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BYU offensive line lives up to its billing in blitzing of Navy

The Cougar offensive front received a lot of raves in the preseason, and looked equal to the hype received during Monday’s blowout win over the Midshipmen.

BYU’s offensive line opens up a hole for running back Lopini Katoa during the Cougars’ game against Navy on Monday, Sept. 7, 2020, at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md.
Jaren Wilkey/BYU

The preseason billing for the BYU offensive line was that it was an experienced group that would show improvement upon last year’s product — and potentially dominate opponents.

That group very much lived up to its billing Monday night in Annapolis, Maryland, in BYU’s 55-3 rout over Navy in front of a national TV audience.

From the very first series all the way up until the moment the starters were pulled from the lineup, the Cougar front proved dominant and cohesive in supplying huge holes for running backs Tyler Allgeier and Lopini Katoa to run through.

The effort allowed both of BYU’s primary runners to average more than 10 yards per carry through one half of play, which resulted in 31 BYU points on the scoreboard at the break.

Altogether, the Cougars finished with 301 yards on the evening, with an average of 6.1 yards per carry. Allgeier led the effort with 132 yards and two touchdowns on just 14 carries, with Katoa adding 80 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 carries.

As good as the BYU running backs proved, most would agree the bulk of the credit goes to the dominant run-blocking.

“They’ve been doing it all (fall) camp,” said BYU coach Kalani Sitake of the offensive line. “We were a bit concerned, because when we started our live (practices), they took it to our defense, and that was a little shocking, because it’s the defense that’s usually ahead during scrimmages.”

Perhaps those early scrimmages went the course of Monday’s game, with the Navy front appearing overmatched and maybe even unprepared for the physicality and cohesive play thrown at it.

Highlight plays included the first touchdown of the game, where Allgeier took an off-tackle run off the left side of the line and then galloped 34 yards into toward the end zone. The next touchdown came as the offensive front caught Navy in a line shift, with Katoa cutting it back through yet another large hole before finishing off a 39-yard touchdown run.

“The lanes the O-line were opening for us was amazing,” Katoa said. “They made it easy for us.”

Again, it’s largely what Sitake saw throughout fall camp.

“The defense had to respond and really get back on it,” Sitake said. “Then you had that great physical battle on both sides.”

Unfortunately for Navy, that great battle on both sides never materialized as both Cougar fronts dominated both sides of the ball.

Perhaps overlooked due to the dominant run blocking was consistent and effective pass protection too, with starting quarterback Zach Wilson allowed ample time in the pocket throughout.