BYU football: Cougars hope to address 2 major areas in wake of Virginia defeat
Mark A. Philbrick/BYU, Bella Torgerson/BYU
PROVO — With no time to lick wounds or pout over a tough loss to Virginia last weekend, the BYU Cougars have already turned their attention to Saturday's big game against Texas.
BYU practiced hard — and a bit angry — on Monday, according to players.
“I think we bounced back well,” said linebacker Spencer Hadley. “We got a lot of work done and it was pretty high energy. I felt good about the way guys bounced back.”
With a full game under its belt, the team is working to improve two specific areas.
The first area, according to coach Bronco Mendenhall, is simply throwing and catching the ball effectively in critical situations. “There were too many drops that were drive-changers,” he said.
Secondly was continuity and all-around better play from the offensive line. Coaches mentioned throughout fall camp that the O-line would be a work in progress, but after one game, the work may take longer than previously imagined.
Regardless of who the starters were against Virginia, coaches are considering changes at all five individual positions.
“I’m not going to say it’s open season, but really every spot is being challenged,” Mendenhall said. “Where we start with this week’s starting five will be interesting. It’s likely not going to be the same starting five.”
Mendenhall mentioned that he was specifically impressed with De’Ondre Wesley, Manaaki Vaitai and Michael Yeck.
UNGA UNCERTAIN: X-rays came back negative on starting middle linebacker Uani Unga, but his status is still uncertain for Saturday's game against Texas. Mendenhall said that Unga could barely do a push-up Monday due to what appears to be a soft tissue injury to his chest.
As for Unga’s play Saturday, he received the highest of marks from his coach.
“He played, I would say if not the best game, it was one of the best games, for an inside linebacker, that I’ve ever seen,” Mendenhall said. “He played really, really well and there was not regard for his body.”
As for star receiver Cody Hoffman, his hamstring is still being evaluated, but coaches are hopeful he can play this week.
CORNER AND KICKING CONCERNS: There were a lot of concerns at both cornerback positions leading up to the first game against Virginia, but those concerns were quelled significantly. Skye PoVey and Dallin Leavitt provided solid play at boundary corner, while Robertson Daniel, playing at field corner, provided two pass breakups during his first series, causing Mendenhall to call the game differently.
“I called the game as if he were Jordan Johnson,” Mendenhall said. “I started out a little more tentative — just trying to see if he’s going to be OK — and after about the second series it required no consideration — and the same for Skye PoVey and Dallin Leavitt. It’s only been one game, but I was encouraged by that.”
As for the kicking, which was also a concern, Mendenhall was satisfied with Justin Sorensen’s performance
“I thought Justin Sorensen kicked the ball well, especially with field goals and (extra points,)” Mendenhall said. “The kickoffs were good, not great, but it was nice to see the ball go through the uprights.”
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