Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
BYU linebacker Fred Warner (4) celebrates a good play against the Utes in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. The Cougars' defense is hoping for more takeaways moving forward.

PROVO — An aggressive mentality by the BYU defense paid dividends early during the team's 40-24 loss at Utah State last Friday.

Safety Micah Hannemann, and the Cougar defensive secondary, was burned on at least one bubble screen during the first series of the game. So instead of standing pat, Hannemann decided to change things up.

Hannemann and cornerback Troy Warner switched coverages during the next Utah State offensive series, confident it would catch Aggie quarterback Kent Myers off guard.

The strategy paid off, as Hannemann picked off a pass and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown on the third play of Utah State's second offensive series.

“Luckily the quarterback didn’t see me, and threw it right to me,” Hannemann said.

Being ahead of the curve on the play almost did Hannemann in, as he was seen bobbling the ball a bit before gaining full possession.

“I was thinking about it too much because as soon as I saw they were throwing it I was thinking, ‘OK, I’m taking this one back,’” Hannemann said. “So I was thinking about it too much, but good thing I held on.”

As good as Hannemann's aggressive play was, it was the only turnover the defense caused that night. While Utah State was held to under 300 yards of offense, the lack of takeaways proved big in the final outcome.

Limiting yardage while causing turnovers can often be a fine balance, with Hannemann and his teammates hoping to do both, moving forward.

“It hurts sometimes because they may go and get a first down when you could have just tackled them,” Hannemann said of making better efforts to strip the football or jump a route. “But the turnover margin is huge. Whoever wins the turnover margin wins the game (usually), and we keep losing the turnover margin.”

KICK RETURN GAME LACKING: Special teams coordinator Ed Lamb has been generally pleased with the threat Jonah Trinnaman brings to the kick return game, but hasn't been pleased with other aspects.

“His last return, that was well-blocked, was in the Utah game,” Lamb said. “So I think we’re behind as a kickoff return unit. I wouldn’t, at all, put that on Jonah. I still have a high level of confidence in him.”

One thing Lamb wants to see from Trinnaman, and all of his returners, is a solid decision, regardless of where they field the ball.

“I want to see us bring it out with confidence and bring it out with forward momentum,” Lamb said. “So that has to be corrected, going forward.”

SIONE OF ALL TRADES: With middle linebacker Butch Pau'u hurt, Sione Takitaki saw a lot of reps playing the middle linebacker position, moving over from his starting defensive end spot against Utah State. He did so as a means to spy the quarterback, using his athleticism to play both spots effectively.

3 comments on this story

“It was not a big deal,” Takitaki said. “We play that scheme, practiced it all week and had it in the playbook, so running it really wasn’t that big of an adjustment.”

Takitaki may be asked to do so again, with Pau'u's status still up in the air, along with other variables factoring into BYU's defensive scheming. Playing in a variety of roles is something the junior defender is very open to.

“I like it a lot,” Takitaki said. “I can put my hand on the ground and also play a little linebacker … So yeah, I love it.”