If there ever was a redeeming game for the Cougar defense, the Notre Dame game this weekend would surely be that.
“It’s a big opportunity for us, you know, and we can come out and make a statement,” said Preston Hadley. “It’s exciting and it’s the big stage and the game we want to be in.”
Following the Oregon State game, Coach Mendenhall spoke to his defense.
“Much of what Coach Mendenhall said was just meant for us,” said outside linebacker Spencer Hadley. “You’ll have to talk to him about that, but we just want to put it in the past and move forward.”
“There’s a couple things that he addressed and we put it behind us,” said Preston. “Our motto is this is a new week and we are a new team, and we’re just going to be ready for our opponent this week.”
For the Cougar defenders, it’s important to them that they have a good game against No. 5 Notre Dame, especially after a not-so-inspiring performance last week.
“It’s really important,” said Preston. “I mean, it was a shot to our pride. We’re offended when people put up points against us and that wasn’t us [last week], and we have a lot to prove this week. We have a lot to prove every week. So, we’re going to come out and make a statement this weekend, and, you know, just come play like crazy.”
If BYU’s defense is to be successful, they’re going to have to prepare for two different Notre Dame quarterbacks that bring different skill sets to the field.
“Yeah, we know they have the two different quarterbacks,” said Preston. “I know Coach Mendenhall and the rest of the defensive coaches are going to prepare us. We’re going to be ready. One is more mobile and the other is a drop-back passer, so we’ll have something ready for the both of them.”
Notre Dame quarterbacks Tommy Rees and Everett Golson have been a dual threat for the Irish offense. During their last contest against Stanford, Golson suffered a concussion. Coach Brian Kelly said he expects him to be ready to play if needed against the Cougars.
“We’re not going to rule out anything and I think we’ll be prepared for the challenges that Notre Dame will present,” Preston said. “We don’t want to come out and not have our best showing. It’s important to us that we come out and stop whoever lines up under center.”
Last week against Oregon State that wasn’t the case. Beaver backup quarterback Cody Vaz seemed to pick apart BYU’s secondary at will.
“I personally feel like we beat ourselves in that game,” said Preston. “It’s like Coach Howell said, and he hit it right on, execution and a lack of focus was the problem.”
BYU’s defense wasn’t accustomed to being scored upon, so when OSU’s offense found success, it affected their overall mindset.
“We haven’t really faced a whole lot of people scoring on us,” said Preston. “We just got to get better at responding and being mentally tough. You know, playing our assignment and sticking together and stuff, and I don’t think we did a great job of that last week.”
The mental breakdown in the Cougar defensive secondary further exasperated the level of execution. The Cougar defense has to get back to its pre-Oregon State form in order to prove that the issues truly were execution-based.
“The combination of routes, and they just had a good scheme,” said Preston regarding why BYU struggled against the Beavers. “Coach Mendenhall had a good game plan going into the game but we just didn’t do a good job of executing it.
“There is something you can learn from every game, and I think there is a lot we can learn from that last game. I didn’t think [Oregon State] was any better than us. You know, they’re a good team and they have good players, but we just didn’t play good. That’s how it is. We didn’t play good and we’re going to put it behind us and I think definitely our defense and our team is really motivated.”
The Cougars need to be motivated, highly focused, mentally tough, execution-sound and have one of the better defensive performances of the season if they are going to redeem themselves this Saturday. It’s a tall order given the caliber of Notre Dame’s program, a program that seems to be finding its groove halfway through the season.