After the first half of play in Saturday night’s 21-18 home loss to Cal, the BYU football team had controlled the ball for 19 minutes and 43 seconds. That’s nearly two-thirds of the opening two quarters.
But by the time the game ended, the Bears had caught up to and surpassed the Cougars in time of possession (30:42-29:18).
Part of it was BYU’s offensive struggles as the Cougars ran only 13 plays in the second half until the final drive of the game.
The other part, however, was that Cal was moving the ball well, particularly on the ground.
The Bears had drives that went seven plays, nine plays, 11 plays and eight plays during that time frame as they gained 112 rushing yards after the break.
BYU defenders after the contest credited the Cal running backs and quarterbacks for being patient and waiting for holes to open.
“Sometimes we got locked up with their offensive linemen and that’s the worst,” Cougar sophomore defensive lineman Bracken El-Bakri said after practice on Tuesday. “I feel like as a defensive line unit we made a lot of plays, but it came down to little mistakes. They were more mental mistakes, not form mistakes.”
BYU defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki said he feels like overall his defensive front seven are doing pretty well with their footwork and hands.
“It’s a work in progress,” he said. “Everyone is a little bit different. Every kid takes a step either here or there at different times. Sometimes a kid who you think is there gets banged up and plays bad. It’s something we’ll keep working on for every single game the whole year.”
The Cougars saw some good things as they looked back at the film, but they also saw some mistakes.
“We can be way, way, way better, especially after we watched the film,” junior defensive lineman Trajan Pili said. “We let some plays get away from us, but that doesn’t resemble who we are as a defense. We are working hard, so we are in a good place.”
He said the key for BYU to minimize the gains for an opposing team is to take care of the little things.
“It’s about details,” Pili said. “We were doing our assignment and were where we needed to be — but as soon as we sharpen things up, use a little bit more of that technique and improve our reaction process, that’s going to be the difference.”
Once an opponent hits the hole, Pili said it all comes down to a quick reaction and having violent hands.
“It’s pretty simple really,” he said. “We are working hard on those things.”
With BYU facing a Wisconsin team on Saturday (1:30 p.m. MDT, ABC) that is known for power running, one that averages 325 yards per game on the ground (fifth in the nation), the Cougars know that getting in the holes and making stops will be key to having any shot at an upset.
“Shedding blocks is going to be really important this week,” BYU senior linebacker Sione Takitaki said. “Our hands are going to have to be really quick because they will have a blocker for everybody. Somebody has to make a play, so someone has to get off a blocker. That’s going to be pretty important and I know we are going to be working hard on that this week.”