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Perhaps lost in BYU's 55-53 win over Toledo as time expired Friday night was the play of the Cougars' offensive line, which struggled early to protect Taysom Hill especially in the second quarter but then simply took over the game in the second half. The offensive line dominated Toledo's defensive line and paved the way for Jamaal Williams' school-record 286 rushing yards.
Much of the talk in Monday's press briefing revolved around how poorly the BYU defense played in giving up nearly 700 yards of offense to Toledo, but Kalani Sitake quickly reminded folks how much the offensive line has improved under coach Mike Empey. And the unit is playing without three guys penciled in to be starters this season: Kyle Johnson, Brad Wilcox and Ului Lapuaho. Speaking of the latter, it is looking more and more like he could be done for the season with an undisclosed knee injury.
"I think coach Empey has done a great job with the O line," Sitake said. "I mean, we got them bigger and got them stronger. But assignment-wise, they were able to get on blocks and get a body on a body. When you allow Jamaal to just run, and people are trying to tackle him with their arms, it is not going to work out for them."
Parker Dawe, one of only two seniors in the OL two-deep (Andrew Eide is the other) was also proud of the way the offensive line played.
"I feel like we are playing awesome," Dawe said. "I am super proud of everyone we have up front right now. You know, between Andrew, Keyan, Tejan, Tuni, Shoaf and Lui, we are playing really well right now. I think a big part of that is that we are starting to focus on executing, making sure we are working the right stacks, getting to the right backers, and I attribute a lot of that success to the coaching staff, helping us recognize those things and that's why we saw a lot of success this past weekend, against Toledo."
The task this week will be to pull it off against a great defensive line, because Michigan State's is much better than Toledo's, even if star DT Malik McDowell will miss the first half for targeting against Indiana. Against the two best defenses they've seen, Utah's and UCLA's, the line wasn't nearly as dominant.
"I think a lot of people, what they didn't see when we played UCLA and Utah, is we did really well up front," Dawe said. "We did really well in protection, and manhandling some of the guys up front. But we didn't execute. A lot of guys that were making the plays in those two games that we lost were 'backers that were getting on our backs, that were slipping out from combos that we need to work as an O line, or even the tight ends coming down and picking up the backers. That is something that hurt us, obviously, in those two games.
Against Arizona, West Virignia and Toledo, we executed, and that was the difference. It is really us beating ourselves as an offense than it is other teams beating us. So, if we can go forward from this point, being able to execute plays, we are going to be very dangerous."
More comments on the offense from Dawe and Sitake on Monday:
Sitake on Jamaal Williams' big night, and what makes him special:
"He's got great vision. Jamaal does a great job of setting up blocks. Being a former fullback, I would love to block for a guy like that he's where he's supposed to be and breaks big ones. … He's a special one, and we thought that going into the season. He's going to have to have a lot of big games like that to help us win."
Sitake on whether Williams can have a big game against a Big Ten defense:
"To his credit he was a little banged up in the Utah game, and that carried over. So now he's healthy. And they are great defenses. I don't want to take anything away from Utah and UCLA, because they are great defenses, and obviously carried their defense over into great defense.
Having [Jamaal] healthy and 100 percent will be the key, and you see what he does when he is 100 percent.
But also we need to rely on the other guys to spell him a little bit. Squally [Canada] came in and got some runs, was able to get Jamaal a little rested so he could perform better in the second half. We are going to need him and Algie [Brown] to take the load just being on Jamaal."
Dawe on whether blocking for Williams' record will give the offensive line confidence:
"Yeah, totally. It was funny because we watched film this morning, and there are still things that we need to do better. And we showed the film this morning. A lot of people think after so much success with the offense there would just be a lot of praise and we went to the film session and we knew there were things we still need to get better at. When we execute, we are very dangerous, and I think we saw that on Friday with Jamaal running the ball. He broke a school record, so we are hoping we can build upon that this week against Michigan State."