More than 10,000 fans gathered at LaVell Edwards Stadium to see the BYU football team in action Saturday as the Cougars’ held their first open scrimmage since spring practice.
The blue and white squads didn’t play a full-fledged scrimmage, but the first-team offense appeared to have its way for most of the morning. Quarterback Taysom Hill was strong in the few times the offense drove the length of the field, finishing five of eight passes for 55 yards. Hill also scrambled several times during situational practice, receiving loud cheers each time he slid, most likely in reaction to offensive coordinator Robert Anae’s promise to ensure Hill always slides.
Head coach Bronco Mendenhall said he was pleased overall with the offense’s execution.
“This is the cleanest representation I’ve seen of the offense so far,” Mendenhall said. “I liked the talent and I liked the pace. I like the consistency and I liked the execution for the first six or seven days. … (We are) probably ahead of where I thought we would be, if I had to pinpoint it down.”
Backup quarterback, sophomore Ammon Olsen, didn’t produce any long drives in the full scrimmage, but found sophomore wide receiver Mitch Mathews in the front corner of the end zone as part of red zone practice for the most electrifying offensive score of the day. Flanked by a defender, the 6-foot-6 Mathews made a leaping grab just before falling out of bounds.
“I hope I can be a weapon down (in the red zone),” said Mathews, whose recent YouTube fame for his vertical basketball ability has fans wondering what he can do on the football field. “I’m finally healthy after breaking my collarbone twice and having some groin issues, so we’ll see.”
Anae and offensive line coach Garett Tujague demanded a quicker pace from players making their way to and from the sidelines, as the offense used just more than 15 seconds between each play for most of the scrimmage. The offensive staff hopes to cut that down to around 12 seconds in time for game one, but said it’s a work in progress.
“It’s a marathon, and usually when somebody’s in a marathon you don’t ask how the first five steps went,” Anae said. “This is just the very beginning. … But for the first five steps, not bad.”
BYU’s offense struggled more on the ground and through the air, and the offensive line was called for multiple procedural penalties.
“We can do better,” said sophomore running back Jamaal Williams, who is expected to carry a heavy load on offense this season. “We need to be communicating with each other more. We’re an emotionally based team and we need to be vocal.”
Sophomore safety Michael Wadsworth provided the best defensive highlight when he picked off a pass from Jason Munns and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the day. Wadsworth is not slated to start, but is coming on strong in fall practice and vying for a larger role in a wide-open competition for secondary positions.
“The coaches are starting to trust me a lot more,” Wadsworth said. “Especially in the film room, I’ve been getting a better grasp of things.”
Wadsworth also said the interception was special because his family was in attendance.
“It was the first big play I’ve had in the stadium,” Wadsworth said. “It was just a fun experience, knowing my family was here watching me.”