BYU football: Injuries leave Cougars thin at receiver
Provo • Bronco Mendenhall raved about the quality of BYU's receivers back in preseason camp, saying this was the deepest and most talented group of pass-catchers in his nine-year tenure.
That depth is about to be tested, although not this Saturday when the Cougars (6-3) take on Idaho State (3-7) at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
BYU announced Monday it had lost its second receiver to injury in two weeks, as sophomore outside receiver Mitch Mathews suffered a shoulder injury in the 27-17 loss to Wisconsin that will require season-ending surgery. Senior inside receiver JD Falslev suffered a broken hand during a team activity the prior week, and is still out though he may return to action in a few weeks.
Mathews and Falslev are tied for second on the team in receptions, with 23 apiece. Mathews had 397 receiving yards, second only to Cody Hoffman's 637, and four touchdowns, also second-most on the team.
"Obviously, it is a devastating injury for us and him, but as far as what it does to the position, one man's junkyard is another man's goldmine," said receivers coach Guy Holliday.
Offensive coordinator Robert Anae and Holliday both said Tuesday that the injuries will not cause them to slow down the offense, which is averaging 89 plays per game.
"That's going to be status quo," Holliday said. "We came in here with a plan, and one man's injury is not going to change us. â¦ So if we didn't change it for Cody [Hoffman], we aren't changing it for anybody. And I love Mitch. Nothing against Mitch, but we are not going to change things just because Mitch goes down."
Kurt Henderson, a sophomore from St. George's Snow Canyon High and Colby Pearson, a walk-on freshman from Blackfoot, Idaho, are the likely candidates to move into the four-man rotation on the outside that also includes Hoffman, Ross Apo and Skyler Ridley. Henderson has caught two passes this season, including a 60-yarder against Utah State. Pearson has traveled with the team and played a few times, but it still without a catch.
Junior Marcus Mathews, Mitch's brother, is also available, but recently made the switch back to inside receiver in the wake of Falslev's injury. Seldomly used, Marcus Mathews said Tuesday he wishes he would have sustained the injury, instead of Mitch because his brother was having an outstanding season.
Anae said there is still enough talent at outside receiver, inside receiver and tight end for his offense to flourish.
"Other guys have to step up," Anae said. "We are looking to Kurt Henderson and Marcus Mathews and Colby Pearson to step up and fill that gap. So yeah, we are going to miss Mitch, we really are. But at the same token, Mitch would love to see guys step up and fill that void and be productive."
The Cougars are still waiting for a couple other players, most notably Eric Thornton and Brett Thompson, to get back from injuries and start contributing again. Thompson made the trip to Wisconsin, but was a late scratch during pregame warmups. Thornton hasn't played for nearly a month after starting in the opener against Virginia. Neither Thornton nor Thompson practiced on Monday or Tuesday. Also, tight end Devin Mahina will miss the Idaho State game with a strained adductor. Fellow tight end Kaneakua Friel went out with an injury against Wisconsin, but returned.
Holliday was not happy with his receivers after the Wisconsin game.
"I thought we left some opportunities on the field," he said. "I am never going to be completely happy. ... We didn't grade out well enough to win. ... My job is to get them to play to their best possible ability, and we didn't do that on Saturday."
BYU's receiving numbers
Player GP Rec Yrds TDs
Cody Hoffman 7 36 637 5
Mitch Mathews 8 23 397 4
JD Falslev 8 23 241 1
Skyler Ridley 8 22 247 1
Ross Apo 9 14 204 3
Kurt Henderson 7 2 69 0
Mathews (shoulder) and Falslev (hand) are out with injuries.
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