One of the basic rules of football is that if you win in the trenches, you win the game.
The BYU football team took that a step further in Monday’s 55-3 blowout win at Navy, demonstrating that if you dominate the trenches, then you dominate the game.
The Cougars manhandled a Midshipman defense that was No. 10 in the nation against the run in 2019 and returned seven starters, rushing for 301 yards on 49 carries.
On the other side of the ball, BYU stonewalled the Navy offense that was No. 1 in college football in rushing last year, holding it to just 119 yards on the ground (many of which came after the outcome was decided).
How did the Cougars get so prepared on both the offensive and defensive lines during fall camp?
Well, BYU head coach Kalani Sitake and Cougar senior defensive lineman Khyiris Tonga didn’t exactly agree on the specifics.
“We were a little concerned because when we started our live work, they (the BYU offensive line) took it to our defense,” Sitake said during the BYU postgame press conference. “That was a little shocking because usually the defense is further ahead in scrimmages early on in camp. The defense had to respond and quickly get back on it. You had this great battle of physical football on both sides at the line of scrimmage.”
Tonga wasn’t going to say the Cougar offensive line “kicked their butts” during fall camp but he did credit them for helping his unit be prepared.
“The offense is great,” Tonga said. “They always gave us great looks, especially our scout offense and our scout defense. Without them, I don’t think this win was possible. I’m grateful for them and their willingness to give their all to the team.”
Sitake said the BYU defensive linemen and offensive linemen are a close-knit group, but they love getting after each other.
“It’s a lot of big bodies there every time and it’s a clash every time,” Sitake said. “I’m glad they make each other better.”
Tonga said he felt the Cougar defense was well-prepared to play against Navy’s option attack.
“It was very disciplined play,” Tonga said. “It was a matter of stepping the right way and being really sound on the defensive line. Navy cuts a lot and we were able to use our hands more and continue to be dominant up front. It was all the coaches collectively just being able to help. Everybody chimed in and we were able to learn. Especially against this offense that was new to many of us, we took it as a learning opportunity and to grow from it.”
BYU senior offensive lineman Tristen Hoge said he was thrilled with how his unit answered the call for the Cougars.
“I’m extremely proud, seeing all the work everyone has done and to see everyone execute,” Hoge said. We said that we were going to come in here, we know our game plan and we’re going to execute our game plan. Our foot was always on the gas and I’m proud of every one of these guys.”
Sitake lauded the players and the coaches who got the job done for BYU in the season-opener but was also quick to point out that this was just one game.
“Our coaches worked extremely hard,” Sitake said. “I was so happy for them. Coach (Ilaisa) Tuiaki and Ed Lamb and the rest of the defensive staff did an amazing job; so did the special teams, so did Coach (Jeff) Grimes and Coach (Aaron) Roderick and the offensive coaches. They had a great game plan. Let’s keep this thing rolling. Let’s build off of this. We have some time to get ready for Army. I look forward to our offense, defense and special teams performing like this at a consistent level.”