PROVO The Cougars could be without three key offensive starters when they host Utah State on Saturday in LaVell Edwards Stadium.
On Monday, head coach Bronco Mendenhall reported senior offensive tackle Eddie Keele is lost for the season to a knee injury; starting center Sete Aulai is suspended for the Aggies' game for breaking team rules; and quarterback John Beck (sprained ankles) is day-to-day following an aggravated injury in the Boston College game.
The Cougars (1-2) host Utah State (0-3) Saturday at 1 p.m.
While Beck is being asked to sit out of practice and isolate his right ankle, the season-ending injury to Keele cast a somber cloud over Monday's otherwise spirited practice session in pads and shorts.
When news of Keele's status hit his position coach Jeff Grimes, it didn't go over well. "When I heard the news, I cried," Grimes said. "I feel awful, I feel just awful. I feel so bad for the kid. We'll go on as a team, but what bothers me is here's a kid who has worked as hard as anybody the past two years and transformed himself into a player who was ready for a great senior year."
Grimes said Keele's leadership will be missed the rest of the season. "This was a huge personal setback for him. I feel awful because he is such a wonderful player and great kid, not only did he bring a lot of value to our team as the guy who protects the back of our quarterback, but he brought a toughness, leadership, worth ethic and we'll miss that."
Grimes said he worked Jake Kuresa and Dave Oswald at tackle, but could use Dallas Reynolds, Ray Feinga, Travis Bright and other combinations because he has a lot of candidates. Kuresa and freshman Ryan Freeman are working out at center in place of Aulai this week.
"It really boils down to putting the best five football players on the field at the same time. We'll see how things work out during the week," said Grimes.
Mendenhall put his troops through a rigorous Monday practice, trying to fix small mistakes in the Boston College game that prevented a victory.
Mendenhall didn't want his players to lose sight of all the good things they did Saturday, reminding them that they played outstanding in all phases of the game against a quality opponent on the road. "They have a bitter taste over the loss, but they know there are small things they can fix to turn what happened into a win," Mendenhall said.
The Cougars' penalties against B.C. included some repeat infractions like procedures, and included the first pass interference call of the season.
Mendenhall said BYU needs to increase its precision and execution. "When we executed correctly, we played very well. When we didn't, we gave them opportunities to get back in the game."
Mendenhall said he asked his coaches to take "ownership at a higher level."
To mimick, recreate and practice the "pressure" situations such as field goals, which have misfired against Arizona and B.C., is impossible, according to Mendenhall. "You can practice it, but you can't copy that situation, those circumstances, as in a game."
Mendenhall said Jason Beck will get the first reps every day at quarterback and could do so right up until game time, depending on how John Beck progresses.
John Beck stood on the sidelines. The senior, who was honored by the league on Monday as the offensive player of the week, said he was doing all he could to prepare for USU without actually practicing.
"I've got my helmet and pads on, I'm out there. I'm doing everything I possibly can. My teammates know I've been out there the past two weeks practicing when my ankles were killing me on every step."
Beck said although he had both ankles injured the past three weeks, the pain after the B.C. game was definitely worse than after the Arizona and Tulsa games. "This hurt so bad after this game that just sitting down, not putting any pressure on it, it still hurt."
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