PROVO — Football games, more often than not, are won in the trenches.
Sure, it’s a worn out cliche, but winning in the trenches is exactly how BYU managed to upset No. 15 Texas 40-21 Saturday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Both the offensive and defensive fronts stood toe-to-toe with the Longhorns, traded punches, put them up against the ropes, and eventually put them down for the count. The defensive front threw back its share of Texas attacks, while the offensive line provided a level — and style — of play that nobody outside of the Cougars' program expected.
The defensive front set the tone early, holding Texas to three consecutive three-and-outs.
On two of those first three series, BYU's defense faced third-and-short situations, but stuffed run attempts up the middle for no gain. Key contributions were made by nose tackle Eathyn Manumaleuna, who played almost the entire game at nose tackle, and Austen Jorgensen, who played extensively at Mike linebacker early. Meanwhile, outside linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Alani Fua flew around the edges and made plays.
Sure, the Longhorns exploited some coverage gaffes and did put up 14 points on the defense in the first half. But this time the Cougar defenders had some help from an unlikely contributor — the Cougar offense.
The offense, led by the much-maligned offensive line from a week ago, hit its stride, and in a big — and largely unexpected — way.
Slowly but surely, the BYU offensive front exerted its will over the Longhorn front to the tune of 349 rushing yards at the half and 485 yards at the end of the third quarter. The largely disorganized and ineffective offensive line from a week ago took the form of everything new offensive line coach Garett Tujague promised it would — and then some.
The push the O-line was getting up front proved so effective that coaches were able to abandon any semblance of a passing attack and go straight at Texas early in the second quarter.
Every change coaches made to the offensive front panned out.
Specific changes involved moving embattled left tackle Ryker Mathews to right guard, switching out Brock Stringham to right tackle and moving Michael Yeck over to left tackle. Key contributions were made by 11 different rotating linemen — including first-time contributions from true freshman Brayden Kearsley at right guard, junior college transfer Edward Fusi at center and Kyle Johnson at left guard.
The turnaround from a week ago was remarkable, but more importantly, extremely effective.