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BYU football notebook: No surprise the Cougars working on ball security

Published: Saturday, Aug. 1 2015 12:01 a.m. MDT

Brigham Young Cougars running back JJ Di Luigi (10) celebrates the win after  the Cougar season opener with Ole Miss  in Oxford, Miss  Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011. BYU won 14-13. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Brigham Young Cougars running back JJ Di Luigi (10) celebrates the win after the Cougar season opener with Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011. BYU won 14-13. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

PROVO — It's no wonder that one of the issues that BYU is working on in practice this week is protecting the ball.

That's what happens after coughing up seven turnovers, including six fumbles, in a 54-10 loss to Utah.

What's perplexing is that the Cougars didn't lose a single fumble in their first two games at Ole Miss and at Texas.

So what is coach Bronco Mendenhall's team doing to address the ball security issue?

"Besides constant thought and emphasis in drill work, I think through the first two games, there wasn't a ball on the ground," he said. "The number (of fumbles) that went on the ground on Saturday certainly was a surprise. Now the quick diagnosis is, how come, where were they coming from, in what circumstances, and how to prevent that from happening again is where the time is being spent."

Brigham Young Cougars running back JJ Di Luigi (10) is stopped by the Ute defense in MWC football action  Saturday. The Utes pulled off a one-point victory in the closing seconds of the game. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Brigham Young Cougars running back JJ Di Luigi (10) is stopped by the Ute defense in MWC football action Saturday. The Utes pulled off a one-point victory in the closing seconds of the game. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Running backs Joshua "Juice" Quezada and JJ Di Luigi lost fumbles on the second and third series of the game against the Utes, both in Utah territory. Di Luigi's fumble came inside the Utes' 5-yard line.

"A guy kind of grabbed it from inside a pile that I didn't see," Di Luigi explained. "It caught me off guard. I should always have my guard up. Then Juice's, it was just a matter of keeping the ball high and tight. It's more technique than anything."

Di Luigi acknowledged that extra time is being spent in practice doing drills to prevent fumbling.

"(The coaches) tell us every time we have the ball in our hands that we're holding the Band of Brotherhood in our arms," he said. "We've just got to grip it tight and not let it go. This last week we let it go too many times."

JJ Di Luigi of BYU grabs a near fumble ahead of Eric Tuiloma of UNLV during the second half of play in Provo Saturday November 6, 2010  Brian Nicholson, Deseret News (Brian Nicholson, Deseret News) JJ Di Luigi of BYU grabs a near fumble ahead of Eric Tuiloma of UNLV during the second half of play in Provo Saturday November 6, 2010 Brian Nicholson, Deseret News (Brian Nicholson, Deseret News)

The last time BYU had seven turnovers in game was in 2004, when the Cougars fell at Stanford, 37-10.

EVEN TALENT?: Mendenhall was asked Tuesday "how big" the "talent discrepancy" was between BYU and Utah in the wake of a 44-point Ute victory.

"I don't think it was large at all, actually. In fact, I thought it was about dead-even, to be honest with you," the Cougars' coach said. "The game through, I would say, 2 1/2 quarters, was indicative of the talent and the parity of (that talent).

"Then basically the mistakes that we end up creating, or you could say that were forced by Utah — both would be accurate — but any time you turn the ball over seven times, with two teams that are fairly equal, the result usually ends up something similar to what you saw on Saturday.

"But I was very comfortable with the matchups, really, at every position, from O-line to D-line, from linebacker to running back, from receiver to DB, on both sides," Mendenhall said. "I do think that Utah did a really nice job on special teams, and I think they clearly held the edge there."

INJURY UPDATE: Linebacker Jordan Pendleton is "slowly recovering" from an ankle injury suffered in the Texas game, Mendenhall said. He played in the first half against Utah, but was sidelined for the second half. Pendleton saw a specialist Tuesday and is listed as "day-to-day."

Offensive lineman Houston Reynolds is suffering from an injured foot and shoulder. His was wearing a boot Tuesday. Head trainer Kevin Morris said Reynolds is "doubtful" for Friday's game against Central Florida.

email: jeffc@desnews.com

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