Provo • Though production from the position was dreadful last year, the tight end is seemingly back in the BYU offense, after Austin Holt, Richard Wilson and Marcus Mathews combined to catch seven passes for 88 yards in the 17-16 loss to Texas last week.
And just in the nick of time, as BYU gets set to celebrate its rich tradition at tight end during Saturday's 7:15 p.m. game against Utah at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
The majority of BYU's former All-American tight ends will be honored, including Clay Brown (who made the winning catch in the 1980 Holiday Bowl), Gordon Hudson, Chris Smith, Byron Rex, Itula Mili and Jonny Harline. BYU officials said David Mills, Dennis Pitta and Daniel Coats won't be able to attend.
Pitta, of course, will be in Nashville with the Baltimore Ravens preparing to take on the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. The backup to Ed Dickson in the Ravens' lineup caught two passes for 45 yards in the win over Pittsburgh last week.
Where's the running game?
While the tight ends have been a pleasant surprise for the Cougars so far, the running backs have been a disappointment. The Cougars rushed for just 43 net yards against Texas, with J.J. Di Luigi picking up just 39 yards on 14 attempts.
"I would like to see us run more physically, I would like to see us run more downhill. I think that is going to be imperative to having the balance we need. So not so much just around people, but through people," coach Bronco Mendenhall said Tuesday.
Senior running back Bryan Kariya, who was not feeling well in the Texas game and failed to get a carry, agreed with Mendenhall's assessment.
"I mean, we gotta just put our head down and go get the yards," he said. "No defense is going to just open the gate and let us run all the way to the end zone. We gotta earn that for ourselves. â¦ As far as running backs go, we have to make sure that we make that one cut, plant upfield, get going and hit some guys. I mean, don't expect to just take what the defense is going to give you, but dish it out as well. I think that's our mentality, and I think that's what we have to have, going into this game."
All eyes on the O-line
Senior offensive tackle Matt Reynolds said the Cougars' veteran offensive line has to share some of the blame for the inept running game through two weeks. The Cougars rank 113th in the country in rushing offense, 67.0 yards per game.
"Yeah, I think that is on the offense as a whole, but the majority of it does fall onto our shoulders. When we don't run the ball well, we take that personally. That's something that we have tried to take pride in. Unfortunately, we didn't run the ball well last week, and the week before we didn't run it as well as we wanted to. So that's been a focus this week," Reynolds said.
Harline will appear at the Lehi Costco on Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and at the Orem Costco on Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. to sign a children's book entitled "The Answered Prayer" that recounts the famous pass to him from John Beck in the 2006 BYU-Utah game. â¦ The Cougars have not given up points in a first quarter in their last seven regular-season games.