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The dormant BYU run game was a main talking point after Tuesday afternoon's practice, with the post-workout media session the last such availability before the Cougars welcome Central Florida to LaVell Edwards Stadium on Friday night.
Running back J.J. DiLuigi speculated on the reason the rush attack (118th nationally) has failed to live up to its potential in the first three games of the 2011 season:
"People have been getting carried away with trying to make a bigger play than they need to. We all just need to play our one-eleventh," he said, referring to an individual's potential contribution to an offensive team. "You're one man on the field. Do your one job and if everybody does their one job in a play we will execute and succeed. There's no way that somebody can beat you if all eleven guys are performing. So far people have been trying to do too much, and they've been making mistakes."
Mistakes, indeed. In its first three games, the BYU offense has accounted for ten turnovers, including six lost fumbles, all of which occurred in Saturday's 54-10 loss to Utah.
Speaking with regards to these fumbles, DiLuigi explained that the coaches "tell us every time we have the ball in our hands that we're holding the banner of brotherhood in our arms. You've got to grip it tight and not let it go. This last week we let it go too many times."
"Every player has to do their one job," he reiterated. "If it's pass blocking, you get on your blitz protection. If you're a receiver and you run a post, you run the hardest post you can make. But once the ball is in your hands, you've got to make something bigger happen. But you have to do it within your abilities. If you're a power guy, don't try and be a juking back, because that's not who you are. You have to play within you're abilities."
Head coach Bronco Mendenhall also spoke of a team performing far from where he hoped it would be going into week four:
"There are things we can certainly improve on. I can see now after three games that there is so much ground [to make up] that it might be two or three weeks before I see us reaching a point where we're executing at a high level."
The Cougars will require shorter-term improvements to beat a Central Florida squad that despite a loss at Florida International will give BYU plenty to worry about on both sides of the ball.
Asked about the prospects of a third consecutive setback, Mendenhall said "I'll feel bad for (the players)...but it will strengthen our resolve because they know they can play better. Hopefully we play well enough to win. But our current execution isn't able to hold for four quarters against a good team."
The key to Friday's game against UCF is shutting down opposing quarterback Jeff Godfrey. "He's a really explosive quarterback, a run-pass threat," Mendenhall explained. He'll run "a lot of zone-read type of plays, some option type of plays, and he's a capable thrower as well. (Godfrey) is definitely capable of scoring a lot of points."
The zone-read which the coach referenced is the same play that Texas used to stymie the Cougars in week two. The play occurs when the quarterback chooses what to do with the ball by ‘reading' the reaction of a defensive player, usually a defensive end.
"It's exactly the same thing," Mendenhall explained, comparing UCF's zone-read to that of Texas. "And quite frankly, the zone-read against Texas was a lack of preparation on my part. We chased down the other 98% of their offensive, but they ran (the zone-read) more than we thought they would."
This week the team is preparing for the play, "trying to get in as many reps as possible in a relatively short week."
On the UCF defense, DiLuigi said, "They're fast players. They get to the ball quickly, and they gang tackle. They have a big, stout D-Line, their linebackers are good, and they have really good DB's. Number 20 (cornerback Josh Robinson) is a projected pick in the next draft. They have skilled guys over there."
When asked whether the UCF defensive is comparable to the competent defenses BYU has seen so far this year, DiLuigi responded "Definitely. We can't take them lightly. We've got to come out and execute at a higher level than we have been."
You can hear complete post-practice interviews with Mendenhall and DiLuigi in "Cougar Cuts," above.
Kick-off for the UCF game is Friday at 6:00pm at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Tune into KSL Radio 1160 AM, 102.7 FM or ksl.com, starting with pregame coverage at 4:00pm.