Well, it was about time! The Cougars offense showed balance on the ground and in the air in a full scrimmage setting that was long overdue.
“If I seem a little somber, it’s because we gave up three touchdowns today to our offense,” said safety Mike Hague. “I don’t think we’ve ever done that before in a scrimmage in a long time, if not ever, for as long as I’ve been here.”
Hague was visibly disappointed with the defensive effort from the first team down to the third.
But, it was a productive day for the offense and some of the younger guys, including true freshman Jamaal Williams, who had a rushing touchdown.
“We had a lot of the freshmen get into the action today and they got a chance to show what they could do. It was a good day for a lot of the young guys,” said J.D. Falslev. “We had running back Jamaal Williams running around out there, and he did a fantastic job today and scored that touchdown we had down here in the blue zone.”
The first-team defense was a little overwhelmed by the effective balanced attack on the ground and through the air.
Nelson led the first drive of the scrimmage and started off things by taking the offense downfield in a 12-play drive that resulted in a touchdown pass to Falslev.
“Yeah, I was really pleased with that first drive,” Nelson said.
“I wasn’t too happy with our performance,” said Hague. “The offense came out and really had a lot of success, and a lot of that was because of the way the offense executed. I wasn’t happy with the way we covered the field in our passing schemes and how we defended against the run. They were really hard to stop today and it’s because Riley was able to make the throws and the running backs helped set him up.”
Not to get BYU fans overly excited about Williams, but it’s hard not to get giddy about this young man’s future at BYU after watching him run on Thursday.
During the fourth series Williams took a handoff, bounced it outside and got around the corner. A linebacker came up on an angle and was set to make the tackle. While in stride heading down the sidelines, Williams did a high-step stutter move that put the linebacker off balance. With a quick stiff-arm, the pursuing linebacker was on the ground as Williams ran by. He was eventually hit out of bounds after eating up a good chunk of the field for a gain.
“Jamaal Williams stiff-armed a guy to the ground and hurt his feelings,” said Nelson with a laugh.
Getting up off the ground, Williams jumped up, whooped and hollered, yelling, ‘Let’s go!’ and ran back onto the field to the cheers of fans watching from the stands.
Later, Williams caught a pass and bounced it outside for seven yards. His overall performance was very impressive for a 17-year-old true freshman, to say the very least.
“Jamaal Williams did really well … He’s very explosive and he’s got lots of speed,” Nelson said, “and if he can keep playing like he did today, he may be able to see the field this year, which is amazing because the dude is young, even for a freshman. I’m really excited for him.”
Michael Alisa showed glimpses of what he could do, but the one back that received a lot of reps, and will more than likely go unnoticed among fan sites, is David Foote.
“David Foote was slippery, man!” said Nelson. “He would get in those piles and keep his knees high and keep pounding and was able to push and drive out those piles. We know what kind of a runner Mike is.”
Several players stood out to Nelson.
“I really liked Dave Foote,” Nelson said. “Cody Raymond stood out to me and Jamaal Williams stood out to me.”
And on the defensive side of the ball?
“I really liked [Micah Hannemann] and he did really well,” Nelson said. “He got burned a couple of times but that happens sometimes when you’re on an island, but, yeah, he did well. Bronson [Kaufusi] did well on the defensive line.”
There were others as well. Outside linebacker Jheremmya Leuta-Douyere had a good day, and, surprisingly, Tui Crichton made some great stops in the middle as a defensive nose guard. Adam Hogan broke up passes when going against receivers Brett Thompson, Cody Raymond and Jordan Smith.
However, despite some defensive success, it was the running game that allowed the quarterbacks to have so much success through the air, which Nelson recognized after the scrimmage.
“I know you watch football and all the gaudy passing numbers, but football is still a game of balance,” said Nelson. “Even those teams that throw it fifty times a game balance it out with screens and quick game stuff, which are basically runs. We have good enough backs. I mean, you saw all of our backs on display today.
“Mike [Alisa] obviously had a great day today, but I felt that Dave [Foote] one of the best scrimmages out of all the backs. Then, Jamaal and Adam ran really well. We have good enough backs that we need an under-the-center downhill run game, and yeah, when that’s running, the defense is really in a bind.”
The physical, smash-mouth play of Iona Pritchard and Zed Mendenhall, coupled with the finesse game of Alisa, Hine, Foote and Williams, really created a very good balance and change-up. It was a situation that will give the Cougar offensive coaches a lot of options to work with in the future.
“I expected our guys to be physical and it was exciting to see our guys come out and put a hurt on a defense that I think is one of the better defenses we’ve had out here in a long time,” said Nelson.
Because of the run game led by Alisa, Foote, Hine, Pritchard and Williams, the field seemed to open a little wider for the receivers. Everyone from freshman pass-catchers to the tight ends got into the action.
“I was excited to see the physical play out of our wide receivers,” said Nelson. “It was personified in a quick little dog route that Cody Raymond caught. He went up and caught it and got hit by three guys while exposing the ball in the air. He then fell all the way down to ground but held onto it. That was exciting to see.”
During the first series, Raymond had a sliding catch down the middle of the field in what was his first acrobatic play of the day. Raymond turned in a very productive day during the scrimmage as a sure-handed and fearless receiver.
Every extended drive that resulted in a touchdown was set up by the legs of Alisa, Foote, Hine, Williams and Pritchard.
“I don’t think we’ve had that happen to us for awhile,” Hague said. “I think the offense put us on our heels and that put pressure on our linebackers. We saw guys like Terenn Houk and Dylan Collie come out and make some great catches. We saw a lot of up-and-coming guys come out here and have success, and that’s what makes it so frustrating for me because we know we can play.”
“Terenn Houk had a good catch and Dylan Collie, you know, we expect nothing less from him,” said Nelson. “I knew I had one-on-one on that post, but [Collie] battled, and maybe certain referees or line judges throw a flag on that post that he caught the comeback that set up the touchdown later in the drive. I feel like Dylan and Jamaal became the fan-favorite today.”
Meanwhile, Riley Stephenson was perfect on the day with his one field goal attempt and three extra points.
Overall, the scrimmage was a very good start for the offense with three weeks left before kickoff. The team has a lot of polishing up to do, but in evaluating the overall offensive performance, Coach Doman has to be pleased with the results.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Cougar defenders will have a lot of film work to do.
“Well, now it’s about us going back and taking a look at the film,” said Hague. “I think we’ll be spending a lot of time going over some of the things that happened today. It just really puts a bad taste in your mouth.”