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BYU football: Missed tackles plaguing Cougars; Kalani Sitake pleased with Romney's progress

Utah State Aggies running back Darwin Thompson (5) sweeps around the end during the Utah State versus BYU football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018.
Utah State running back Darwin Thompson sweeps around the end during the Aggies' victory over the Cougars at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018. Shoring up their tackling fundamentals has been a point of emphasis for the Cougars this week.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

PROVO — In last Friday’s lopsided 45-20 loss to Utah State, BYU’s defense allowed the Aggies to run for 223 yards.

Along the way, the Cougars had plenty of missed tackles. That’s something they’re working on this week as they prepare to face Hawaii on Saturday.

“There were some third downs where it was one-on-one,” said linebacker Sione Takitaki. “Guys make that tackle and we’re off the field. But we just couldn’t do it. We let a couple get by. Starting (Monday) we’re going to emphasize that and attack the week for Hawaii.”

Why has BYU had such a difficult time stopping the run the past two weeks, against USU and Washington?

“One is they have very good running backs and good offensive teams. But that’s just an excuse. The other is that we talked about the missed tackles after the game,” said coach Kalani Sitake. “That would help, being better at our fundamentals. Also, for what we’re seeing, teams are getting to the outside. We have to be better on the edge. That comes down to the outside ’backers. Teams are trying to make our DBs tackle more. Scheme-wise, we have to protect that and make adjustments. That’s the goal. Hawaii’s a spread team that can throw the ball. We should learn our lesson in how we defend them.”

FIRST TOUCHDOWN: BYU freshman wide receiver Gunner Romney caught his first collegiate touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter against Utah State.

Sitake is happy with Romney’s progress.

“He’s doing great. I think the biggest problem was he was bothered with an injury during fall camp,” he said. “We really couldn’t get him going until maybe the second or third week when he had the whole offense down. That’s why you’re seeing him on the field more and why you’re seeing him as a starter. He’s one of our better guys. He’s a guy that’s a big playmaker. We have a lot of them. We just have to find ways to utilize them in the game plan.”

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE: BYU (3-3) has played the 10th toughest schedule in college football, according to the latest Sagarin ratings. Utah (4), South Carolina (5), USC (7), Texas (8) and Stanford (9) are the other teams with at least three wins and a top-10 schedule.