BYU football: Cougars defense got a ‘reality check’ from Oregon Ducks

There were many theories on Monday and Tuesday in Provo as to why the BYU defense, which was… so naughty against South Florida and Baylorlooked completely lost last Saturday in Autzen Stadium in the embarrassing 41-20 loss to the Oregon Ducks.

A number of “heart-to-heart talks” also took place, according to sophomore defensive lineman John Nelson, who said team leaders such as Lorenzo Fauatea and Tyler Batty spoke in the defense line room.

“This is a talented team with a lot of pride. We have learned a lesson as coaches, as players. We are ashamed. But it would be a real mistake for someone to write off the 2022 Cougars.” — BYU Assistant Head Coach Ed Lamb

“Because that’s what we needed, and coach Kalani (Sitake), who does what he does, as a coach, had to give us a reality check,” said Nelson, of nearby Salem Hills High. “I’m sure the other functions (had targeted meetings) too. So yes, you hate to lose like that, but we have to learn from it.”

After giving full credit to Oregon, after the game and at his weekly press conference on Monday, Sitake said sloppy tackles proved to be the defense’s downfall. Suffice it to say that the Cougars have been working a lot on that fundamental this week, with run-oriented Wyoming (3-1) testing No. 19 BYU on Saturday (8:15 PM MDT, ESPN2) at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

“Making tackles is key. I’d be concerned if we didn’t have guys there to make hits. The schedule is one thing. It’s the foundations of the approach that cost us a lot,” said Sitake. “…I think Oregon made some plays and broke tackles. We weren’t in the best place to make tackles. We just have to figure it out. All 11 guys didn’t do well enough to play against a very athletic and fast team from Oregon.”

During his “Coordinators’ Corner” television program Mondaysafety coach and coordinator special teams Ed Lamb presented another theory:

“I thought the environment, the situation, was too big for us. We as coaches also have a part in that. We didn’t prepare the team for that moment,” Lamb said. “And by ‘the moment’ I mean everything Oregon represents and has represented, and playing at Autzen, there’s a lot there. to be in the top 12 in the country in the season, and were we ready for that moment? We clearly weren’t.”

Starters Batty and fellow defensive lineman Earl Tuioti-Mariner missed the game with injuries, but both practiced Tuesday, according to defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki, and should play against the Pokes. Defensive linemen Fauatea and Gabe Summers were “confused,” Tuiaki said, but played, perhaps a little too much.

“Afterwards is 20-20. In hindsight, I should have gotten fresh bodies there sooner because those guys were still beat up from the week before,” Tuiaki said.

Lamb added that fans who have already written off this defense, and the team in general, could be seriously mistaken after one big loss.

“This is a talented team with a lot of pride,” said the assistant head coach. “We have learned a lesson as coaches, as players. We are ashamed. But it would be a real mistake for anyone to write off the 2022 Cougars.”

Nelson, whose cousin Lauren Gustin is the best rebounder on the BYU women’s basketball teamalso said the Cougars will recover.

“From Saturday I got such a bad taste in my mouth. I think all 25 guys who regularly play in defense are too,” he said. “I know they are all angry about what happened. We weren’t. We’re so pumped to come back and play this Wyoming team.”

Nelson said the Cougars were “missing tackles everywhere” against Oregon, including himself.

“Tackling is such a big part of the game, and the way we can get better is practice,” Nelson said. “In the team (scrimmaging) today we emphasized finishing and getting all 11 guys on the ball.”

Sitake said a review of the Oregon movie showed a lot of effort and physicality, but a slump in the base.

“They just weren’t doing a lot of physical things the right way — getting rid of blocks and making tackles,” Sitake said. “That’s my mistake. I have to make my boys better, get rid of blocks and make tackles.”

Corner defender Kaleb Hayes, arguably BYU .’s best tackler in the secondary, left the game in Oregon with concussion-like symptoms and is questionable this week.

“A lot needs to be solved,” Tuiaki said when he met the media after training on Tuesday. “…There were times when we were in position and just didn’t play. We have to be better there.”

Tuiaki also blamed himself, saying that some of the schemes he implemented “might ask a player to do something that was physically a little harder to do. … And they can be put in bad positions by myself. So that’s to me as a coach.”


Cougars in the sky

Wyoming (3-1) at No. 19 BYU (2-1)

Saturday, 8:15 PM MDT

LaVell Edwards Stadium

Provo, Utah

TV: ESPN2

Radio: KSL News Radio 102.7 FM/1160 AM

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