PROVO — BYU defensive secondary coach Nick Howell didn't mince words Monday when asked about his players' performance last weekend in a 42-24 loss to Oregon State.
"It was not like us. It wasn't how we've been playing all year," Howell said. "We made too many mistakes, which led to quick drives and quick scores. It surprised me and it surprised our players."
The Beavers, playing with backup quarterback Cody Vaz — making his first career start — torched the Cougars by throwing for 332 yards and three touchdowns. OSU wide receivers Brandin Cooks and Markus Wheaton combined to catch 13 passes for 239 yards.
Going into the game, BYU was ranked No. 12 in the nation in passing defense, allowing just 169.8 yards per game. The Cougars dropped to No. 24 in that category this week.
Asked to describe his players' mood in Monday's practice, Howell said, "Hungry, because they saw that they messed up. These guys want to win. They had a game where they didn't execute. They don't want it to ever happen again. They know if they execute, and practice hard, they can stop anybody. When you look at the film, it's nothing special that (Oregon State) did. It's that we didn't execute. If we had executed, we would have had the results we had the first six games. It was missed assignments. That was it. We should have the routes covered and we didn't. Their receivers made some good catches. But we didn't execute."
BYU visits No. 5 Notre Dame Saturday (1:30 p.m. MT, NBC). Will the Fighting Irish, and other future opponents, attack the Cougar secondary?
"I don't know," Howell said. "I hope so. I hope teams throw the ball, to give us a chance to redeem ourselves. We're prepared for it."
Cornerback Jordan Johnson acknowledged that OSU's wideouts were fast and ran precise routes, but added that more could have been done to slow them down.
"Those two-and-three-man route combinations is something we had a problem with during the game. We tried to adjust to it in the second half," Johnson said. "They could be stopped. We made mental mistakes. I was thinking too much."
The Cougars certainly weren't happy about giving up 450 yards of total offense and 42 points. Not after this same defense had gone 13 straight quarters without surrendering a touchdown, and had gone 12 games without yielding more than 300 yards in total offense.
"It was a shot at our pride. We're offended when people put up points on us," said cornerback Preston Hadley. "That wasn't us. We have a lot to prove this week. We have a lot to prove every week. We're going to come out and make a statement this weekend, come out and play like crazy."
"No one really scores on us like that," Johnson said. "Their quarterback did a great job with ball placement. Sometimes, it's not your day. As a (defensive back), you have to have a short memory."
Notre Dame is No. 86 in the nation in passing offense, averaging 206.5 yards per game. Starting quarterback Everett Golson sustained a concussion on a helmet-to-helmet hit late in the fourth quarter in the Irish's win over Stanford last weekend, but Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is expecting that Golson will be able to play Saturday. Golson likes to run out of the pocket, while his backup, Tommy Rees, a former starter, is a pocket passer.
No matter which quarterback plays, Howell wants his players to "do their assignments, and their jobs, exactly right."
The secondary remains confident, according to Johnson. "We can play with the best in the nation," he said. "We're ready for the opportunity and challenge."
Johnson added that he is looking forward to making improvement this week.
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