PROVO — BYU's defense responded to the challenge in the season-opener against Washington State.
Sure, it was the first game for coach Mike Leach, who is installing the "Air Raid" offense in Pullman, but his teams have a reputation for pouring on points.
BYU kept Washington State out of the end zone, giving up just a pair of field goals in a 30-6 victory last Thursday night. WSU rushed for minus-5 yards and passed for 229 yards.
"Anytime you hold a team to negative yards rushing, that's a huge accomplishment," senior linebacker Brandon Ogletree said. "That's a dominant performance in our book. We did really well against the run. The great part about our team right now is we're not happy about letting them score six points. I think that's scary if you're an opposing offense because we've got guys in there that are ticked that we gave up six points. Same thing with the offense. They're not happy that they left as many points on the board as they did."
Leading up to the opener, Ogletree and his teammates were asked plenty about the "Air Raid."
And they tired of it.
"It's an insult. It's a slap in the face, man. We were a top 15 defense last year," Ogletree said. "I don't want to hear about how we should be scared of anyone. C'mon, man. I mean, we respect them, obviously, but we're not scared of anybody. I'll put our defense up against any offense in the country."
To prepare for WSU, Ogletree said the defense studied film of teams like Texas Tech and West Virginia.
"I don't think we were caught off guard at all," he added. "We watched hours and hours and hours of film getting ready for these guys. We have a lot of respect for them and I still expect them to be one of the top offenses in the country this year, which says a lot about our defense."
Ogletree was impressed by the secondary, including sophomore cornerback Jordan Johnson, who returned an interception 64 yards in his first career start.
"To see Jordan Johnson and see how far he's come with this team, when he makes a great play like that you're just so happy for him because we sweat together and bleed together all year long," Ogletree said. "Those are the deposits. And on game nights when we make the withdrawals, it's just a lot of fun. It's a celebration."
Coach Bronco Mendenhall also enjoyed what he saw from the secondary.
"They played smart," he said. "I really liked the play of Jordan Johnson in his first full start. Joe Sampson, Daniel Sorensen, and Preston Hadley and those guys did a really nice job, then Mike Hague playing all the nickel that he did. It's not easy."
Of course, Mendenhall is well aware of Leach's ability to lead a prolific offense.
"I didn't really put much focus on the coach and make it personal at all," he said. "It's a very good system. It's very hard to stop, whether it's just being installed or whether it's later. We were prepared for a difficult game. We knew the ball would go in the air a lot. I thought the defensive players did a really nice job of executing their assignments."
PROBLEMS WITH PENALTIES: BYU was whistled for 12 penalties for minus-112 yards against WSU. Six of WSU's 18 first downs came as a result of a penalty.
"I couldn't tell you what caused those — probably people trying to do too much," Ogletree said. "That's usually what it is. Coach Mendenhall trusts us and he's usually hands-off when it comes to that stuff. He's calm and he's not going get in anyone's face. That shows the level of trust he has in us. All he has to do is tell us one time and usually it works out. But you never want to see 112 penalty yards. That's not our thing. We need to get that corrected."
JAMAAL'S DEBUT: True freshman running back Jamaal Williams had six carries for 15 yards, including a seven-yard run, against Washington State.
While his numbers weren't terribly impressive, Mendenhall was pleased with the performance.
"I really liked the hard-nosed running of Jamaal Williams at the end of the game," he said. "There was a nice mindset he brought to our team as he was getting the ball."
Contributing: Brandon Gurney