Lasike moving on up

Paul Lasike

As the Cougars of BYU were cruising through a 47-0 victory over Hawaii, sophomore running back Paul Lasike received an opportunity to showcase his youthful but burgeoning rushing abilities. He received 10 carries and managed to turn them into 40 yards and two touchdowns.

"It's definitely a confidence booster because it's one thing to do it in practice against your own team, but when it comes to game time it's a different story," Paul Lasike said. "You have to be able to execute it in game time against another team, and when you do it's definitely a confidence builder. If you just relax and do what you do in practice, then it will work, you know."

Since having first received his scholarship from BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall last spring, Lasike – a BYU rugby star – has become more acclimated to his new sport of football.

"Yeah, the game is slowing down for me a lot," Lasike said. "The coaches would call a play and I would be like, ‘Oh no,' and have a panic attack. I've come a long ways now and can relax. I don't have to think what the plays are and can just pay more attention to what I'm going to do when I get the ball and stuff like that."

Whether it's on the rugby field or now the football field, running the ball has always come naturally to the 6-foot, 227-pound Lasike.

"Yeah, I'm really comfortable with all the running plays," Lasike said. "The hardest thing for me is to be patient when I'm running the ball, you know. On a run you have to wait for the offensive linemen to come in front of you to block for you.

"Sometimes I'll just end up running into them, you know. I would be like, ‘Just get out of my way so I can run harder.' So, the patience part in the running, having soft hands when you catch the ball, instinct and anticipating are things that need to come into play as well."

While burrowing through defenders in the ground game has come naturally for Lasike, catching passes and targeting blitzing linebackers in pass protection are things he's still working on.

"I'm a little bit hesitant on the pass plays and the pass protection, but it's surely coming along and I'm getting better at it," he said.

During the five games played so far this season, Lasike's primary contribution to the team has been on special teams. It was only recently that he was called to actually step out on the field in offensive backfield.

"Every game I've been on special teams and on kickoff," Lasike said. "Every now and then, in a random way, they would be like, ‘You know the run plays, right?' and I would be like, ‘Yeah, yeah.' They would tell me, ‘Jump in for a 72 play,' which is a fullback dive."

In the first quarter against Hawaii, Michael Alisa broke his arm, allowing true freshman running back Jamaal Williams and Lasike to see more playing time.

In that game, the coaches "sat me down and drew up the board," said Lasike. "They said, ‘Let's just rehearse in your head what's going on, and they drew up the plays that I'm going to be in on. I basically went in and gave it everything I had, you know."

Now that Alisa is out with an injury, Williams, Lasike, David Foote, Iona Pritchard and Zed Mendenhall have all moved on up the responsibility ranks.

"Mike was really good leader, you know, and to have his presence with the backs really built confidence among the backs," said Lasike. "He was a really good leader and motivator, so to lose him is definitely a hole to the running backs. We have Jamaal Williams and David Foote and some of the other running backs that can step up. They might not be as good as Mike right now, but as time goes on I'm sure they can fill that position.

"The thing is I've been practicing on the scout team until now, and so that's why I've only been on special teams and not on the offense. So, now I've been running against our starting defense, you know. They moved me to the offensive side of the ball and practice with the offense in certain periods. There are different formations and I'll come in on certain plays that they pull me up to fulfill. It hadn't been that way in the past and it just started this week."

The opportunity to see more playing time is exciting for the New Zealander with a rugby background.

"I feel honored and privileged, yeah," said Lasike. "It's a blessing for me and it's awesome, man. That's how I look at it as."

Is there a chance Cougar fans could see more of BYU's "Kiwi Curse" running through the Utah State defense come Friday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium?

"Yeah, potentially," Lasike said with a smile. "That's the thing, I don't really say definitely because anything can happen. I'm just out there and if I get on, then sweet, but if not, then I just have to be patient.

"You know, I actually think so because there were six running backs with Mike. The BYU offense always plays a lot of two-back offense, so with him going down, they moved me up to be involved in those certain packages that I talked about."

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