Perhaps BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said it best after the Cougars held a combination practice and spring scrimmage Friday afternoon at LaVell Edwards Stadium in front of about 5,000 fans who braved the wintry, 38-degree weather in Provo.
“Yeah, that was pretty boring,” Roderick said. “Sorry for that. We just didn’t want to show anything on offense, especially with the first group. Didn’t want to get anybody hurt.”
On that account, the Cougars succeeded. There were no reports of any injuries.
The day’s other big winner, at least from this perspective, was new defensive coordinator Jay Hill’s defense.
It pretty much dominated the day — at least until the end of the scrimmage when twos, threes and even fours took over.
Of course, the former Weber State head coach would have none of that talk, saying the entire team won because guys got better.
“Well I thought they played really good early on,” Hill said. “We kept it very generic, very basic. We wanted to see who could run around, hit, play hard, those things. We didn’t show a lot of defense today, especially where it was on TV, but I thought they played pretty good.
“I do know this, we are getting better.”
The defense’s star was cornerback Jakob Robinson, who picked off starting quarterback Kedon Slovis, stepping in front of a pass intended for Keanu Hill.
“J-Rob is a stud,” said defensive end Tyler Batty. “We have some awesome dudes in the secondary that are really going to ball out for us this year.”
Asked if the first-team defense took pride in shutting down the first-team offense, Batty nodded his head with delight.
“Yeah, 150 percent, yeah. Oh yeah, 100 percent,” Batty said. “We took it to them today. We got after them.
“It was a lot of fun out there just playing against the offense, and we have a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball and so for our defense to be able to come out, and even in our base stuff take care of business, was a lot of fun.”
Hill downplayed the defense’s dominance, saying that Roderick “kept things very generic on their end. We did the same thing. We didn’t want to give away a lot. He was the same way on offense when the ones went against the ones.”
The first team offense’s biggest highlight came on the first play of the scrimmage, when Slovis threw a 30-yard strike to Chase Roberts. The drive ended with a punt, however.
Junior college transfer Jake Retzlaff took over for Slovis on the second series and threw some nice passes to Hobbs Nyberg, Miles Davis and Anthony Olsen before the possession ended with a punt.
The offense didn’t score until the seventh series, after Slovis connected with Hinckley Ropati and Dom Henry for some gains.
Walk-on kicker Matthias Dunn, one of three kickers vying to replace Jake Oldroyd, booted a 52-yard field goal.
How did Slovis look overall?
“Other than the interception, I thought he made good decisions and I don’t know if the defense was really giving him much to work with,” said head coach Kalani Sitake. “It was good to give time to the other quarterbacks.”
In that regard, Cade Fennegan came in and did some nice things, particularly with his legs.
On the 10th series, Retzlaff led a 54-yard touchdown drive, keyed by a 21-yard catch by Nyberg, an accomplished punt returner trying to break into the receiving rotation.
Later in the possession, Nyberg caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from Retzlaff for the first TD of the scrimmage.
On the 11th series, walk-on QB Nick Billoups also showed some decent speed, and trucked Ty Burke on his way to the end zone on a 23-yard TD run.
Freshman Ryder Burton worked the 12th and 13th series and ran for a touchdown on No. 13.
Cole Hagen, the walk-on quarterback from Corner Canyon, ran 11 yards for a touchdown on the scrimmage-ending 14th series.
“I thought we did some good things,” Sitake said of the day. “We wanted to see some fundamental football. We kept it simple. It wasn’t my choice to put it on TV.”
The biggest news to come out of the day was that Roderick acknowledged Retzlaff and Fennegan are neck-and-neck in the battle to be QB2 — behind Slovis, the clear-cut starter.
“I don’t think anybody separated themselves today, but Retzlaff has really been coming on after missing some practices,” Roderick said.
“There is going to be a good battle there for that second spot with Retzlaff and Cade. Right now it is between those two to be the backup.”
Retzlaff put up the best overall numbers, completing 7 of 10 passes for 69 yards and a touchdown. Slovis was 6 of 13 for 50 yards and the pick, while Burton was 5 of 8 for 69 yards.
Freshman returned missionary Nukuluve Helu ran six times for 56 yards; Nyberg caught four passes for 31 yards and the TD.
Defensively, Atunaisa Mahe had a sack and broke up a pass. Robinson’s pick was the day’s only turnover.
The Cougars will take a spring break of sorts next week — with only weightlifting scheduled and no practices. They will complete 2023 spring camp with three practices the week after Easter.