BYU sophomore defensive back Malik Moore is one of a number of Cougar players who get the chance to head close to home during the Thanksgiving weekend.

“It’s going to be fun going back to the place where I’m from, my home town,” Moore said earlier in the week. “It will be cool to see all my friends and play in front of everybody. It’s exciting.”

BYU has played all over the country during the 2019 season but Moore said that getting ready for the regular season finale at San Diego State on Saturday has him amped up even more.

“You are preparing more than you normally would,” Moore said. “My family is from down south really so when I was back in Tennessee I was so excited to go there and ball out in front of my family. It’s the same feeling getting ready to go home to San Diego.”

He’s hoping to see friends and family at some point during his time in southern California but at the end of the day he knows this trip is about taking care of business on the field.

“We’ve got to prepare and ball out,” Moore said. “We need to make plays whenever get the opportunities.”

With this being the final regular-season game, it’s a natural time to think about what has happened during 2019 and consider how to improve.

Moore said he is one of the guys who feels like he can be a lot better than he was this fall.

“Personally I don’t think my season has gone as well as I hoped,” Moore said. “I think I had a terrible fall camp and that kind of carried on to the season. I wasn’t there mentally like I was last year. I was battling through a lot of stuff. It’s something I have to pick up and show everyone what I can do and should’ve been doing since I got here. I’ve still got two more years left and next year will for sure be a better year.”

Cougar defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki said Moore has had to figure some things out, just like many players do.

“It’s part of football,” Tuiaki said. “It takes some kids longer than others but our job as coaches is to stay committed and see them through the rough times.”

The sophomore said that while tough times might make some players consider leaving, he’s not one of them.

“I wouldn’t transfer from this place,” Moore said. “I’m not LDS but I like the program and I like being around everybody. It’s hard but you have to learn to battle and get there mentally. Life is a mental game. Everybody goes through something.”

BYU as a team has gone through some ups and downs this year but recently have been on a nice roll, winning five straight games.

The next test, however, is a big one since the Aztecs appear to be capable of exploiting things the Cougars struggled with earlier in the season.

Tuiaki, for example, knows his defense is going to need to be good against San Diego State’s power run game.

“It’s going to be a physical game,” Tuiaki said. “We’ve got to be ready up front but we also have to have 11 tacklers on the field. A lot of times things people might not see is that when you are forcing the ball to where you think it should go and someone isn’t making the tackle, it looks like you aren’t doing anything to stop the run. That’s why we have to have 11 tacklers on the field and for that reason we may move a couple guys around to make sure we have the best tacklers at the corner and safety spot. If we are spilling the ball to a specific spot, who we spill it to has to be a guy we trust to make the tackle. We also have to do a better job up front and with the linebackers getting off blocks and making plays.”

On the other side of the ball, BYU’s offensive line is preparing for a battle against the physical Aztec defense.

“We have a big challenge in playing a really good defense that has been playing well all year,” Cougar sophomore center James Empey said. “We feel like our best football is still out there. They do a lot of great things on defense and have kind of a unique scheme. We’re embracing the challenge and are excited to go out and play such a good team. Hopefully we can put another good game together and play our type of offense.”

Daily Herald sports reporter Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or Twitter: @JaredrLloyd. Instagram: @JaredrLloyd.

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