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Monson: BYU will be OK ... no, no, really

Published September 3, 2013 4:38 pm

Cougars players believe mistakes at Virginia are fixable.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Provo

It's going to be OK, after all. No, no, really, it is.

It is.

That was the message BYU's football players and coaches sent out after their first full day back at work following Saturday's goof-a-rama at Virginia. Apparently, Monday's practice went a whole lot better than the actual game. So, there's that.

How OK will it be?

When asked what his team learned from its disappointing defeat, looking ahead to Texas, running back Jamaal Williams blew sunshine like this:

"That if everybody works hard, we can beat anybody."

It was a bold conclusion to draw after Saturday's mess.

Jumping ahead a few sentences, Williams added: "We made some mistakes, of course, that kept them in the game; as a result, we gave them the game. We feel like if we cut down on mistakes and keep executing, do what we need to do, they're going to get tired and bow down to our will. And we're going to go out there and do our thing."

Ah, the losing team's classic refrain: We can do better and when we do, we'll win.

Maybe that's true, maybe it's not. The Cougars sounded on Monday as though they were doing everything they could to convince themselves of the former, forced to cling to it sooner than expected after a bad loss.

Going up against the Longhorns will be tougher. And facing that challenge, the Cougars suddenly were conceding the need for improvement, but then talking happy talk. The only other option, it seems, is staring at harsh truths nobody's ready yet to see.

It's too early for that.

Mendenhall went ahead and complimented his team in specific areas — including the play of the defense (check), the running of Williams (check) — and he called Taysom Hill's performance "strong," which nearly caused Pinocchio's nose to blow through a nearby window, given that the quarterback hit just 13 of 40 passes.

Protecting the psyche of his young QB, Mendenhall blamed the inefficiency on receivers who dropped, by his count, five or six balls. Williams' late bumbling of a throw that was intercepted — "I should have caught it," he said — hurt the Cougars in a major way. But even if that pass had been caught, even if those other catches had been made, Hill's completion percentage would have remained south of what BYU's offense needs, at least against top-drawer opponents.

On the one hand, on the other hand:

Hill said: "Our passing game has to get better," and then, regarding Texas, he said: "I'm comfortable, I'm confident. I think we have a really, really good shot."

Mendenhall said: "I thought we played really hard. Doesn't mean we necessarily played well." And, then, said: "I was encouraged and I thought we gained some momentum, didn't lose any."

The coach knows full well his new defense looked a lot like the defense of a year ago, which is great news for him, and that his new offense looked too much like the old one, which, fast-paced or not, is a kick to the tenders.

Hurrying bad offense up merely rotates that offense off the field quicker.

But the coach spun away from that notion, saying: "I have no issue with the number of plays, especially if it relates to points, which the research has shown that that's what it will lead to. If for some reason it doesn't, then that's a whole different story. But I don't have any reason to think it won't."

Other than his team putting just 16 points on the board against an opponent picked to finish 13th in its league.

"I think our team is optimistic, encouraged and feels like there was progress made," Mendenhall said. "However, [the game] also gave us a clearer idea of what areas we had to work on. So, the brutal facts are we need to get better up front, better at throwing and catching it."

No denying the offensive line drooped in its first outing under position coach Garett Tujague. Of all the Cougars, Tujague was most emphatic about how lousy his group performed, how lousy he performed, and how all that was going to change.

"We've got to do a better job of embracing the philosophy of this offense," he said. "You can't compromise the quality of the plays to the quantity. … Most disappointing is, we need to be physical. If you go back and look at any game, it's won and lost up front. That's on me."

Asked if the offensive line play can be fixed, following the day's theme, Tujague said: "Absolutely, 100 percent. Absolutely, it will be fixed."

It's going to be OK, after all. No, no, really, it is.

It is.

GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 and 960 AM The Zone.