Notebook: Cougars go quiet in red zone

TYLER JAMES
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND -- Moving the ball didn’t present many problems for BYU against Notre Dame on Saturday.

The trouble came when the Cougars threatened the Irish in the red zone.

Three second half drives pushed the Cougars inside the Notre Dame 12-yard line, but none of the trips ended in the end zone.

Kicker Justin Sorenson knocked in field goals on two of those drives and the third ended with a blocked field goal attempt. Touchdowns on any of those trips could have changed the tenor of the 23-13 loss to Notre Dame.

“From an offensive perspective, we did not live up to what we came here to do,” said BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae. “We had shots in the red zone. We got in third-and-long down there. We got stuffed at the point on certain occasions. You’d like to have a lot of things back in a game like that. I do believe the matchup was right on the money. I do believe we have the talent on our team.”

The Cougars possessed enough talent to rack up 415 yards of offense on a day in which they scored just one touchdown. After a touchdown drive in the first quarter, the red zone turned into a dead zone for BYU.

“What happens at that part of the field is the run game that was working pretty effectively to get us down there, safeties are now closer and so the running game is much more difficult to get the kind of yardage we were getting,” said BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall.

The closest the Cougars came may have been on the last drive into the red zone late in the fourth quarter. Wide receiver Cody Hoffman ran open to the goal line on second-and-goal from the 6-yard line, but Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith deflected the Taysom Hill pass at the line of scrimmage.

“I actually was signaling touchdown when I saw the slant and No. 13 for Notre Dame knocked it down,” Mendenhall said. “I thought Cody had the guy beat inside. That was a huge play. I thought we had a touchdown there. They made those plays and we didn’t.”

The Cougars rushed for 247 yards in the game, but couldn’t find success on the ground to score touchdowns.

“We have to get better coaching the red zone,” Anae said. “We have to get better playing in the red zone. You’re usually successful when you can run the ball down there and push that to short-yardage situations. We did not do that tonight.”

Falslev returns

The Cougars received a welcome surprise earlier in the week when wide receiver JD Falslev was medically cleared to return to play less than a month after surgery to repair a fractured hand.

Falslev broke his hand during a team activity during the last week of October, a bye week for BYU, and returned to Saturday’s game in fine fashion. He caught four passes for 27 yards, including the lone BYU touchdown, a seven-yard catch in the first quarter.

“He’s committed to our program. He always has been,” Mendenhall said. “He plays really hard. He’s really tough and it was a nice surprise when I was told at the beginning of the week that he would be able to make it back for this game. He made a few clutch catches, kept a few drives alive and is just a really good player.”

Falslev played with a protective brace on his hand, but was happy to return. Following surgery, Falslev’s ability to return this season was unclear.

Lasike runs loose

Paul Lasike can’t really compare an open run in football to the ones he’s been part of in rugby. The BYU fullback ripped off runs for 40 yards or more twice in Saturday’s loss to Notre Dame.

“When I got out there, it was kinda like, ‘Wow, this is kinda weird having corners chasing me down and stuff,’” Lasike said. “To me, I was like ... I was kinda slow to be out there. I wish Jamal was in there at this point to be able to get the touchdown. It was a blast to be out there and help out.”

Lasike surpassed his single-game high with 101 rushing yards. His previous high of 87 came earlier this season against Texas.

“I was really impressed with Paul Lasike,” Mendenhall said. “When he came in, I thought we were physical. I thought we ran downhill. I thought he broke tackles. I thought he gave us a physical presence that was matching what Notre Dame was doing, and that was a real positive.”

A New Zealand native, Lasike earned All-American honors playing rugby for BYU earlier this year. Running in the open field on Saturday required more worries than running rugby.

Brigham Young's Jamaal Williams, center, is brought down by Notre Dame's Dan Fox, left of Williams, and Kona Schwenke during the game college football game between Notre Dame and Brigham Young on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN