This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Who was the unsung hero in BYU's 23-17 win over Washington last week? Coach Bronco Mendenhall said it was defensive coordinator Jaime Hill, and players such as Jordan Pendleton, Shane Hunter and Eathyn Manumaleuna concurred. Mendenhall said Hill's halftime adjustments and game plan to keep UW quarterback Jake Locker in the pocket were critical to BYU's defensive success. And it was Hill's call to drop eight and rush three on Washington's final offensive play that resulted in Manumaleuna's deflection of a Locker pass. "We anticipated because it was relatively short to intermediate yardage the ball would come out quickly, and that gave us the chance to be on the underneath routes quicker than we had been, because there were some seams in there. The risk was a possible scramble by Locker. But we made a calculated guess and he threw it quickly and on time and we happened to be in the right place," Mendenhall said. "Jaime Hill, I thought he called a great game. A couple of the fourth down stops, and to get what he got out of our defensive players in the first game, I was really impressed with the job he did. I have not been in a defensive meeting all fall camp. So I have been focusing on special teams. So it was fun to be able to delegate completely, do something else, and have that side come through. So I am happy for the defense." More of Mendenhall's postgame comments: Opening statement: "I was proud of our team. I think it was a complete victory. I think our offense played well enough, certainly, to win the game. I think our defense played well enough to win the game. And maybe the underlying story was the field position with Washington having to come out of their end zone as many times as they did. I think our special teams played well. So I think it took all three phases. Both teams were evenly matched. I think you saw that. I think the special teams battle, through the field position, was really what was the determinant. If I had to my finger on anything, I think both of our young quarterbacks played well. I think we ran the ball well enough and we made the critical plays defensively when we need to. So overall, as an opening game, in terms of a complete team effort, I was pleased." On whether he was happy with holding Washington to 17 points: "I really was. Considering the number of players they had coming back and especially who is leading it. Again, there were times, especially in the first half, where there were four or five plays where a single player here or there was off one game, and they were explosive enough and executed enough in critical moments to make us pay for that. We tightened some things up, and executed much better the second half, and with youth versus relative experience, I thought that was exceptional. Certainly, we haven't arrived yet, but just in terms of that matchup and that challenge, I was pleased with the way they played." On whether the quarterback rotation by series system was scripted: "Here's the thing, and this is exactly [how it was]. There wasn't any script. All we had was Riley was going to take the first series, we were going to give Jake the second one, and we would go from there. But we thought they both looked poised enough and confident enough, regardless of the result, and so it just seemed right to keep doing that. Just to explain my role in that a little bit more: On game day, the only time I am going to be involved in who is playing at quarterback might be the last drive of the game, if it is a critical moment. But other than that, I am trusting Brandon [Doman] and coach Anae to handle it, so I stayed out of it, and I think they managed it well. I think both quarterbacks played to their strengths and did a nice job."On whether there is any friction between the quarterbacks:"Right now, there is zero friction. And I think they are really sincere and authentic in how they are working together. It is an awesome thing. It is really fun for me to see. I don't think many places that can happen. Again, we are certainly not out of the woods and there is going to be adversity, and there are going to be challenges, etc.. But to this point we have handled it well through camp, and we have handled it well through Game I, and so, so far, so good." On whether he was surprised at the few amount of a mistakes: "I think that was something I was most proud of. I just went in and congratulated our coaches for that very thing. I didn't expect it to be as clean as it was. I was expecting a lot more volatility because of who we are, and who I thought we might be. We attempted through fall camp to get more team reps, we attempted to increase the volume, so we designed it from a number of weeks ago to hopefully have this result, and again I am not jumping to conclusions yet and saying we are on track and we are out of the woods, but for Game 1 I was happy." On whether he saw the speed at linebacker he was hoping for: "We didn't play a substitution group the first half, but realized we needed it in the second half. So you saw Kyle Van Noy start coming in the game...that was part of a substitution group. And then we started to actually play some base zone coverage, and got more pressure on the quarterback with only four players. So that was a critical component that we were missing in the first half. And it was nice to be able to put in a player that could do that. In the past we have been a little bit limited there." On whether running back J.J. DiLuigi exceeded expectations: "I would say met expectations. It is great to see a player have to labor in the program for a couple of years, and have to battle, then gets an opportunity and I think he played well....13 rushes for 71 yards, 5.3 [yards] per carry. Yeah, that's a good day. So that was a nice job."On the play of the receivers: "The quarterbacks were accurate. There were a number of passes in critical moments that probably could have been caught. And so I think they delivered the ball pretty well. And Riley Nelson is tough. When you see the way he was running the football, durability is my concern now, because he's not backing down. I would follow him if I was a player. And Jake had great composure." On whether the quarterback rotation system will be the plan going forward: "Certainly, and right now it is, we will play both. The idea is to let them kind of sort it out. But we have enough confidence in both. I don't ever think that this year it will be one or the other. It might shift one way or the other, based on how and whom we are playing, but they have earned the right to continue on, just from what I saw today, just as it is." On getting his 50th win: "I had no idea." On Brian Logan's play: "Great. Brian, I think he was second in the country last year in pass break-ups. He's short, but he's not little. He's big and he plays confident, and he makes critical plays, which good defensive or offensive players do. Making critical plays and critical times that's what he did tonight." On whether an injury forced Brandon Bradley out of the game: "No. Corby Eason has played very well through fall camp. There was a play or two where it either looked like Brandon was tired, or maybe his execution wasn't as sharp in a given situation, and Corby is pressing so hard anyway we were going to play him. So it just seemed right to play three corners. And it is great to have that luxury."On whether BYU's conditioning was a factor: "I think it could have been, and maybe that contributed to, it looked like we played, in my opinion, we played with more energy. It looked like we held our conditioning, and gained momentum in the second half. That might have been attributed to how the first half ended. But it looked to me as the game went on that we were better conditioned. That's just my assumption. That's not belittlling our opponent. As I saw the momentum shifting, it looked like we were handling the pace at a higher level than our opponent. So I hope that comes out right." On the offensive line allowing no quarterback sacks: "That's great. I don't think they were close in terms of number of hits, etc. Our offensive line, when they were coming off the field, they knew that that they weren't having much success getting to the quarterback, which is great, because they knew they needed to protect relatively young players back there, and so I was really happy. The other thing that needs to be noted is there were no turnovers, no interceptions and really few, maybe only one questionable decision by a quarterback on a ball that went down the seam that kind of sailed that the free safety might have had a shot at. But other than that, they really made a nice job making decisions, which is a good start." On whether field position was a priority going into the game: "Absolutely. One of the reasons that I am coaching the kickoff team, and structuring the special teams emphasis, was knowing that we are going to need it, because of our relative youth. I don't know how fast we can get our execution to go, so field position has to be something we win. And I think that played out today, just from an overall execution." On what kind of letter grade he would give for execution: "If it had to be letter grade, I would say probably B range, all things considered. Not to my ideal standard, but all things considered in this game. I would say probably a B." On Richard Wilson's performance at tight end, and whether he will be the starter: "Richard is continuing to do a nice job from the last scrimmage we had against each other in fall camp, through today. But before I comment on that, I need to see what the other tight ends did as well, and look at the opportunities they had. Sometimes, one particular player has more opportunities than the others. I would have to look and see. But I was happy he made the plays that he did."