The football team’s first shutout in nine years and the fact that Sam Houston picked up only 187 yards suggest otherwise, but everything didn’t go perfectly for BYU’s defense in the Cougars’ 14-0 win at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday.

New defensive coordinator Jay Hill and defensive tackles coach Sione Po’uha said Tuesday that they were not entirely satisfied with the amount of pressure the Cougars got on Bearkats quarterback Keegan Shoemaker.

“That was about as good of a tackling (performance) for a first game that I have seen. Just very few missed tackles. Bottom line, I thought the players responded in outstanding fashion. And I thought the assistant coaches did outstanding having their position groups ready to go.” — BYU defensive coordinator Jay Hill

“We need a little bit more production in the pass rush off the edge from the defensive end group,” Hill said after practice as the Cougars (1-0) turned their attention to Southern Utah (0-1) and this Saturday’s 1 p.m. instate encounter at LaVell Edwards Stadium (1 p.m., ESPN+).

That said, Hill praised Po’uha and rush ends coach Kelly Poppinga “for having those guys ready to play” and noted that it was clearly in SH’s game plan to get the ball out quickly.

Shoemaker misfired on 15 of his 33 passes and was sacked once, by Tyler Batty on the third play of the game.

“Well, for as much as we blitzed, we should have had more pressure,” Hill said. “I think we had 10 quarterback hits, which is a good number. But we need more sacks. We need more balls to leave the quarterback’s hands where the DBs have a chance to break on it.

“And again, that is something we need to get better at,” Hill continued. “We gotta be a little more nasty off the edge.”

Boise State transfer Isaiah Bagnah and Batty were the starting defensive ends; former Utah and Boise State player Jackson Cravens and fifth-year senior Atunaisa Mahe started inside. Snow College transfer David Latu, Caden Haws, John Nelson and Blake Mangelson rotated in throughout the game.

“We have to continue to be physical in there, continue to work on technique and pad level, but that is something that progresses as the season goes on,” said Hill.

The former Weber State head coach called plays from the sidelines and said he will remain there throughout the season, rather than in the press box, because “I like to look the guys in the eyes and see exactly where they are at. I like the emotion of the game and how the game is going and feeling. Sometimes that can affect the calls that I want to send in just based on how the guys are responding and what is going on.”

Hill added that an emphasis on tackling in fall camp paid off; linebackers Max Tooley and Ben Bywater had nine takedowns apiece, largely because the defensive linemen ate up blocks and allowed them to run free to the ball.

“That was about as good of a tackling (performance) for a first game that I have seen,” Hill said. “Just very few missed tackles. Bottom line, I thought the players responded in outstanding fashion. And I thought the assistant coaches did outstanding having their position groups ready to go.”

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Saturday also marked the debut of Po’uha as BYU’s interior defensive line coach, and the former University of Utah and New York Jets star lineman called it a “great experience, an awesome evening” and credited the players for executing the game plan.

“For us as coaches, our job is to help them be their best at their jobs,” Po’uha said. “It was great to see every guy do their job and do what they are supposed to do.”

Latu, the former Bingham High star who was a second-team Junior College All-American at Snow, didn’t join the team until midway through fall camp but has caught on quickly, Po’uha said.

Cougars on the air


Southern Utah (0-1)
at BYU (1-0)
Saturday, 1 p.m. MDT
Provo, Utah
TV: Big 12 Now on ESPN+
Radio: 102.7 FM/1160 AM


“He has always been preparing on his own, working out at home,” Po’uha said. “The thing that has enabled him to excel is his attitude and just his willingness and approach. He has taken it up a notch. … We were able to make up a little bit (of lost time) as we continued to develop him and work with him.”

Po’uha said he was “satisfied” with how the interior defensive linemen did their jobs and took care of their assignments, but isn’t giving them a pass on getting no sacks.

“Yeah, we expect sacks. We expect production. There are two ways to make production with us,” he said. “Do your assignment, and then hustle. I expect them to do those two things.”

BYU linebacker Max Tooley tackles Sam Houston quarterback Keegan Shoemaker Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023, in Provo, Utah. BYU defensive coordinator Jay Hill was pleased with his team’s tackling in season-opening victory over Sam Houston. | Rick Bowmer, Associated Press