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Provo • BYU has the seventh-best overall defense in the country through four games, and is No. 9 against the run and No. 21 against the pass.
But that's not good enough, junior linebacker Kyle Van Noy said Tuesday as the Cougars continued preparations for Friday's ESPN-televised matchup with Hawaii.
The goal "is to be a top-three [defense], if not the best," Van Noy said. "Our goals are high. We are going to shoot high, and continue working to [get] to that next level."
Opponents are averaging just 246 yards per game against the Cougars, and just 12.5 points per game, a remarkable number considering two touchdowns were scored against them when the offense was on the field.
BYU's defense has not allowed an opponent more than 300 yards in 10 straight games, dating back to 2011.
"The [dominance] started last year," coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "We finished close to [top 10] last year, but I think it is a lot of the guys back, a lot with more experience, some additions of a few new players that are really athletic and can run well. But mostly it is their commitment to doing what they are supposed to do."
It has been a disappointing start to the season for receiver Marcus Mathews, the 6-foot-4 junior from Beaverton, Ore. Mathews caught 27 passes for 299 yards and a touchdown last season, but has played sparingly in 2012 and has caught just one pass, for 6 yards.
Mathews underwent an intense eating regimen to put on weight over the offseason so he could be a more effective tight end, only to get sick and have coaches switch him to receiver during fall camp.
"At the time that we moved him [to receiver], we had some real wide receiver depth issues," tight ends coach Lance Reynolds said Monday. "And so we moved him with that in mind. It wasn't anything that he was doing wrong at the tight end spot."
End to Hawaiian pipeline?
BYU has just four players from the state of Hawaii on its roster, which might be the lowest number in decades. Running back Mike Alisa is from Laie, tight end Kaneakua Friel is from Kaneohe, defensive tackle Simote Vea is from Hau'ula and injured defensive tackle Ian Dulan is from Hilo.
Mendenhall said the trend of having fewer Hawaiians on the roster will likely continue.
"I would say [recruiting the islands] has tapered off some, just as our admission standards here at BYU continue to climb," he said. "There aren't fewer and fewer [good] players. There are the same number of players. Academic qualifications are becoming more difficult."
BYU has a 20-8 edge in its overall series with Hawaii, having won 41-20 last year in Honolulu. The Cougars are 8-0 against the Warriors in Provo. ... Thirteen different players have caught passes for BYU this season, but only six are wide receivers.
Hawaii at BYU
Friday, 6 p.m. MDT
TV • ESPN