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BYU Notes: Matching Up Against Cougars' Defense

We opened up our notebook for the BYU game by starting a discussion on Cougars’ offense. Thanks to everyone who offered up their takes in that thread.  Our defense will  have its hands full with Cougars’ West Coast/spread offense as they are going to look to pick apart Walker’s inexperienced secondary with short passing attacks. It will be up to our offense to put together some clock chewing drives against the BYU defense to make sure our defense is fresh and has enough times to rest so that they can go all out attack mode against Max Hall led passing attack.

So let’s take a look at the BYU defense. Again by now we are kind of familiar with them given our two games against them last season. Lot of us got a little preview of what our offense can expect on Saturday afternoon watching Locker and co. going up against them up in Montlake. We will start with Olin Buchanan’s notes from on BYU’s defense before the 2008 season got started:

THE SCHEME: Operating out of a 3-4 set, BYU has allowed fewer than 19 points per game in each of the past two seasons. Although eight starters are gone from last season, Mendenhall is confident the system will continue to be effective. "There will be new names and new faces this year, but the results will be similar to the past three years," Mendenhall said in the spring.

More from Olin on their defense’s strength and weakness:

STRONGEST AREA: With Jorgensen and end Ian Dulan - who started 12 games last season - coming back, the Cougars figure to be good up front. But BYU does have to find a new starter at nose tackle. Sophomore Rick Wolfley and senior Mosese Foketi will try to fill the void there.

BIGGEST PROBLEM: All-MWC selections Bryan Kehl and Kelly Poppinga were among three lost starting linebackers. None of the potential replacements had more than 38 stops in '07. Junior Terrence Hooks, a contender for a starting job, injured a knee in the spring and isn't expected to be available until midseason. The one returning starter is David Nixon, who has moved from weakside linebacker to one of the inside spots. One new starter likely will be Vic So'oto, who started four games at tight end last season. So'oto was a star linebacker in high school in San Diego. The secondary is a concern, too, because all four starters are gone. At least the four new projected starters are all upperclassmen.

From what we saw last Saturday, it looks like UDub’s offense had a pretty solid day against those guys. Locker who was coming off a horrific outing against the Ducks was able to put together some nice drives carving up the Cougar defense.

I think we can expect the Cougars offense to stack the box like the Tennessee defense did and challenge UCLA offense to beat them with their passing attack. So once again it will be key for Craft to maintain his composure and stay with the mindset of taking what the defense offers up. Here is what Willingham had to say about the Cougars defense before Saturday:

"BYU doesn't exactly let you get to mismatches," Huskies coach Tyrone Willingham said. "That's not their system. Their system is to kind of play over the top and force you to beat them with consistency. They're not going to be in your face, or at least we don't think.

"They may change up now. We may come in here and all of a sudden, the only thing we see is bump-and-run. But we don't anticipate that being the case. They're going to force you to beat them in their system."

We saw the Huskies execute that strategy last Saturday through combining a decent passing attack with a servicable running game (well lot of it came from Locker's unreal freaskish athletcism). Then during the second half the Huskies were able to get their running game going against what looked to be a little tired Cougars front-7. The Husky offense converted 9 of its 15 3rd down opportunities and also was 1 for 1 on 4th down conversions. (See full Box score)

For UCLA to get it going against the Cougars on the road, Craft will need to continue to look for the underneath stuff and not force the action downfield. And if the running game can step up a little bit averaging somewhere around 3.5 yards a carry that will help a lot. That will be easier if Craft can open things up by completing some passes underneath forcing BYU LBs to pull back a little.

sjc7522 (I am presuming a BYU fan) posted some good takes on UCLA offense v. BYU Defense in our first BYU notes thread:

The BYU Defense tends to play “bend, but don’t break.” I think the UCLA receivers have a decent advantage over BYU’s secondary. Even against NIU, they got burned on a couple of long balls. They tend to play behind the receivers and try not to allow the big play. I think Norm will spread the ball pretty efficiently and the receivers will have a good game.

Look out for Ryan Moya to keep putting up solid numbers. I think the tight end plays are difficult to cover for anyone, and I don’t think this game will be much different.

UCLA’s running game didn’t do so hot last week, so I’m not sure how it will play out against the Cougars. The D-line and linebackers did well against the NIU run, but I honestly wasn’t paying much attention to the run defense.

I think the game will play out in the air, with the tight ends having a significant impact on both offenses. It should be a fun game to watch.

Let’s hope so. I think this will be an incredibly difficult game for UCLA in Provoh. I would feel good about this game if it were at the Rose Bowl or at a neutral site. Things are going to be much different at La Velle Edwards stadium, which IMHO is one of the more difficult places to play out in West, especially when BYU has good teams.

So those are some initial thoughts on their defense out of the gate for this game week. Again it will be great to hear on this matchup and point out any specifics we all need to look for heading into Saturday.