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Exactly two weeks before BYU's season-opener with Washington State, the Cougars brought a little gameday atmosphere to LaVell Edwards Stadium on Thursday morning.
With players divided into teams and coaches putting on the headsets, a competitive and lively scrimmage was the product, with head coach Bronco Mendenhall saying "that was the intent" in regards to the game-like feel, adding that "we had a little fun" at the same time, by dividing into separate squads and selecting "celebrity coaches" in former Cougars Chad Lewis and Curtis Brown.
"It was fun, and good to have guys cheering for each other a little bit," said Mendenhall afterward. "Basically,a fairly clean conclusion to what camp is going to be. A couple of 'clean-up days' tomorrow and the next day, then...Washington State (prep) starts Monday. And no injuries today. You kind of keep your fingers crossed, but we held out quite a few players to make sure that didn't happen."
"Overall, a good day, I think."
Mendenhall said he was impressed by "the offensive line and the running backs...the run game looked really good," led by Adam Hine's 117 rushing yards on 13 carries.
Saying Hine "showed some potential...he did nice, a little bit more breakaway than we'd been able to see," Mendenhall also singled out both David Foote and Paul Lasike as "hard to tackle."
"I liked that part a lot," said Mendenhall of the team's ground production on Thursday.
You can hear Mendenhall's post-scrimmage media session, and interviews with QB Riley Nelson and JD Falslev in "Cougar Cuts," above left.
The offense produced five touchdowns in ten scrimmage drives, with starting QB Riley Nelson directing three scoring series and backup James Lark leading two TD drives.
Series 1: Riley Nelson
11 plays, 75 yards; drive ends with 17-yard TD pass to Cody Hoffman.
Series 2: James Lark:
5 plays, punt.
Series 3: Riley Nelson
Series 4: James Lark
2 plays, drive ends on an Adam Hine fumble (forced by Blake Morgan, recovered by Matt Hadley).
Series 5: Riley Nelson
4 plays, 42 yards; drive ends with David Foote 2-yard TD run.
Highlight plays: Nelson to JD Falslev for 24 yards, and Foote with a nice juke on LB Austen Jorgensen during a 16-yard catch-and-run.
Series 6: James Lark
5 plays, 63 yards; drive ends with 17-yard TD (Lark to Kurt Henderson).
Highlight play: Adam Hine 50-yard run.
Series 7: Taysom Hill
Three-and-out; series ends on sack by Jheremmya Leuta-Douyere.
Series 8: James Lark:
7 plays, 51 yards; drive ends with Adam Hine 4-yard TD run.
Highlight play: Paul Lasike 20-yard run.
Series 9: Riley Nelson
10 plays, 80 yards; drive ends with David Foote TD run on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
Series 10: Jason Munns
12 plays, 62 yards; drive ends on a fourth-down sack by Matt Hadley.
PATs were attempted on four of the five touchdowns; Riley Stephenson was 3-for-3, while Taysom Hill was 1-for-1.
S. Hadley: half-sack
Morgan: forced fumble
M. Hadley: recovered fumble, sack
The projected starters held out today included DE Ian Dulan, who has now been out more than a week with a back issue. He recently received an injection, and Mendenhall says doctors have "put a out a two-week time frame on it, so that will bumping right up against the first game."
Mendenhall said after the top four of Manumaleuna, Fuga, Dulan and Tialavea, Mike Muehlmann is the likely fifth defensive lineman to be deployed, with return missionary Remington Peck next now in as the sixth, with fellow RM Bronson Kaufusi "closing fast" for a spot in the DL two-deep.
Peck recorded a half-sack today, and the 6'4", 236 lb. Bingham HS product has been consistently moving up the depth chart through his playmaking ability.
The number one offensive line today featured a combination that has been a long time in coming: Ryker Mathews (LT), Braden Hansen (LG), Houston Reynolds (C), Brock Stringham (RG) and Braden Brown (RT). Assuming the group can stay healthy, it's safe to say that quintet could be the projected starting group on opening night.
Today's "twos" (L-R) were Michael Yeck, Famika Anae, Ryan Freeman, Manaaki Vaitai and Austin Hoyt.
The Adam Hine Show was in part a function of RB Jamaal Williams' no-show; the freshman is nursing a sprained ankle and was held out of the scrimmage. Last Thursday, Williams and Hine both had impressive showings; today Hine took over and handled the bulk of the running work.
Mendenhall says that with two weeks to go before the opener, "right now, comfortable is not the right word, but I would say we're on track."
"Most of (camp) has been to identify personnel, which I think we have a great handle on...a few clean-ups here or there, some roles to discuss offensively, and then special teams work still remains to get where I would feel comfortable, but I think in two weeks, that's reasonable."
Mendenhall, asked if QB Taysom Hill would play this season: "I would say it's likely."
Projected starting placekicker Justin Sorensen has yet to do much of anything in camp due to a back issue that required a mid-camp nerve-blocking injection. Mendenhall says "every day that he doesn't kick is to add increasing concern. I'm still not coming off what I'm hopeful for against Washington State, but yeah, each day that there is not kicking, the window is shorter."
The coach says that he thinks punter Riley Stephenson can do most of the placekicking if Sorensen is unavailable; "we'll just have to identify exactly where his range is; it's not like Riley's been just punting (during camp)."
The officials on hand got their first opportunity to implement college football's new "helmet rule." RB Paul Lasike had his lid pop off after a run, and the referee ran in to make sure Lasike and the coaches knew he had to sit out the next play.
Lasike, by the way, generated a lot of sideline chatter with his carries today; the rugby cross-over runner is fun to watch.