A lot of hype surrounded the Brigham Young Cougars coming into the season. In many ways, the hype has failed to materialize. Against UCF, the Cougar defense validated some of the hype.
The Cougar defense was supposed to be good, and that wasn't limited to the first unit. Not only were all 11 starters supposed to be quality players, but they were being pushed by 11 guys who would be starting on many other FBS teams across the country. In the UCF game, many of the second string defensive players validated the strong depth on the defensive side of the ball.
Outside linebacker Jordan Pendleton is one of BYU’s best athletes and had routinely made key tackles this year. Pendleton was out for the UCF game with an ankle injury. Enter Jadon Wagner. Wagner finished the game tied for second on the team with 6 tackles. He was in position several times to make stops when BYU needed it. He was all over the field and made his presence felt.
Nobody on the defense works harder than the down linemen. It is inevitable that they will need to take a series or two off during the game. When the starters were on the bench, their absence was not felt, especially late in the game. In the second half, Travis Tuiloma, Jordan Richardson, and Graham Rowley had their names called after making key plays. The biggest highlight for the reserve D-line came on the final play of the game. With his fresh legs, Mike Muehlmann was able to bull rush the UCF tackle and sack the quarterback and force a fumble. It was an exciting way to finish the game.
The most impressive reserve defender was Joe Sampson. He made the most of his limited action. In the first quarter, Sampson took momentum away from the Knights with a 9-yard sack. Late in the game, when UCF was driving for a game tying touchdown, Sampson came up big, twice. He came up and made a great play on a run by UCF to stop the running back for no gain. On the very next play, he made an interception to end UCF’s last threat.
Jadon Wagner, Joe Sampson, Mike Muehlmann and the rest of the defensive line reserves legitimized the hype and expectations that BYU fans had for the depth of the Cougar defense. When the starters are out, Cougar Nation can rest easy. The replacements are equal to the task, even when the game is on the line.
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