Two defensive players -- Eathyn Manumaleuna and Daniel Sorensen -- and two offensive players -- Mike Alisa and Taysom Hill -- were brought into the post game interview room to talk to reporters after Saturday night's game.
All four had difficulty, at times, talking about the devastating loss.
Senior Tyler Beck filled in for the suspended Spencer Hadley at buck linebacker and recorded a career-high 10 tackles. BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall was not asked after the game for more on the Hadley situation in what was the media's first chance to talk to the coach since the punishment was meted out last Tuesday.
But safety Daniel Sorensen was asked how the loss affected the team.
"I think the guys that stepped in played hard tonight. They played really well. Our defense as a whole we played well, except for two plays. So I think those guys that stepped in worked really hard during practice, and they gave everything they had. I don't think that was as big of an issue as people think."
Sorensen was then asked whether Hadley's suspension was a distraction.
"I was not distracted," he said.
Manumaleuna said the Cougar defense prepared for Utah QB Travis Wilson to run the ball more, and was mildly surprised when he didn't. Like Sorensen, Manumaleuna praised Wilson's poise, and said the sophomore made one real big play, the 74-yard pass to Dres Anderson.
"It is very frustrating to have this loss. It is very tough. We thought we prepared really well this past week, and they just made more plays than us," Manumaleuna said. "It is just a football game. Obviously, there is an emotional aspect to this game since it is a rivalry, but other than that, it is just a football game. You try to make more plays than them. Tough loss."
Manumaleuna said he expects the Cougars to bounce back.
"We have been in this situation before. Kinda had a slow start in years past, and bounced back. We can't worry about it now. It is done, the game's over, so we need to get some rest and focus next week because it is a Friday game next week. You can't really focus too much from this game, but learn from the mistakes and take the good things that we did today and run with it and just prepare for next week."
Alisa was involved in one of the more memorable plays of the game, the punt that bounced high after initially appearing to nick the hands of Utah's returner. Officials reviewed the play and said he didn't touch the ball, which Alisa scooped up and carried into the end zone.
"I was 10 yards away. … I wasn't just acting," Alisa said. "I genuinely thought that it was a muffed punt and it was [going to be] down when I caught it, and it was going our way."
Alisa said the Cougars really believed they were going to beat the Utes this year.
"I walked in the locker room and started looking around at the guys, and it is hard," he said. "These rivalry games, you love them. Our team wanted this game really badly. We prepared really hard this week. I think no one is more surprised at the outcome than we were, based on the way that we prepared."
I used several of Hill's comments in my follow-up article in today's paper. Here are a few more:
His overall thoughts of game:
"You have to give credit to Utah. I think they played well. I think they had a good scheme. At the end of the day, I mean, we have to make plays. We put ourselves in a lot of third and longs, and we didn't capitalize. That's a tough situation for your offense."
On the emotion of the game:
"Going into it, it is a big game. There's a lot of hype. The stadium was packed. Offensively, I don't think we settled down soon enough. Our first couple of drives were three and out, which was frustrating. We put our defense in a bind. We need to do better from the onset of the game and start faster. The second half, we started moving the ball better. It was a rivalry game, and it didn't happen our way. Unfortunately we came up a little short. And it hurts.
We got a long season, we got a lot of tough games ahead of us. And we are playing Friday, so it is a short week."
On the difference between Utah's defense and that played by Texas and how it affected his rushing:
"The way they played our zone read was a little bit different, crashing their ends and they really took our backs away from that, and then they were bringing both their backers on the outside end for me and our running back, so their scheme was good. We caught them on a couple big ones. I don't know what the statistics were, but we need to do better on first and second down and there in the second half we started throwing on first and second down, and it worked better for us."
On having the short turnaround and whether that's good:
"Yeah, I am glad. Really, this was a tough game. We had a lot of penalties, a lot of big plays got called back. And look, at the end of the day, that's what happened and we lost a tough game. I am anxious to go play again, so yes, I am glad that we play on Friday this week. We need to get better."
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