Moments after BYU's 20-13 loss to Utah last Saturday, offensive coordinator Robert Anae was downright blunt in his assessment regarding why the Cougars lost.
"We got beat tonight in the trenches," Anae said. "That's something where we got to simply get better. Credit goes to Utah. They were better than we were there."
Statistically, the Cougars held their own. BYU out-gained Utah 443-402, had 24 first downs to Utah's 16, and held the Utes to 1 of 14 on third-down conversions.
Anae recognized that the Cougars ran 27 more plays and often saw quarterback Taysom Hill running for his life.
Anae continued that theme when he met with reporters on Tuesday.
"Well, there is no magic fix there," he said. "We just take it one day at a time and one play at a time to get yourself better. We did take a step forward with that in the Texas game. But we got outplayed in the Utah game, and out-coached. So we got to do a better job all the way around there. So it is symptomatic of an ailing offense. It starts with your guys up front.
When it is going well, you all pay attention to the skill guys -- give them interviews and give them credit. When it goes bad, it is usually … but that's football. It really does start in the trenches."
New offensive line coach Garett Tujague didn't sugar-coat things either when it was his turn to discuss how the offensive line played against the Utes.
"My personal take on this is anytime you lose a football game it is in the trenches. They don't hand out those nice glass trophies at 7 on 7 tournaments. So games are won and lost, period, in the trenches. It is a fact of life, and so you can sit back and dwell and cry on your pillow, or you can use the next opportunity to become great," he said. "And so that's what we focused on. We are learning to master our craft. And some guys are moving along faster than others. Others are taking a little bit more time. We are going to get there. We will get there."
Tujague said he wasn't happy with the result, but did see some positive signs, some steps in the right direction.
"Again, in a game like the last one, there's a lot of stake, the rivalry and all that stuff, the emotion. I thought the guys played really, really hard, but you also now have to play really really hard, and execute. So it is a process. We are getting better every day, every drill, every block, we are getting better.
The emphasis is on making every single thing you do matter, making it count, and so they've got that down, and now we just have to minimize the mistakes, and be precise, master our craft."
I will say this much about the offensive overhaul that took place in the offseason: the new guys (Tujague, running backs coach Mark Atuaia and receivers coach Guy Holliday) deliver much better quotes than the guys they replaced (Mark Weber, Joe DuPaix and Ben Cahoon). It's not even close. I'm not going to say Anae is better in that department than former OC Brandon Doman, because Doman was one-of-a-kind in the ability to deliver frank, honest answers. But Anae keeps things lively, as has been documented many times since spring ball.
Here's more from Tujague:
On which offensive linemen are impressing him:
"Michael Yeck has done an amazing job all year. He has been battling. We moved him, and he hasn't skipped a beat. He is getting better and better every day. He is one of the guys, every single time he takes a snap or does a drill, he is trying to be perfect. And so a lot of guys can learn from that.
De'Ondre [Wesley] has come from not even having a chance to play to being a guy that is getting 50 percent of the reps. He has done a great job. His nastiness, and his competitiveness, is pretty impressive.
Brayden Kearsley did a great job on Saturday, throwing a puppy into a big rivalry game like that with a lot of stake, and driving dudes 5, 10 yards off the ball, and then them getting mad and throwing him. That's what you want your seniors to do, and he's doing it as a true freshman.
So those guys have impressed me. You got steady Eddie with Terrance [Alletto] at center, and he's done a great job of keeping the tempo of the offense where it needs to be, and putting guys in the right place and making calls. So those guys stand out. Other guys are working to get there.
My No. 1 war daddy is Brock [Stringham]. This program, this university, is everything to him. He will die for the cause. And so he has done a great job of getting better as well, holding down the right tackle spot and handling a lot of the best pass rushers. He's done a great job."
On whether the nastiness he wants to see is coming out in his O-linemen:
"It is spreading, and that's the most important thing. Guys have got to be able to do that. And it is tough here. They have got to be nasty. And we talk about that every day. Then you come in, you hang your helmet up, then you open the door for the nice young lady that is crossing the street. This is what we do at BYU, and you have got to embrace that. And the guys have got the off-the-field part down. They are great at it. We are working on that edge on the field, of being that guy who is going to choke somebody out if they get close to Taysom [Hill], that's the mentality you have to have. If somebody gets close to Jamaal [Williams] they have a fight on their hands. That's the culture we are trying to create here."
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