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BYU notebook: Cougars’ defense suffers blow with loss of versatile lineman Manumaleuna

SHARE BYU notebook: Cougars’ defense suffers blow with loss of versatile lineman Manumaleuna

PROVO — The BYU defense suffered a big blow when defensive lineman Eathyn Manumaleuna suffered a patella injury that effectively ends his season. The senior was arguably BYU's best and most versatile down lineman on the team.

"It's a huge loss for us," said defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi. "He played nose (guard) and at end for us, and he's a four-year starter and I think he was playing the best ball of his career. The next guy just needs to step up now, but it hurts us."

Stepping up to fill the starting end position vacated by Manumaleuna is Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah, who has been a breakout defensive player this season. Ansah won't likely see many reps at nose tackle, but he has provided good play at end.

"Ziggy has improved so much over the two years he's been playing for us," said Kaufusi. "He's long, he has long arms and he's a lot more than a pass-rusher for us now. We're confident in his ability to defend the run, and we'll just have to depend on him more in that role. But I'm confident that he'll be able to do it."

Coach Bronco Mendenhall mentioned after Monday's practice that Manumaleuna will apply for a medical redshirt. Mendenhall also said that senior defensive end Ian Dulan, who hasn't played this season because of a back injury, is likely to miss the entire season.

STRIVING FOR TAKEAWAYS: There hasn't been a lot to criticize regarding the defensive play so far this season. The Cougar defense has yielded few yards, few points and a lot of sacks through four games, but not a lot of turnovers.

Only four turnovers through four games is a number Mendenhall aims to raise in the coming weeks. "We emphasized it today, and I'd like to take the ball away more," the Cougars' coach said following practice.

OFFENSIVE LINE WOES: A big problem with the offense's execution is due to spotty and downright poor offensive line play. Mendenhall chalked up their struggles to inexperience and a just plain lack of execution. A lot was expected of this year's offensive line due to a focus on slimming down and being more physically fit, but so far those expectations haven't been met.

"I don't think they're executing cleanly and we expect more of them," Mendenhall said. "I think they're playing better (with overall weight loss) and they're playing harder and longer, but they're not playing cleaner yet. And I'd attribute a lot of that to the defenses we've played."

NO COACHING HELP AT THE TEMPLE: The media and message boards have been very vocal with their opinions on BYU coaches deciding to go for a two-point conversion against Boise State, but those thoughts haven't found their way to Mendenhall. Plenty of people had a chance to chime in with the volunteer work Mendenhall took on this weekend.

"I was working the door at the (Brigham City) temple dedication, and I was a greeter, so you'd think that would be a great opportunity, but no one mentioned a thing about it," said Mendenhall. "Our team hasn't, our coaches haven't, my wife hasn't, my relatives' friends haven't, so you guys (the media) are the first."

Mendenhall said that he'd go for two again in a second if given the same opportunity.

Email: bgurney@desnews.com Twitter: BrandonCGurney