "But we are working on it. I think we are going to go in with high confidence. We want to mash people, and show people we are a good O-line, and we are not what people have said in the past, that we are soft or anything of that sort."



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