PROVO — BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae compares the football season to a marathon.
That’s why he isn’t making too much of the Cougars’ first scrimmage of fall camp before a crowd of approximately 10,000 fans Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
“When you’re looking at a marathon, not too many people ask a question about how did your first five steps go,” Anae said. “That’s where we are, guys. We’re just starting. Yeah, the first five steps were not bad. But we’re just leaving the starting gate. We’re looking at this as a marathon in development.”
The Cougars held a practice at the stadium before the abbreviated, three-series scrimmage, which was highlighted by quarterback Taysom Hill leading the only touchdown drive — a 16-play, 80-yard march that was capped by running back Adam Hine’s 2-yard run.
“I was happy with the way that we finished,” said Hill, who completed 5 of 8 passes for 55 yards and ran three times for 20 yards.
“The one drive from our offense at the end was what I’ve seen throughout fall camp to this point,” coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “It was the cleanest representation of offensive football that I saw for today. Defensively, I thought they were sound in general. It looked like they got tired toward the end of practice. It didn’t look like they were as fresh as the beginning of camp. I didn’t think we were as physical today, especially offensively as what we had been — not only running it or blocking. So that didn’t seem quite as sharp. But overall, a solid day to work.”
Backup quarterback Ammon Olsen threw an impressive touchdown pass to wide receiver Mitch Mathews during red zone work.
Mendenhall’s evaluation of the quarterbacks?
“Ammon has been sharper than he was today, especially in throwing it,” the coach said. “He’s moved the team very closely to what Taysom has. The one drive at the end was 15 or 16 plays. Taysom did a really nice job of orchestrating that, commanding the team.”
Perhaps the biggest cheer from the crowd came during a red zone drill after Hill slid at the end of a run. It was a welcome sight for Cougar fans who have tired of watching QBs get injured while running the ball.
“I kind of chuckled to myself after I slid and heard the crowd,” Hill said. “It was cool.”
“He’s a coachable kid. We coach that; we work on that,” Anae said of Hill’s slide. “In the course of a game, that’s what we hope the quarterbacks do. That’s how he practices.”
On Saturday, Anae’s high-tempo offense wasn’t as fast as previous practices.
“There were times when guys were sluggish, walking around,” Anae said. “That’s kind of the beauty of coming to the stadium. Some guys show up and start sleepwalking. The purpose of the deal was to find out who can come here and go fast and play hard. On film, we’ll have a decent picture of that.”
“Today we were seeing our mental toughness and seeing if we can execute,” said wide receiver Ross Apo. “This has been a really long week. We’ve been hitting since Tuesday. To come out here and go through practice with a scrimmage at the end, the coaches knew it would be tough. This is how it’s going to be in a game in the fourth quarter. We’re going to be tired. We run so much. I think this practice was more for mental toughness and execution.”
Mendenhall emphasized the kicking game Saturday, with Justin Sorensen, Vance “Moose” Bingham and Trevor Samson taking turns on PATs and field goals.
“It was fun to get a few extra kicks in a live situation,” Mendenhall said. “We’re trying to evaluate our kickers. We have three. The competition has been really close. It was great to put them in front of fans today and see what that did in terms of different situations.”
Overall, Mendenhall likes the way fall camp is going.
“I’m comfortable with the number of players we have,” he said. “I’m comfortable with the depth that we have. Execution and installation, I think we’re still 20 practices away from ending camp. A lot of work still to do. I like the talent; I like the pace; I like the consistency; and I like the execution. ... (We’re) probably ahead of where I thought we would be. But I would like to hear it sound differently, and look to be faster. Conditioning is still going to be a huge factor with the tempo.”
“We made a lot of really big plays offensively. We’ve made a lot of strides since the first day until where we are now,” Hill said of the first week of camp. “We’re going to keep that mentality to keep on getting better. We’ve got a couple of weeks before we play Virginia (on Aug. 31). With that same mentality, we’ll be ready to go.”
NOTES: Defensive back Michael Wadsworth turned in the defensive highlight of the day when he had a 30-yard pick-six against quarterback Jason Munns. Mendenhall said the two new offensive linemen that have shown the most through fall camp were D’Ondre Wesley and Brayden Kearsley.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company