Offense Shines through BYU's Stellar Defense

Offense Shines through BYU's Stellar Defense

The BYU offense came out Monday with a clearer sense of purpose, determination and commitment – and put its own highly-touted defense on its collective heels.

"I think we just got a little tougher," according to wide receiver Chris Hale... "mentally tougher. We polished up everything. Last week, we were really close on a lot of things. This week, we just polished it up and just finished the play and made it work this week. Last week, we were really close a lot of times. This week, we just made the plays."

Hale contributed with a lunging 38-yard reception from quarterback Matt Berry and also caught a pass on a short yardage route during the full contact scrimmage.

Working out the bugs from their first full scrimmage, the Cougar quarterbacks showed significant improvement with passing and better decision making. Berry, who threw four interceptions in the first scrimmage, had no turnovers Monday.

"We just need to play. We just need to practice moving the ball up and down the field," BYU head coach Gary Crowton told reporters.

Berry completed 14 of 22 passes for two touchdowns and no interceptions against the first team defense. Back up quarterback John Beck had eight completions on 15 attempts with no interceptions; and Todd Mortensen was 5 for 9 on the day.

The two touchdown catches Berry threw were to emerging freshman tight end standout Daniel Coats.

"He did a good job down there," Crowton said of Coats. "He dropped a pass early and I kind of got on him. I expect good things from him. He has the ability to be really good and I expect good things out of him. He's got to make those tough catches. I thought he dropped one early, but he came back and had that touchdown."

Commenting on the overall progression of his quarterbacks, Crowton noted, "As far as the quarterback situation goes, Matt Berry had those six starts (last year), which will really help him going into this opening game. Beck has been there and worked real hard; Todd Mortensen also. I feel like those guys know what we're doing. They're still young guys, but Todd's a junior but the other two (Berry and Beck) are sophomore and freshman. I think they'll produce well because they've done well in practice."

During Monday's 92-play scrimmage, only 13 plays (according to official stats) were designated running plays. The reason could be coaches saw enough by their performances during the first major scrimmage to concentrate more on the passing game. While it was not impressive by any means, five Cougar running backs recorded 65 yards on 13 carries combined.

"I think they all have special abilities. I like Fahu Tahi. He got some short yardage runs and he got the first down a couple of times. I thought Thomas Stancil had a real nice run (50-yard play called back on a holding penalty) and a nice catch out of the backfield. He (Stancil) and (Rey) Brathwaite had a real nice catch. They have different skills. Fui's (Vakapuna>) been solid and blocks really well and he runs hard, so I think we have five really good backs."

While he did not participate in Monday's scrimmage, Crowton still commented on another talented running back waiting in the wings.

"Curtis Brown… hasn't played much because he had his ankle a little tweaked, and there's still a chance we might redshirt him. We're not just sure yet, but we'll go probably till the third game to make a final decision on that. He probably won't play in the first two unless somebody gets hurt," Crowton said.

While the defense may not have had their way against the offense as they did the first scrimmage, Crowton was quick to point out some positive developments he saw and also expounded on how the talent across the defensive line will help in specific situations.

"I feel very good about it," Crowton said. "Ifo Pili's been starting there and Daniel Marquardt started inside when we were in a four down linemen scheme. Also, we have Manaia (Brown) right there and a couple of other guys battling, so I think we're in pretty good shape there. It gives us an opportunity to go to a four or five man line at times during a situational opportunities where it's third and short or goal line or if they (opposition) have heavy personnel coming in."

One advantage a full scrimmage provides is it allows not only for both sides to become more acclimated to game speed, game time situations and a better understanding on where they stand overall, but also in regards of on field durability.

"The defense needs to practice staying on more than just a couple of plays, just simulating drives. If those things happen, then I think those are the biggest things we need in our preparations."

Crowton added the full scrimmages were as close as the team can get to real game situations "and we want to get our team ready, especially for this opener."

The aggressive nature of the defense has its advantages and disadvantages. Berry's longest completion was to Hale for 38 yards. Beck's longest pass went for 36 yards, and running back Brathwaite's longest scamper went for 12 yards, followed by Tahi for seven yards and Whalen for 10 yards.

Coach Crowton commented on the topic. "It's an exciting defense and things are happening," said Crowton. "There's blitzes and they'll give up some big plays at times and they'll make some big plays. I'm hoping it will make more big plays than it gives up," Crowton chuckled.

Despite the offensive turnaround, defensive coordinator Bronco Mendenhall saw some positive developments as his players continue to grow within the aggressive nature of his defensive scheme.

"I felt pretty good today assignment wise," said Mendenhall. "We were much cleaner than the first scrimmage that we had and I think the effort was good. Now it's a matter of evaluating it. We told all the players we would meet with them individually tomorrow and tell them where they stand. There might be some changes after today. This is kind of their last chance to play before we get into Georgia Tech work without us yelling at them," Mendenhall said.

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