After two consecutive games of minimal success along the offensive front, BYU offensive coordinator Brandon Doman needed something to change heading into the Sept. 28 game against Hawaii.
"There wasn’t a culture of excellence," he said. "We were getting out-physicaled up front. We lean heavily on that offensive line and we weren’t playing well.
“Either you have to change what you are doing or you have to change the people, and we decided to change a few of the people around. We’re going to hit some hiccups along the way but I think the changes created a different mindset for us."
The response to the shuffling on the offensive line were immediate and created a much different result at the point of attack against the Warriors in the 47-0 win.
"Our guys came out with a different mindset entirely," Doman said. "I didn’t know that they would. I knew our practices had been different last week and with the changes we made at center and guard, I’d seen it during the week. Usually that transfers over to the stadium. I wanted to fuel that success a little and I want to build a foundation that will last for a long time."
When asked what he attributed that change to, Doman listed off the names of the players: Braden Hansen, center; Famika Anae, guard; Manaaki Vaitai, guard; and Solomone Kafu, guard.
Anae, a sophomore who graduated from Timpview High School, said he was just glad to get a shot.
"The coaches are doing the best they can to make the right decisions," Anae said. "At this point, they saw fit to make some changes and so they did.
“It was a lot of fun to be out there. I was grateful to have the opportunity and tried to do the best I could. I made some mistakes, but I wanted to make them going at least 100 miles an hour. That was my mindset going into the game. I might mess up, but I’m going to do it full speed."
Cougar head football coach Bronco Mendenhall said the BYU offensive line displayed a "hungry and eager" mentality, a designation Anae likes to hear.
"It’s my nature and in the nature of all of our offensive line," he said. "We needed a little spark to get it out there. That’s the only way I know how to play football and the only way I’ve ever played football."
The Cougars are hoping to continue to fan that fire that helped the team gain so many yards against Hawaii — success that even surprised the offensive coordinator.
“We certainly didn’t expect to rush the ball for 400 yards or to throw the ball the amount of times we did,” Doman said. “We went in expecting to throw it 35 or 40 times and rush it the same amount. Our linemen were playing so darn physical and our running backs were running so hard that we just kept whacking away at it.”
That same group on interior linemen appear to be set to get another shot to show what they can do when the Cougars host Utah State on Friday night (8:15 p.m., ESPN).
“As of right now, that looks like that is the plan,” Anae said. “It will be pretty consistent. We’re try to roll with that. It worked pretty good, so we’ll see how that goes.”
Now that teams have seen what players like freshmen quarterback Taysom Hill and running back Jamaal Williams can do when they have holes to run through, BYU can expect teams to try to limit that aspect of the game.
Doman, however, sees that as creating more opportunities for other facets of the offense.
“We’re not going to be able to do that every time we play somebody but the fact that teams hopefully feel threatened that BYU has figured out how to run the ball, hopefully that will help our pass game be better,” Doman said.
Whether battering open holes for the ground attack or dropping back into pass protection, Anae said he’s determined to make the most of the chance he has on the field.
“I have to do what I can to try and keep myself on the field now that I’ve earned my way onto it,” Anae said. “Part of it is taking the opportunities whenever I’ve got them.”
No balloons yet: Rumors swirled Monday that Cougar senior quarterback Riley Nelson might be retiring from football due to his back problems, but no such announcement was forthcoming Monday.
Mendenhall instead gave a similar report to the one he gave last week, saying Nelson “is still beat up” but planned on going as long as possible before making a decision on who would start against Utah State.
Nelson was on the field in his standard practice jersey and could be seen going over some things with Hill after practice was over.
A “blackout” afternoon upcoming: BYU officially announced the game time and television plans for the Homecoming game against Oregon State — which is currently ranked No. 17 and No. 14 in both major polls — on Oct. 13.
The game will be played a 1:30 p.m. Mountain time and will be broadcast regionally on ABC.
The school also unveiled the blackout uniforms the Cougars will wear for the game.
“The uniform was designed to have the same striping and maintain an element of tradition, while also creating a fun atmosphere for the team and the fans,” Mendenhall said in a statement. “Our plan is to wear the uniforms for this one game.”
Fans are encouraged to support the team by wearing black to the game.
Injury update: Cougar junior running back Michael Alisa had surgery on his broken arm on Sept. 29 and will be out six to eight weeks.
Mendenhall also said the while junior tight end Richard Wilson is working hard, he doesn’t think is injured knee is quite back to where it was before. That means he’ll probably see limited action.
The BYU coach also said freshman running back Adam Hine had another test and is a lot closer to being back, but his exact status is unclear. Mendenhall said they’d like to play Hine, at least on special teams, as soon as he’s back.
Daily Herald sports editor Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or email@example.com. He can also be followed on Twitter at @JaredrLloyd.