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Trench play continues to be emphasis for BYU football

By Jared Lloyd - | Nov 6, 2023

BYU's Chase Roberts, right, is tackled by West Virginia's Turin Bradley (8) during the first half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023, in Morgantown, W.Va. West Virginia won 37-7. (AP Photo/Chris Jackson)

Statistics don’t always clearly tell the story of a college football game, but they certainly did a pretty good job of highlighting why BYU got pummeled 37-7 at West Virginia last Saturday.

The Mountaineers ran 13 more plays and gained 290 more yards than the Cougars did and it was pretty clear how they did it.

West Virginia exploded for 336 rushing yards, averaging seven yards per carry, while BYU managed just 67 yards on the ground (hampered by three sacks for 22 yards lost).

Given those numbers, it wasn’t surprising that the Cougars spent much of Monday’s media teleconference talking about how BYU has to improve in the trenches if it wants to avoid repeating what happened against the Mountaineers.

“The guys played hard, but not hard or physical enough as a team to match West Virginia’s aggressive play,” Cougar head coach Kalani Sitake said. “We need to have that fixed by the time we hit the field Saturday night. We saw a lot of errors and a lot of things that need to be improved on, but we are excited for this week and getting after it.”

No defense that just surrendered more than 300 yards on the ground is going to be happy with its performance.

“I am really concerned about how many rushing yards we have given up in the last two games, especially against West Virginia,” Sitake said. “We have had players who can make those plays, so we need to evaluate that and figure out what’s going on. We have depth and a lot of guys we can play, but for some reason it’s not getting done, and we need to do something about it.”

BYU junior defensive lineman Tyler Batty made it clear that his unit knows that isn’t anywhere close to acceptable.

“That’s a big point of emphasis for us,” Batty said. “Shutting down the run game starts up front, so that’s something that we have to continue to take big strides in, to limit these teams from getting out and rushing for 10 yards a carry. We’ve got to do better, and that’s going to start in practice this week, taking care of that up front and making sure we’re ready for any type of run game that’s thrown at us.”

But while the Cougar defense certainly had one of its worst games of the year, the BYU offensive line has been a concern for much of the season as this group has never figured out a way to consistently run the ball.

“Our offensive line is not getting the job done, that’s for sure,” Sitake said. “We aren’t going to hide behind anything. They need to do better. Our performance as a team against West Virginia was embarrassing for everybody, including our offensive line, so hopefully they can learn from that game and not allow it to show up again. It comes with a level of toughness and accountability from our guys.”

Cougar freshman wide receiver Parker Kingston said BYU’s offense can’t starting doubting its identity.

“We need to just believe in what we’re doing,” Kingston said. “We just need to keep believing and know that we’re one play, one assignment away from breaking loose and showing the whole country what we can really do.”

Despite some of the frustrating moments and blowout losses, Batty said he believes that the Cougars aren’t becoming fractured.

“We’ve had some ups and downs throughout this season, and we haven’t had an issue with that,” Batty said. “We have really good team culture, especially thanks to Coach Sitake. We definitely have the leadership on this team and guys rally together, guys care about each other. In these tough moments, no one is pointing figures. Collectively as a team, we’ve got to be better.”


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