BYU, USU football: Breaking down the Aggie offense vs. the Cougar defense (11 items)
Brandon Gurney, who covers BYU, and Kraig Williams, who covers Utah State, break down the matchups when Utah State has the football this Friday. This is the first part of a two-part preview.
Overview of Utah State rushing
Utah State has gotten the rep of a run-heavy school after sending Robert Turbin, Michael Smith and Kerwynn Williams to the NFL the last two years. This year the Aggies have been good but not great on the ground, averaging just over 200 yards a game on the ground. Junior Joe Hill was pegged to be the guy in the preseason but has been battling through injuries early in the season and has yet to hit full stride. He is currently day-to-day and a question mark against BYU.
Joey DeMartino has stepped into the void and preformed pretty well. In his last three games, DeMartino has racked up 34 carries for 297 yards (8.7 yards per carry). DeMartino might not have the same game-breaking speed that Hill posseses, but has been able to break off his fair share of big plays.
After Hill and DeMartino, the Aggies' third leading rusher is quarterback Chuckie Keeton. The junior signal caller is always a threat on the read option and is equally capable of turning a broken passing play into a long run if the defense doesn’t keep containment.
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1 of 11. Overview of BYU rush defense
The Cougar defensive front allows just 119.2 yards rushing per game on a 3.1 yard per rush average. BYU operates out of a 3-4 base that is headed by senior nose tackle Eathyn Manumaleuna, who is third on the team in tackles with 25. Manumaleuna is a four-year starter who possesses remarkable agility and quickness for someone of his size and stature. He's flanked by sophomores Bronson Kaufusi and Remington Peck at the two end positions.
Linebacker is the strength of the Cougar defense. The group is led by senior outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy, but is strong at all four positions despite the loss of senior inside linebacker Spencer Hadley, who is serving out a five-game suspension.
2 of 11. Key matchup for Utah State in the run game
Offensive guard Kyle Whimpey was lost to a season-ending knee injury in the Aggies' last game against San Jose State. The replacement for Whimpey, either Sini Tauauve’a or Bill Vavau, will be the key against BYU’s talented front seven. USU averages just over 200 yards per game on the ground and was held under that mark in losses to Utah and USC. Having a consistent running attack to give the offense balance will be a key for the Aggie offense.
3 of 11. Key matchup for BYU in the run game
Containing quarterback Chuckie Keeton is the big key in defending what Utah State does offensively. Last year the Cougars held Keeton to just 23 yards rushing on 10 carries and will hope to do the same on Friday. The Cougars will have to maintain gap discipline — particularly at the outside linebacker and end positions to limit Keeton's running opportunities.
4 of 11. USU rushing outlook
The Aggies may have found something in DeMartino, who was one of the Aggies' only weapons against USC two weeks ago. Against a very talented BYU defense expect the Aggies to come in under their season average, but still have some success on the ground finishing somewhere around the 150 yard mark with DeMartino, Keeton and Hill (if healthy) taking the bulk of the load.
5 of 11. BYU rush defense outlook
BYU has done well in holding the opposition's top running backs to under their season average, but needs to limit big-play opportunities. Look for the Cougars to hold DeMartino to under his season average, but they should be hard-pressed to match last year's success against Keeton.