PROVO — BYU senior running back Matt Hadley grew up in the rural central Washington state city of Connell, which lies about midway between the University of Washington and Washington State. So which of the two football programs did the 6-foot, 200-pound running back cheer for growing up? Well, that would be the Huskies, sort of.
"Sometimes I would cheer for University of Washington, just because most of my community were Washington State fans," said Hadley, who is preparing to take on Washington this Saturday. "I'd like to tease my friends because I wasn't really loyal to either, just because we were such big BYU fans growing up."
Hadley followed his older brother, Spencer Hadley, in joining the Cougar football program, spending most of his career playing on the defensive side of the football before switching to running back for his senior season.
PUNTING ISN'T THE WORST THING: Several fans have expressed dissatisfaction with BYU's offensive output, despite the Cougars standing at 3-1 in the early season and with a No. 20 national ranking. A lot of the criticism has been directed at quarterback Tanner Mangum and his rather pedestrian numbers accumulated in throwing the football downfield.
Through four games played, the senior quarterback has accounted for just 612 yards passing and three touchdowns. Coaches always counter with the nuances Mangum manages that go unnoticed by fans, such as calling out correct offensive play-calls and in the lack of turning the ball over.
A big reason for BYU's early success on the year has been in limiting turnovers while winning the turnover battle against opponents.
“There’s nothing wrong with punting the ball,” Sitake said. “You just can’t have crazy, big-time mistakes that you can’t overcome, and usually that happens with mindless throws. So we have to be smart with how we throw the ball.”
Protecting the football hasn't come by chance with the Cougars three wins this season. Coaches have focused on protecting the football since spring camp and through the offseason, extending into fall camp.
“It’s been a huge emphasis on what we’re trying to do,” Sitake said. “I mean, obviously on offense you know you need to take care of the football, and it’s never perfect. … But you just can’t be mindless and just take huge risks.”1 comment on this story
MOTION MATTERS: Keen observers to BYU's new offense have noted numerous players being put in motion before the snap, and not just receivers and running backs, which is normal practice for most offensive systems. Offensive linemen have consistently been seen going in motion from one side of the line to the other, creating unbalanced lines to attack a certain point of the defense, but even more so to gain valuable intel.
“It’s to see how they adjust to our front and our formations,” Sitake said. “I think it’s just more to see how they line up with our jet sweeps and things like that. It’s to see how they adjust.”