Provo • A targeting penalty on BYU safety Micah Hannemann in the third quarter of Saturday’s 27-0 loss to LSU that will cause the senior to miss the first half of this week’s rivalry game against Utah was the right call, BYU coach Kalani Sitake said Monday after reviewing the film.
“He hit [LSU running back Derrius Guice] with the crown of his [helmet],” Sitake said. “And after watching it in slow motion and being able to review it again, that’s not the way we teach people to tackle. … It is a difficult lesson for Micah to learn, but we anticipate going into this game without him in the first half.”
Coincidentally, BYU safety Kai Nacua and cornerback Austin McChesney were ejected in the second half of last year’s 20-19 loss to Utah, causing them to miss the first half of the next game, against UCLA. Also, Hannemann was ejected for targeting against a Wyoming player in the Poinsettia Bowl last December, causing him to miss the first half of the Portland State game.
Sitake learned last year that he can’t appeal targeting ejections to the national coordinator of officials because the in-game booth review is the final word and appeals are not possible.
“I understand the rule,” Sitake said. “They want to keep people protected. I agree with it. The way coach [Ed] Lamb and our defensive staff teaches to tackle, that’s not part of it.”
Indeed, Lamb said last week that safety Zayne Anderson was fortunate to not get ejected for targeting after breaking up a pass to a PSU receiver.
“What I would have liked to have seen him do, and the coaching point on that play, is just wrap up,” Lamb said. “We don’t hit. Hitting is out of the game, and was out of the game a few years ago. It was taken out of the game by officials. … What we look to do is either block or tackle, and that was a little more towards a hit. So we left it up to the judgement of the official. We were fortunate.”
Having Hannemann’s back
Linebackers Fred Warner and Matt Hadley, a former safety, both said Monday that the loss of a three-year starting defender will hurt the unit, but the depth at safety is such that BYU should be able to weather the storm.
“We feel confident about the guys who can come in and help out and get the job done,” Hadley said. “When the second half comes around and Micah is in, it is going to be awesome for us.”
Hadley and Warner said coaches put a big emphasis on keeping face masks up and wrapping up, but it is difficult to do that when an RB with the size and talent of Guice breaks free up the middle.
“He has got to learn to just wrap up and keep his head up, stuff like that,” Warner said. “It is just tough, because it is really hard for defenses to play nowadays, with the rules.”
After running backs Kavika Fonua and KJ Hall both left the LSU game with apparent injuries, Sitake said Monday that Fonua “will be fine” but that “we will wait and see” on Hall’s condition. Offensive coordinator Ty Detmer said on his radio show that Hall suffered an elbow injury.
“I am not a doctor,” Sitake said. “They are not out [for the season]. That’s the way I understand it right now.”
Running back Riley Burt has still not seen action, but Detmer said on his same radio show that the redshirt sophomore is practicing. Burt warmed up with the safeties before the LSU game, but that may change now that Fonua and Hall are banged up.
“We don’t feel like he’s ready yet,” Detmer said of Burt. “He is a guy [who is] getting reps in practice.”
Cougars hungry to end streak
BYU players and Sitake were reminded several times that BYU hasn’t defeated Utah since 2009, a streak of six straight losses.
“Um, about as hungry as you can get. We will put it that way. We are hungry, that’s for sure,” Hadley said.
What would a win mean to Warner, who suffered through the 35-28 Las Vegas Bowl loss in 2015 and the one-point loss last year at Rice-Eccles?
“It would mean everything, man, especially for myself,” Warner said. “There is going to be a lot of emotion in this game. The fact that it is at home is going to be huge for us.”