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Provo • What happened to Matt Bushman?
That question has been asked of me a lot the past few weeks, as BYU’s freshman All-American tight end from 2017 has gotten off to a slow start in 2018.
Bushman caught two passes for 47 yards, including a 39-yarder, in last week’s 35-7 loss at Washington.
But before that the sophomore had caught just four passes for 62 yards through four games, and was getting fewer reps than junior Moroni Laulu-Pututau and freshman Dallin Holker. Bushman did make arguably the most important catch of the season to date, the 24-yard touchdown pass in the opener against Arizona.
Of course, Laulu-Pututau suffered a season-ending ACL injury on the Cougars’ third play from scrimmage against UW, and Bushman was able to show glimpses of what made him one of BYU’s best players last year when he caught 49 passes for 520 yards and three touchdowns.
“He has really worked to improve himself as a blocker, and was going to play more reps in this last game whether Moroni had gotten hurt or not,” offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes said Tuesday. “I am really pleased with his progress. He’s not there yet, like a lot of guys. But he’s made progress as a blocker.”
With MLP out, Bushman and Holker should both see more playing time. Former offensive linemen JJ Nwigwe and Addison Pulsipher are also available, and returned missionary tight end Hank Tuipuloto was added to the roster recently.
I caught up with Bushman after practice Tuesday and he said he has added a bit of weight to become a better blocker and a more physical player. He said his speed is “the same as last year” and he believes he proved it on the 39-yard reception.
As for not producing as much as he did last year, Bushman said it is because there are a lot more capable tight ends to share the load, unlike in 2017 when he was the only choice after MLP was lost for the season with a Lisfranc injury.
“We have a lot more weapons on offense, as you’ve seen. We have jet sweeps, we have forward jets gashing the defense, trying to pick them apart. Sometimes we don’t need to throw the ball as much, or the receivers are open. Every game there is a new scheme that we have, where we see what will be best to beat that opponent, and sometimes we haven’t needed to throw the ball and air it out as much,” he said. “We are just a lot deeper. We have a lot of tight ends who come in and make plays.”
Rounding Them Up
In case you missed them, here are some of the stories, player profiles and columns The Tribune has brought to you this past week:
• Few in the business can tell a story as well as The Tribune’s Chris Kamrani. Here’s Kamrani’s piece on the four Kaufusis who play football for BYU — Corbin, Devin, Isaiah and Jackson. Trib
• The Tribune’s LDS General Conference section included an interesting story on how a pair of Utah County football stars — Chase Hansen and Britain Covey — bypassed offers from BYU and landed at Utah. Trib
• I’ve been telling anyone who would listen the past few years that BYU’s talent level is down — especially at the skill positions. It’s the reason the Cougars can’t make explosive plays. They’ve had just five plays of more than 30 yards through five games. Trib
• If there was one player on BYU’s football team who didn’t deserve to suffer a season-ending injury, it was Laulu-Pututau. Teammates and coaches were genuinely hurting for the guy when they discussed the injury on Monday during the weekly press briefing. Really sad. Trib
• Without their second-leading receiver on offense and two of their top defenders, the Cougars struggled all night in the 35-7 loss at No. 10 Washington, and lost their national ranking in the process. Trib
Views From Elsewhere
• The Herald Journal in Logan introduced BYU to Aggie fans in the days leading up to Friday’s showdown at LaVell Edwards Stadium. HJnews
• A private investigator followed BYU basketball star Nick Emery around town last year, according to an article in the Deseret News. Emery must sit out the first nine games of the 20181-19 basketball season for allegedly receiving improper benefits from a BYU booster. Dnews
• Former BYU basketball star Kyle Collinsworth is still trying to make it in the NBA, this time with the Toronto Raptors. The Deseret News caught up with Mr. Triple Double when he was in town to face the Utah Jazz in a preseason NBA contest. Dnews
The Utah State Aggies weren’t exactly gracious hosts last year in Logan before, during or after their 40-24 victory over the Cougars. The Aggies walked through the Cougars’ pregame warmups and stretching routines, safety Jalen Davis did the ol’ throat-slashing gesture after a touchdown and many of the Aggies ran over to retrieve the Wagon Wheel trophy before even shaking hands after the game.
The antics haven’t been forgotten in Provo.
“You know, if that is how they want to do it, that’s OK,” said BYU defensive end Corbin Kaufusi. “They have their opinions on how they want to do things. But we like to do things our way. The big dogs don’t have to show their bark, or their bite.”
The waiting is the hardest part
Less than 48 hours after the 35-7 loss to Washington, BYU coaches and players said they were happy this week’s game is a day early (Friday) even though Utah State had a bye last weekend and will be more rested and prepared.
“I wish it was today,” Sitake said. “We need to play better football, and the only way to do that is to get to the next game. And so we will put this game away, with Washington, learn from our mistakes, and get to this next one right away. Our guys are excited. We will be ready. It will be a lot of fun on Friday.”
Quarterback Tanner Mangum agreed.
“Sometimes you get a little too excited waiting for Saturday to come,” Mangum said. “Now we have to wait one less day. We are all frustrated after Saturday’s loss, but what better way to bounce back than have an opportunity to play again quickly.”
Elsewhere on Campus
• BYU’s men’s and women’s basketball teams began practicing last week and is still in the middle of training camp. The men’s team will conduct its annual media day Thursday afternoon at the BYU Broadcasting Building.
• BYU’s No. 1-ranked women’s volleyball team continued to roll, sweeping WCC foes Pepperdine, Gonzaga and Portland last week to remain one of only two undefeated teams in the entire country. Senior outside hitter Roni Jones-Perry was named WCC Player of the Week. The Cougars face perhaps their biggest test until the NCAA Tournament on Friday when they travel to San Diego to take on the Toreros, who are 4-1 in WCC play.
The Cougars won’t leave the friendly confines of LES the entire month of October, although their home record has been less than stellar the past few years. After hosting Utah State on Friday, they will welcome red-hot Hawaii on Oct. 13 and Northern Illinois on Oct. 27. They will be idle on Oct. 20, their only bye of the season.