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PROVO — There are a lot of questions revolving around the BYU football team right now, after back-to-back losses to Washington and Utah State, and many of the potential changes revolve around the team's offense.
There are questions on the defensive side, too, though.
Among the most notable enigmas is BYU’s pass rush, which was once a staple of defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki’s scheme. Yet the Cougars have averaged just one sack per game through the first six contests of 2018, and did not register a sack in a 45-20 loss to the in-state rival Aggies.
Of course, there weren’t a lot of opportunities, either.
Utah State quarterback Jordan Love threw the ball 29 times last Friday night in LaVell Edwards Stadium, but the Cougars only have six plays set up for a sack.
Of the six, two of them were blocked — a credit to the Aggies' offensive line; two of them were forced into a check-down throw — a credit to the Cougars' defensive line; one of them resulted in a quarterback hurry for a negligible gain; and one flushed Love out of the pocket, according to Tuiaki.
“We need sacks, obviously,” Tuiaki said after practice Tuesday. “But I think you can over-emphasize something and make something exist that doesn’t exist. Really, it just comes down to the way you are playing, the way the offense is playing, and what the scheme requires you to do.”
Changing the scheme isn’t off the table for head coach Kalani Sitake, though.
“There are ways we can put our guys in better position to have success and to help our team,” he said Monday. “There’s plenty of time to get it done, because the foundation has already been set to make these tweaks, if needed.”
The lack of pressure wasn’t just against the Aggies, though. BYU hasn’t registered a sack since Corbin Kaufusi got to Washington quarterback Jake Browning in the first quarter of the Huskies’ 35-7 win two weeks ago.
The 6-foot-9, 275-pound Kaufusi, who leads the team with four sacks for a loss of 38 yards, admits there is still plenty of room for improvement in that area.
But that improvement may come in other areas, such as if they can force Hawaii quarterback Cole McDonald into a series of hurries or QB check-downs Saturday night at 8:15 p.m. MT (ESPN2, KSL Newsradio).
“The biggest thing for anyone going after the quarterback is disruption,” Kaufusi said. “Whether you get him, he throws the ball away, or he runs out of bounds, any kind of disruption is a big deal for us.”
Zayne Anderson did not practice Tuesday, though he was at practice on the sideline in street clothes alongside injured running back Squally Canada.
Defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki said the 6-2 senior from Stansbury Park was “day-to-day” after returning from an injury in Friday night’s loss. But just moments later on his coaches' show, Sitake said Anderson will miss the remainder of the season to undergo surgery.
“His season has come to an end,” Sitake said of Anderson. “He will have surgery in the next week or so. But we will redshirt him because he’s only played in four games, and he will be a senior for us next year.”
A 2018 team captain, Anderson registered 36 tackles, including 23 solo stops, in his first season as a full-time starter at flash linebacker. He ends the year with one tackle for loss and one interception, a 12-yard return in the Cougars’ 24-21 upset of then-No. 6 Wisconsin.
Safety Dayan Ghanwoloku was practicing Tuesday, and Sitake expects him to be available for Saturday’s game.
Also likely to return Saturday will be Hawaii quarterback Cole McDonald. The prolific 6-foot-4 signal caller did not play in the Rainbow Warriors’ 17-13 win over Mountain West rival Wyoming last week, but he was a full participant in practice Monday.
A 65-percent passer, McDonald has thrown for 2,100 yards with 24 touchdowns and just two interceptions in leading a Hawaii offense that averages 468.4 yards and 38.4 points per game.
“It was so hard for me,” McDonald told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “I like being out on the field with the boys, playing ball. That’s what I’m out here to do. I don’t think there’s anything better than having that camaraderie with the guys on the field, and just winning games.”