The BYU defense appeared to be ahead of the offense in Saturday's scrimmage, but it was a complete turnaround Thursday morning.
Quarterback Steve Sarkisian and the No. 1 Cougar offense was dominant Thursday against the second-string Cougar defense. As one would expect, the first-team defense gave the second-team offense a more difficult time.Sarkisian completed 13 of 15 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
"Steve's made good progress," Cougar coach LaVell Edwards said. "He's assimilated a whole lot in a short period of time. If he can just stay healthy, he's going to keep getting better."
Sarkisian showed Thursday he likes the idea of having pass-catching tight ends Chad Lewis and Itula Mili on the field at the same time. Seven of his first eight completions went to either Lewis or Mili. The offensive highlight of the day came on a short pass to Lewis that, with the help of a good down-field block by receiver Mike Johnston, went for a 79-yard touchdown. Lewis finished with four catches for 115 yards, while Mili had three for 54.
"Those guys make my job a lot easier," Sarkisian said of Lewis and Mili. "They are such great athletes and big targets that even when you throw a bad ball to them it looks good. Chad and Itula together create a lot of mismatches for defenses."
The admiration is mutual. "(Sarkisian) hits the open people. He does things right. He reads the defenses," Lewis said. "He's the best quarterback I've ever played with. He's awesome . . . I'm just glad he decided to come to BYU."
Another standout was running back Tefua Bloomfield, who gained 34 yards on six carries for the second-unit offense.
Meanwhile, redshirt freshman Paul Shoemaker has taken a slight lead over another redshirt freshman, Brian Vye, in the derby to be the backup to Sarkisian. Shoemaker, who had been alternating with Vye, played with the second team until the final few plays of the scrimmage. He was 3-for-7 passing for 40 yards. Vye took a grand total of seven snaps late in the scrimmage. He completed two of three passes for 66 yards with 58 of those yards going on a TD pass to R.J. Anderson.
"Right now we're leaning toward Paul (as the No. 2 QB)," Edwards said. "But there is nothing etched in stone there . . . It's a long way from being settled."
Edwards said Shoemaker will likely go into the Sept. 2 opener against Air Force as the second string QB, but from there it may be decided on a week to week basis.
Kicker Bill Hansen struggled early in the scrimmage. He missed two field goal attempts from 42 yards and the first extra point he tried. Hansen settled down to kick successful field goals from 49 and 53 yards out later, however.
Several Cougars are nursing bumps and bruises as two-a-day workouts are coming to a close, but Edwards says only a couple of the injuries would be serious enough to keep them out of the lineup next week. Backup defensive tackle Larry Harmer dislocated an elbow during Thursday's scrimmage and likely won't be ready to play against the Falcons. Senior safety Jon Pollock has had recurring lower-back problems in practice and is likely out for the season.