It is a goal of Coach Mendenhall to win every home game this season. To accomplish that goal, the Cougars still have to beat Utah, Middle Tennessee State, Georgia Tech, Boise State and Idaho State. However, putting a checkmark next to Texas is a great way to start, and Paul Lasike played a role in that victory.
"Oh man, it was huge and it was awesome!" said Lasike. "To be able to contribute to the team was a huge blessing, just knowing that we can keep up with the top teams in the country, which was another confidence booster for us. I was really happy with my efforts."
Lasike's efforts led to 89 yards on 13 carries and one touchdown. Not bad for a budding football player still learning the game.
"I saw film and honestly it goes to the o-line," Lasike said. "They were creating huge gaps where I was one-on-one with a linebacker or one-on-one with a safety. Once I made contact I was able to gain a couple of yards and fight for a blade of grass pretty much, so the offensive line really created those gaps. If this was last year I probably wouldn't have been as patient for those gaps, so, like you said, the game is slowing down for me but there's still more to learn.
"I know what I need to work on. I know the good and the bad that came out of the game, so hopefully we can eliminate some of the negatives and just focus on the positives for the Utah game."
A rugby star from New Zealand, Lasike’s tough and aggressive running style was evident. As the game wore on, Texas defenders shied away from taking on the 6-foot, 227-pound tailback head on. It appears his fearless rugby running style is transitioning nicely over onto the football field.
"I'm loving it man," he said. "I'm getting to the point where I just love the game. It's kind of hard. It's like, I'm a rugby boy, you know? Then coming over to football, I'm just loving the game so much, you know, because I don't have to think so much."
Lasike is learning to be patient and allow plays to develop while using his blockers. His vision as a ball-carrier has greatly improved, and when that’s coupled with his newfound comfort level, the result is a faster running back.
"Yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head really," Lasike said. "I don't have to think so much and a lot of it is because I've been working hard in the film room. So, I can just focus on running the ball."
When you add position I.Q. to the equation, the game has begun to slow down for Lasike. The less he has to think about what to do, the faster he's become. Last Saturday, the Texas defense caught a glimpse of Lasike's potential, which hasn't been fully reached.
"Yeah, yeah the game is slowing down actually," he said. "It's weird being back there and not thinking, because I know how it feels not knowing anything, like last year. I can now look towards the sideline and see the play and know the play. I can just line up and execute it, and it's completely fun. That way you're actually able to execute it better too if you know not just the play but the concept of the play. I'm loving it man."
Rather than knowing how to become effective in the ruck or scrum, Lasike is learning new skill sets that have attributed to his recent success as a football player.
"Most of it is the little nuances, not the physicality of the game so much, but like the little skills of the game," he said. "It's the ball security and the four points of contacts and knowing how huge that is. In rugby if you drop the ball, it's not as big of a deal, but in football if you drop the ball the percentages of winning go down. In rugby you're trying to create your own gaps, but in football you have to be patient and you're waiting for those gaps to open up with blockers going through and so forth. Those are some of the little things that I've had to learn and adjust from being a rugby center to being a football running back."
In the second quarter of the Texas game, Lasike scored a 10-yard rushing touchdown. He bounced the ball outside, broke a few tackles and dove into the end zone for the score.
"I was dead too!" said Lasike with a smile on his face. "If you see the drive, that was like the end snippet of the whole drive because we basically rushed it all the way down. By that play I was just sucking it up. When I saw the end zone was in reach, I just jumped and thought, 'Sweet!'"
It was a play that caught the attention of many of his relatives, who are more versed in the sport of rugby.
"The funny thing is, my parents still don't understand the game," Lasike said. "They were like, 'So you can score with your back?' Because in rugby, you have to touch the ball down, you know? I was cracking up. I said, 'I thought I explained that to you,’ and ‘You don't have to touch the ball down,' to my parents. It was funny to see my parents’ reaction and my family back home in New Zealand who are trying to pick up the game."
Up next after BYU’s bye week is Utah. Although Lasike has played and beaten Utah many times in rugby, he's beginning to see how big the rivalry is now that he's on the football team.
"As each year goes by the rivalry becomes more to me," said Lasike. "I've been here for about four or five years, and in the past when we lost it was like, 'Yeah, whatever.' But now I'm starting to click on to the rivalry and it's just huge, you know? I'm looking forward to it and, like I said, hopefully we can eliminate some of the negatives from this last game, the things we need to work on. I'm excited for it, man."
Lasike talks rivalry
Listen to Audio