BYU Football: Have the Cougars lost the taste for playing physical football?


Physical. It’s a thing.

For weeks we have heard from opposing coaches that Kalani Sitake’s BYU team is playing physically.

In football jargon, being physical means owning size and using it aggressively to accentuate the laws of physics to move opposing players, lean on them, tire them out and hit them on the buttocks.

Last week at Baylor and the week before against Boise State, two losses for the Cougars, that was not the case. In fact, this trait belonged to the opponent.

“We have to be more physical,” Sitake said immediately after Saturday’s loss in Waco, Texas.

Two days later, he said the lack of physical play at Baylor was the most disappointing thing for him in the loss. He said his team may have lost a few players, but that’s no excuse.

“Those who come in must play physically and hard,” he said.

He said Baylor were a great team and maybe he was destined to win this game, but the most disappointing thing for him is that BYU didn’t play hard and physical football, which he said. hopefully, is the mark of his team.

“This has to change,” he said. “We played in physics a few weeks ago. “

Sitake said Baylor did what BYU knew they would do – shove the ball down BYU’s collective throat. “They took it from us and we didn’t respond the right way.” He said he expects a lot more physical play from offense and defense. Everything else is not acceptable.

Indeed, it was a really positive thing in BYU’s victories over Arizona State and Utah. It was noticeable and measurable and was proven in the way both games started and ended. You clearly saw it when Tyler Allgeier ran for a great distance and his racing lanes were wide.

Have the Cougars lost their ability to play physical football? Is it an unsustainable resource among football players over the course of a season? After all, it was a pretty brutal September with three back-to-back Pac-12 teams and there is no doubt that Sitake had prepared his players emotionally for this challenge.

Did he just spit after reaching 5-0? Is it a question of depth? Is this team too messed up to dictate the power of combat in the trenches? Is it mental? Is it now an inability to turn on and on again?

The match tapes show that part of it may just be – other teams dictate and control the line of scrimmage.

In most teams, this is an issue that many face as the ebb and flow of health and energy rise and fall over the course of a season.

But against a very talented and quality Baylor team on Saturday, BYU didn’t look good for most of the game.

BYU’s offensive line doesn’t knock defenders out of the holes. The defensive line doesn’t get a big pocket push and penetrating, pressing QBs. Not as we saw in early September. Not at all.

So the big question is whether Sitake can get that physical reading ahead of a 4-3 game in Washington State, which just beat Cal, Oregon State and Stanford, but lost his Monday night. head coach?

Not without moving bodies in the trenches.

BYU center and team captain James Empey shared his thoughts on 1280 The Zone Monday. Are injuries or not having a week off to rest the reason BYU is playing less physically.

Empey refused to use any of this as an excuse.

Good for him.

“To be honest,” said Empey, “I didn’t notice much. Your schedule is your schedule and you control what you control. You are just getting ready for next week. there hasn’t been a lot of attention on it (one week off) because we have an awesome schedule. It’s our culture, it’s all about love and learning. We don’t have time to you have to love the game, respect the game and learn to play it and respect the opponent.

So, Sitake preaches a lot about love and learning. Perhaps more than ranting and screaming, although he can be emotional and verbally convincing using the volume of his voice. His plan is clear: to work harder, to teach more effectively and to improve.

Does it work?

Against Baylor, it was not. Allgeier’s big wins were missing. Its racing tracks too. He only gained 33 yards on 15 carries. Without a racing game, BYU cannot access favorable short distance games.

In defense, BYU’s forward couldn’t contain the edges or the middle and couldn’t mount a pass rush – no sacks, little rush from the QB.

The BYU coordinators on BYUtv on Monday had different views on the issue of the stampede.

Aaron Roderick, using his fifth different combination of offensive linemen this season at Baylor, said at the weekend he learned that starting goaltender Joe Tukuafu and right tackle Harris LaChance will not be playing. This resulted in continuity issues as he changed operational signals because former BYU offensive coordinator (Jeff Grimes) and O-line coach Eric Mateos – both now at Baylor – knew about those signals.

He said having the continuity of blockers on the line is a big deal and a key, although only one missed team signal in the game occurred, an expensive sack from Jaren Hall when his receiver failed. not made the intended movement.

OKAY. Seems like an honest assessment.

“We have discovered some things about ourselves in this game that we can use in the future,” said Roderick. He was mainly talking about the great performance of receiver Puka Nacua (five career best catches for 168 yards and a touchdown).

LaChance is expected to return to the starting lineup after missing five games. The same goes for Tukuafu, who along with Empey has the most experience and versatility on the offensive line.

“To have Harris there is a great thing. He’s really become a really good tackle,” Roderick said.

Defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki said his assessment during the match and with the headphones (assessment of changes) was different from his perception after reviewing the match tape. He said he saw missed tackles, missed missions and players trying to get other people’s jobs done. Some issues were technical issues, like reaching instead of getting into position.

“It was a tough match movie to watch,” Tuiaki said.

“We missed a few take out opportunities and that would have helped. “

Tuiaki, who has been criticized for his defensive schemes and his philosophy and inability to cover up some blitzes, has taken full responsibility for resolving these issues.

“We need to train better and execute our game plan better and that’s my job. We need to tighten our techniques and our fundamentals – and not do other people’s work but do their own 1/11. It falls on our shoulders as defensive coaches to make this happen.

“We need to be better inspirers of our game plan. “

Last week at McClane Stadium we saw three defensive linemen slowly descend and rise again, including Earl Tuioti-Mariner, Jacob Palu and Gabe Summers.

The chance to put corrections to the test comes quickly for Roderick and Tuiaki.

Washington State at Pullman will be a big challenge, although the Northern Cougars themselves have trouble getting the ball rolling and stopping the run.

WSU surrendered 222 rushing yards in Utah state in a loss (BYU limited the Aggies to less than 30 rushing yards). Portland State won 102, USC just 48, Utah had 212, Cal won 121 on floor, Oregon State 309, and Stanford rushed for 76.

Opponents who had big passing games against WSU were USC 399 and Portland State with 318.

Physical play, or the lack of it?

Stay tuned. We will see.

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