Provo • By most accounts, BYU’s offense embarrassed the defense at last Saturday’s first scrimmage of preseason training camp, racking up more than 40 points on an assortment of big plays and dominating drives.
The tables were turned — if only slightly — on Thursday at LaVell Edwards Stadium, according to most coaches and players who described the workout that was closed to the media until the last few minutes.
“I think the defense kind of got fed up hearing about the offense, and what they were doing,” head coach Kalani Sitake said. “They wanted to do something about it. That’s kind of what happens in camp.”
Cornerback Chris Wilcox concurred with Sitake, who is spending more time with the defense this month than he did in his first two years at the helm.
“I mean, they scored probably like 40-something points on us last time, so it was different this time,” said Wilcox, who is competing with Michael Shelton, Keenan Ellis and Beau Tanner for one of the two starting cornerback spots. “I feel like the defense came through, and I will leave it at that.”
The offense put up 34 points, according to the scoreboard, which showed BYU 34, Arizona 0 at the end. Sitake said it ran 90 plays, compared to 120 last Saturday.
“I thought the defense did pretty good today,” the coach said. “I will have to watch the film. The first half was really controlled by what the defense did.”
Sitake said the defensive line played particularly well, after apparently getting pushed around last time. It came up with five or six sacks and forced a fumble as the offense was going in to score.
The offense’s best play was a 50-yard touchdown pass from Zach Wilson to Aleva Hifo. Tanner Mangum and freshman tight end Dallin Holker connected on a big passing play, quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick said.
Freshman kicker Skyler Southam booted a 48-yard field goal, but also missed a much shorter one.
“I don’t think [the offense] performed as well as we have in some other practices and scrimmages,” offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes said. “We just didn’t make as many plays as we have in the passing game or the running game.”
Grimes said the offense played better in the second half.
Roderick said “it was a pretty even battle” between the offense and defense.
“But we gotta clean up some things, for sure,” he said.
As for the starting quarterback competition, neither Sitake, Grimes nor Roderick would say who played better — Wilson or Mangum — until they had the chance to watch film. Cougar Club members were allowed to watch the entire scrimmage, and several said Wilson played better as they exited the stadium in the 90-degree heat.
“They compete like crazy every day, and the competition is really close,” Roderick said. “What keeps me up at night is at some point I have to give someone the bad news. And that’s hard. I want to do right by the team and our quarterbacks that are competing for the job.”
“When you do this job, you get used to it,” said the veteran of many quarterback competitions when he was at Utah. “Everyone has their critiques and advice. It’s part of the job. I am glad people care. If people didn’t care, I wouldn’t have a job, so I really do appreciate all of them.”
Sitake said the Cougars will only lift weights on Friday, then get the weekend off before getting back at it on Monday. Specific preparations for the opener on Sept. 1 at Arizona will begin at the end of next week, probably after another Thursday scrimmage at LaVell Edwards Stadium.