BYU football at USF 3

BYU defenders attempt to tackle USF running back Trevon Sands duing the 27-23 USF win over the Cougars in Tampa on Oct. 12, 2019.

For the BYU defense, Mondays must feel an awful lot like the movie “Groundhog Day.”

In it, Bill Murray’s character relives the same day over and over again — Groundhog Day — and laments that he doesn’t get a re-run of a more pleasant day.

On Mondays, the Cougars get to watch game video of their latest contest, and lately it hasn’t been pretty. The storyline in 2019 has often been the same: BYU gives up a ton of rushing yards. Through six games, the Cougars are allowing 224.5 rushing yards per game, which is 123rd out of 130 FBS teams. The Cougars have surrendered 187, 242 and 243 in consecutive losses to Washington, Toledo and South Florida, respectively.

“It’s always tough going back and watching film and looking at your mistakes,” BYU senior defense end J.J. Nwigwe said. “Especially knowing that you practiced and worked hard all last week to prevent these mistakes. It’s just one of those things that you have to learn from. It’s a tough pill to swallow but I know our group is strong and resilient. I know we will pick it up next week.”

In the movie, Murray’s character eventually figures out what needs to be done to break the curse, gets the girl and learns valuable lessons. BYU’s goal this week is to stop 14th-ranked Boise State from compiling big rushing numbers on Saturday and pick up a much-needed victory.

“The first corrections are on Monday,” BYU assistant head coach Ed Lamb said. “The coaches watch video on Sunday or early Monday morning so that we can have a presentation — basically a curriculum — so that we can teach the players what went wrong. It’s a combination of things we wish we would have done differently as coaches strategically and things that wish we would have coached differently technically. Then there are players out there making plays or not making plays within the system.

“We try to teach it up and then Tuesday is the day we come out with the new game plan for the new week. It always requires some adjustments. We try not to be a defense each week, because each opponent is a little different.”

Boise State averages 166.5 yards per game — 66th nationally — and 4.32 yards per rush. Robert Mahone (75 carries, 375 yards, 5.0 yards per carry, five TD’s) and George Holani (65 carries, 366 yards, 5.6 yards per carry, one TD) are the Broncos two main runners.

Lamb pointed out that while the common denominator with the run defense is that BYU is simply giving up too many yards, it’s not been the same play or types of plays that have hurt the Cougars.

“Two games ago (Toledo) the quarterback run game really hurt us,” he said. “Last week it was the power and counter and the pin-pull schemes that really got the best of us. We didn’t coach it well enough and we didn’t play it well enough.”

As for Boise State, Lamb added “They present some challenges because they run zone schemes and the pin-pull schemes. And they get big in personnel, and that’s been a struggle for us. Really, it’s their strength against what has been our weakness. Sometimes, I think that’s a great challenge, an eye-opening challenge for our boys and I believe our guys will rise to the occasion.”

Lamb also said the defense has to be more physical at the point of attack.

“We going to challenge the boys to do that and I believe that they will,” he said.

Nwigwe said the defense looks to defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga, linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi and safety Austin Lee to lead them this week in breaking the cycle and finding a way to stop the run.

“I look up to those guys even though I’m a senior,” Nwigwe said. “They can always get the team rallied together and playing at their best. I know with those three we can definitely turn it around and have a good game this week.”

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