BYU football ground game anxious to get rolling

BYU vs. Utah
2011-09-21T00:30:00Z 2013-11-06T21:45:07Z BYU football ground game anxious to get rollingJared Lloyd - Daily Herald Daily Herald
September 21, 2011 12:30 am  • 

There's probably no one on the BYU football team who can look at the rushing totals from the contests against Texas and Utah without cringing a little bit.

Two games, 45 rushes, 54 total yards.

The Cougars know that has to change or it's going to be a very long season.

"We need to look hard at the run plan and try to figure out what's causing us not to be successful," said BYU offensive coordinator Brandon Doman. "We're looking at who is running it and who is blocking. Then we have to make sure the quarterback is calling the right runs when we're out there.

"I believe we're going to figure it out. I don't know when, but I think it will be sooner rather than later and when we do, I think we'll be pretty hard to stop."

That means that as the Cougars prepare to host Central Florida (6 p.m. Friday, ESPN), the pressure has ramped up on the guys who are asked to churn out the yards on the ground.

"I've always loved a challenge and I'm going to rise to it," said Cougar senior running back JJ Di Luigi, who leads the team with 126 yards rushing. "We are the spot on the team - us and the line - that is basically getting called out in the run game. The line gives us holes and we need to hit it down hill, then break a tackle or two more."

Running backs coach Joe DuPaix said frankly that he needs his backs to strive for every inch they can get to get the run game rolling.

"You always have that sense of ownership and pride that we need to do better," he explained. "There are more yards for us out there and we need to go get those yards. Sometimes they are easy yards, sometimes they are tough yards but we need all the yards."

In order to do that, Di Luigi said the players need to recognize their strengths and use them effectively.

"We need to play within our abilities," he said. "If you are a power back, don't try and be a juking back. If you're a scatback and can juke, don't try to run people over because that's not who you are."

DuPaix said that he will be evaluating every aspect of the run game when his players take the field Friday night, making sure they are doing all they can to be successful.

"I'm going to be looking at every little tiny detail," he said. "At a time like this, you need to be fundamentally sound in every step in every play, with the footwork, with the eyes, and then ball security. Are they locking the ball up the right way or not? You focus on the small details."

Ball security has become a major focus for the entire team after the seven-turnover debacle against Utah last weekend.

"Coach DuPaix had us working a lot on ball security, trying to knock it out of each other's hands," Di Luigi said. "After practice, we had the balls with the slippery sleeves on them and we had to hold them high and tight. We had linemen out there just jacking up our arms, trying to get the ball out. We also did one where we were all together, with everyone in tight trying to knock the ball out. But if anyone lost it, we all had to do pushups."

"On every drill, you catch the ball and you have to run back to the huddle with the ball high and tight until the ball boy comes and gets it from you. It's going to make a huge difference and I hope that shows up in the game."

Even though the running backs only coughed the ball up twice, they are determined to do all they can to not let such a disaster happen again.

"Ball security is huge," DuPaix said. "Without the football, you don't win games. Our guys understand that and we clearly need to do a better job of that. They feel like they need to go out and prove they are better players than that."

The running backs coach said he's confident that fans will see a different, improved ground attack when BYU plays Central Florida.

"My guys are pretty mature and they understand where they stand," he said. "They have a game and an opportunity to prove themselves on Friday. You only have so many of those a year. You don't spend time thinking about what happened; you have to move forward and be ready to execute at a high level right now.

"I think our guys are going to come out and play well. I can't wait until Friday night to see our guys have an opportunity to play at a high level."

In the box: Doman has been asked regularly whether he is considering moving off the sideline and going up to the press box. He stated Tuesday that he isn't sure what he is going to do yet but he is considering all the options.

"I don't know if me in the box will take away seven turnovers, but it might help me as a play-caller be better," he explained.

He also said that the offense is making changes but they aren't going to be radically different than what they've done in the past.

"We're going to have to do some things different or we're going to get the same results," Doman said. "We're trying a few new things in practice and do some new things personnel-wise, but we're not going to panic."

Injury report: BYU head football athletic trainer Kevin Morris said that two players were held out of practice on Tuesday, with their status for Friday's game still unknown.

He said sophomore offensive lineman Houston Reynolds is probably doubtful for the game against the Knights due to lingering problems with plantar fasciitis.

Senior linebacker Jordan Pendleton saw a foot-and-ankle specialist on Tuesday to check out his injured ankle, according to Morris, but he said it will probably end up being a game-day decision about whether Pendleton will play.

Daily Herald sports editor Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or jlloyd@heraldextra.com. He can also be followed on Twitter at @JaredrLloyd.

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