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Somewhat surprisingly, BYU offensive coordinator Ty Detmer said Wednesday that the Cougars' makeshift offensive line now missing three-year starter Ului Lapuaho in addition to camp no-shows Kyle Johnson and Brad Wilcox "actually played pretty well" in the 17-14 loss to UCLA.
Detmer said quarterback Taysom Hill also isn't to blame for the offense's woes, defending the senior's play by saying "you are only as good as the guys that are playing around you, at times." You can read more about that here.
So, who should be feeling the heat?
The receivers and tight ends, mostly.
"Well, I think we are determined to improve, and that's our focus," receivers coach Ben Cahoon said Wednesday. "The scrutiny is deserved."
Detmer alluded to those issues as well on Wednesday.
"We haven't gotten a lot of separation against man coverage at times, and so in turn the quarterback holds the ball a little bit, which makes it looks like our line is not really protecting," Detmer said. "We feel like the guys who are going to be in there [on the offensive line] will go in and play well and execute. The focus isn't on, 'We gotta protect for five or six seconds.' We still need to get open and sharpen our routes, and be able to throw things on time as well. So I think when people watch the game, they feel like, argh, we aren't getting protection. But our protection hasn't been terrible. It has been good enough for us to be able to get the ball out on time if we are doing what we are supposed to."
Cahoon acknowledged that the receiver play is "not good enough" and called it a work in progress.
"We have a good group and they are determined and they are working hard," Cahoon said. "We are looking forward to another opportunity to bounce back and prove how good we are. I think last week was a little bit of an aberration. We have identified the issues and made the corrections."
Cahoon acknowledged that the Cougars have faced good defenses in Arizona, UCLA and Utah, but doesn't believe there will be a drop-off this week against West Virginia.
"Well, I don't know how they are going to compare to the rest of the season.. … But I don't think it easier," Cahoon said.
Like last year against another Power 5 conference defense, Michigan, the Cougar receivers struggled to beat man-press defense vs. UCLA.
"I think we can do a little bit better job going deep on people, because that is the best thing to get guys relaxed, and not as aggressive at the line of scrimmage, if you run past them," Cahoon said. "We've got guys that can run by them. We just haven't had too many opportunities. That's on the coaches as much as it is on the players. There are things we can do to help with man press."
The poor play is not due to a lack of confidence.
"I think guys are determined," Cahoon said. "They are champions. They are great kids. And they just want another chance to go out there and make plays. I think there is some natural frustration and just being down if you don't play to your potential, and we definitely feel that is what happened last week. They are eager to get going."
Freshman Aleva Hifo has been seeing more action as the season has wore on, but has just two catches for 7 yards.
"Well, he is a dynamic guy," Cahoon said. It is just more of not giving him too much too soon as far as his role in learning the offense. He is a guy we have liked from the get-go. He is a dynamic player and is just grasping the concepts and the terminology of the offense."
It hurt the Cougars against UCLA that senior receiver Mitchell Juergens missed most of the first half after taking a ferocious hit on BYU's first drive. He returned late in the first half.
"Yeah, I just took a hard hit and that happens in football," he said. "I was eager to come back and was glad I could. Yeah, I am feeling great."
Juergens said the receivers need to execute better, run better routes and do a better job against man press defenses.
"Just getting open against man press, those are some things we have really needed to work on, and going into this game we feel really comfortable and have gotten a lot of work on it. We feel ready for whatever they throw at us, man or zone. We will be ready to beat it."