Provo • While BYU’s offense rightfully has been fingered as the reason the 1-2 Cougars are off to such a horrible start, its defense has been fairly solid, considering the competition.
Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley and LSU running back Derrius Guice, two talented offensive players, generally had their way with the Cougars between the 20s, but the unit has been stingy in the red zone and ranks 74th in yards allowed (376.3 ypg) and 39th in points allowed (17.3 ppg).
“I think our discipline [on defense] so far has been good, not great,” safeties coach Ed Lamb said Tuesday. “We can be better. We need to be better. The end [goal] is to compete each week to the point of victory, and we haven’t got that done.”
Lamb said the safeties he oversees have “played pretty well,” evidenced by holding Utah to 19 points despite giving up 430 yards. One reason is because it is probably the deepest position group on the team, despite losing Matt Hadley to linebacker and playing without senior Micah Hannemann for a game and a half due to first-half suspensions (Portland State and Utah) and the coaches’ decision to hold him out the second half against the Utes.
NO. 10 WISCONSIN AT BYU
When • 1:30 p.m. Saturday
Where • LaVell Edwards Stadium
TV • ABC
Zayne Anderson, Tanner Jacobson, Utah transfer Austin Lee and senior walk-on Marvin Hifo all have seen significant playing time, along with Hannemann.
“The days are gone where a guy can play a whole season, every single snap,” Lamb said. “So it is important to have guys to rotate in, and we do. We have that luxury. If we didn’t, we would just have to play the two guys that are clearly better than everyone else. But I think we have enough guys that are competent at that position that when we can, we need to put some new bodies in there.”
Lamb said Hannemann “will be ready to go” against Wisconsin on Saturday (1:30 p.m., ABC) but it isn’t clear if he will regain his starting position.
The coach acknowledged that Hifo, brother of receiver Aleva Hifo, has been a pleasant surprise in his only season of eligibility remaining. Hifo led BYU with 10 tackles in the 27-0 loss to LSU and had a solo takedown against Utah.
“He’s done a tremendous job,” Lamb said. “He is one of the best tacklers on our team. I love him.”
Tanner Mangum update
Although BYU is not disclosing his injury status, per school policy, it is looking more and more like junior quarterback Tanner Mangum will not play Saturday and could be out for up to eight weeks with an ankle injury.
The school did not allow reporters onto the field after practice Tuesday, as generally has been the process this season. Coaches and players instead were taken upstairs to the football offices lobby, where reporters were waiting for interviews.
Asked if Mangum was at practice Tuesday, fellow captain Butch Pau’u, a linebacker, declined to answer.
“You will have to talk to coach [Ty] Detmer,” Pau’u said. “We don’t know.”
As was reported Monday, redshirt sophomore Beau Hoge will make his first college start if Mangum can’t play.
Lamb said the 28-yard field goal that BYU kicker Rhett Almond missed in the second quarter against Utah — points the Cougars desperately needed — was not entirely Almond’s fault. The snap was low and the hold was bobbled just enough to disrupt the timing.
“Those two things caused Rhett to hesitate a bit, and in our special teams meeting, in front of the whole team, I explained to the team that most missed kicks are a third, a third, a third,” Lamb said. “It is an operational issue, and that was definitely an operational issue. The snap, hold and kick have all got to be on point. None of them were, and none of them corrected for each other.”