The BYU football program wrapped up their 2018 spring camp with their annual spring scrimmage at soggy LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday afternoon in front of an estimated 7-8,000 fans.
BYU ran a simplified offensive attack but enjoyed a successful going against the Cougars defense, notching four touchdowns and two field goals. The BYU defense saw the majority of their presumed first-string players sit out the scrimmage portion of practice, including Butch Pau’u and Sione Takitaki.
Joe Critchlow, who went 9-for-12 for 130 yards and a touchdown on the day, got the “start” for the Cougars during the scrimmage as he led the first of nine offensive series on the day. Among his highlights was a 41 yard pass on the first drive that wide receiver Micah Simon hauled in with one hand. Squally Canada finished off the drive with a seven yard touchdown run.
Critchlow made way for junior Beau Hoge on the second series for the offense but his second drive stalled out at midfield due, in part, to a holding call and a potential big gain on a fly sweep by Inoke Lotulelei going for a loss after he slipped on the wet field.
True freshman Zach Wilson got the third series of the offense and led the offense 75 yards for a touchdown. He completed a pair of passes during the drive but the offensive line took over on the drive, allowing Canada and Zach Katoa to run wild. The drive was capped by Canada’s second score of the day, a five yard plunge into the endzone.
Critchlow was back on the field for the fourth series and had his team moving down the field. He completed a 20 yard pass to Rickey Shumway and got a 24 yard gain from wide receiver Tariq Buchanan on a fly sweep. The defense stiffened inside the redzone and the drive stalled out before Andrew Mikkelsen made a 21-yard field goal.
Hoge’s second series on the day was more successful. The offense took control on the 50 yard line and Hoge promptly scrambled for 10 yards. The offensive line and backfield took control after that as they picked up chunk after chunk on run plays prior to Squally Canada capping his big day with his third touchdown of the afternoon on a four yard scamper.
Wilson got his second series of the afternoon on the sixth offensive series and was under siege for most of the drive by the BYU defense. He was flagged for intentional grounding on a third down as he was being hauled to the ground by defensive lineman Devin Kaufusi, who enjoyed a solid performance on the day overall.
The seventh offensive series on the day saw Joe Critchlow get his third series of the day. He was allowed to show off his arm and drove the team the length of the field, connecting with Neil Pau’u twice on the drive, including a critical five yard completion on a fourth down. He capped the drive with a 20 yard pitch-and-catch to Micah Simon to cap the scoring on the day.
The eighth and ninth series saw Baylor Romney and Stacy Conner get their chances with the offense. Romney’s drive began with some promise as he had a completion to Nate Heaps but the drive stalled out. Conner’s series ended the scrimmage as the offense had their lone three-and-out on the day.
“We probably should have practiced in the rain a little bit more, but there were some things I was pleased with,” Head coach Kalani Sitake said after the scrimmage. “I thought discipline-wise the offense did a lot of hard counts today. We had more success offensively then we have had in the past. For spring, I thought it was really competitive and I saw a lot of guys get better. I am really happy with what I saw today.
“Overall, it was good, but I think every head coach is going to be happy at the end of their spring practices. We are all undefeated so everybody is happy right now,” Sitake continued.
Jeff Grimes was more muted in his evaluation of the offense’s performance overall.
“I thought it was okay. I’m most pleased with that we didn’t turn the ball over. That was a big positive and will always be one of our top goals. We didn’t have any pre-snap penalties, we didn’t have any false starts or formation fouls of having too many people on or off the field. I think we had one holding penalty and one intentional grounding – which we certainly don’t want – but the biggest thing we wanted to control was the pre-snap penalties. The other things are easier to correct,” He said.
“We ran the ball okay. It probably was not as clean as it could have been at times,” Grimes said when asked. “I thought as the scrimmage went on, we didn’t throw and catch quite as well as we have done at other times this spring. I don’t think the weather had much to do with it; it might have just been nerves of some of these guys coming and playing in this stadium.
“I thought our start was a little bit slow and a little bit sloppy in the first drive, but we did get it into the end zone and that’s a positive. We kind of settled in and played better after both groups, the ones and twos, got a series under their belts.”
Grimes, who called the game from the pressbox, said it remains uncertain where he’ll be calling plays from come September.
“I certainly like the view and the ability to think in a calm, serine atmosphere, but I certainly don’t like not being with the guys. The decision will [come] and it won’t just be about me, but about the rest of the staff and the team. I think I can call it from either spot,” He said.
Establishing a new culture and mindset has been a point keyed on by BYU coaches and players alike throughout the spring. Grimes said that the transformation isn’t complete yet but that he thinks they’re on their way.
“No, but we are moving in the right direction,” Said Grimes when asked about if the culture transformation was complete “I think we have certainly made a lot of ground by building the right mindset. Guys are willing to be coached and willing to work hard but we aren’t were we need to be yet. I think our culture is moving towards what we want…With a good summer and fall camp I believe we will be there.”
“I think most of it is the stuff off the field rather than on the field,” Coach Sitake said when asked about the new culture around the program. “Our focus is to be great at all aspects here at BYU. I am happy with this group and I am extremely blessed to be their head coach. I want to make sure our guys are going to achieve everything they want [to]. They have had a lot of excitement and energy in all 15 practices this spring. I give that to the leadership from the players on the field and the coaches.”
Here are the statistics taken and assembled by the BYU Sports Information Staff (unofficial):
Joe Critchlow: 9-12 for 130 yards (1 touchdown)
Beau Hoge: 2-4 for 20 yards
Zach Wilson: 4-7 for 29 yards
Baylor Romney: 1-4 for 10 yards
Stacy Conner: 0-1
Zach Katoa: 17 att, 86 yards
Squally Canada: 7 att, 55 yards (3 touchdowns)
Beau Hoge: 5 att, 32 yards
Riley Burt: 9 att, 26 yards
Zach Wilson: 3 att, 25 yards
Tariq Buchanan 1 att, 24 yards
Joe Critchlow: 1 att, 8 yards
Micah Simon: 1 att, 2 yards
Inoke Lotulelei: 2 att, -1 yards
Micah Simon: 4 rec, 73 yards (1 TD)
Neil Pau’u: 3 rec, 37 yards
Tariq Buchanan: 1 rec, 20 yards
Rickey Shumway: 1 rec, 18 yards
Talon Shumway: 1, rec, 12 yards
Nate Heaps: 1 rec, 10 yards
Inoke Lotulelei: 1 rec, 5 yards
J.J. Nwigwe: 1 rec, 5 yards
Squally Canada: 1 rec, 3 yards
Kyle Griffitts: 1 rec, 2 yards
Andrew Mikkelsen: 3 PAT , 1/3 on field goals (made from 29 yards, missed from 47 yards, made from 43 yards)
Jared Kapisi: 2 PAT, 1/2 on field goals (made from 47 yards, missed from 43 yards)
Rhett Almond: 1 PAT, 2/2 on field goals (made from 47 yards, made from 43 yards)
Mitchell Price: Pass Break-Up
Nate Sampson: Pass Break-Up
Devin Kaufusi: Sack on Zach Wilson’s intentional grounding
You can listen to post-scrimmage interviews from Kalani Sitake, Jeff Grimes, Joe Critchlow, Zach Wilson, Micah Simon and Corbin Kaufusi here: