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PROVO — For the first time in six years, the BYU Cougars prepare for Game 5 with a perfect 4-0 record under their belts. The Cougars repaid Virginia for last year’s loss with a 41-33 victory over the Cavaliers Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
“Another good win for our program,” BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “It’s nice to have a strong start to our season and timing for the bye week is good.”
Mendenhall said he was especially impressed with the efficiency of the offense and special teams this week, but that the defense could use a little polishing over the bye week.
“The execution in critical parts is what allowed Virginia to stay in the game,” Mendenhall said. “Right now we need to get a little more pressure on the quarterback and play the ball downfield a little better to protect our leads.”
While the Cougars put up 41 points on Virginia, they also allowed a season-high 33 points and 519 yards. BYU defensive coordinator Nick Howell said that despite the win, he’s not completely satisfied.
“I’m glad we won,” Howell said. “You know, you smile for a second, but my smile was fake. I’m not happy about how we played, and I don’t think our defensive guys are happy about how we played. We’re glad we won, but we’re not happy with how we performed.”
Penalties is an area both coaches and players agree could use some improvement. The Cougars lead the nation with 105.25 penalty yards per game. Howell said that while the team can play smarter, he likes the intensity he sees especially in the defense.
“I like our guys. I like the physical edge,” Howell said. “I hate pass interference. There’s things we’ve got to clean up, obviously, and we address that every day. The positive is we’re playing hard, and we’re playing physical.”
“I think it’s just the grit we have as a team,” senior tight end Devin Mahina said. “We’re trying hard and we’re gonna keep going hard until those whistles blow, and if we don’t hear them, we’re just gonna keep going.”
The Cougars now head into a bye week before facing Utah State on Oct. 3, and while coaches and players say it will be a good opportunity to rest up and recover from injuries, it certainly won’t be a vacation week.
“We’ve gotta go,” Howell said. “We’re on red alert right now from Monday through Saturday. It’s a work week and everybody’s got to practice.”
Mendenhall provided a few injury updates. He said linebacker Bronson Kaufusi has been walking around normally with no boot or tape. He’s expected to return against Utah State along with Nick Kurtz and Algernon Brown.
Jordan Leslie suffered a high-ankle sprain in Saturday’s game, and is likely to return after the bye week as well. Sydney is a KSL sports radio intern and BYUtv Sports producer. You can follow her on twitter @sydneykayc