BYU, USU football: Breaking down the Cougar offense vs. Aggie defense (11 items)
Brandon Gurney, who covers BYU, and Kraig Williams, who covers Utah State, break down the matchups when BYU has the football this Friday. This is the second part of a two-part preview.
Overview of BYU rushing
The Cougars average 307.2 yards per game on the ground, including ouputs of 550 yards against Texas and 309 yards against Middle Tennessee State. Both Virginia and Utah held BYU to just under 200 yards on the ground.
The Cougars employ a lot of read option with quarterback Taysom Hill at the helm. Hill leads the team in rushing and averages 141.2 yards per game and 8.6 yards per rush. Sophomore Jamaal Williams sat out last game with a concussion, but is expected to play against the Aggies. Williams averages 126 yards per game and 5 yards per rush.
BYU rotates its backs frequently and will often run out of an inverted wishbone formation, which features three backs. Paul Lasike and Michael Alisa have both contributed heavily and offensive coordinator Robert Anae indicated that freshman Algie Brown could see more reps after his standout performance against Middle Tennessee. Adam Hine suffered a concussion last week and is questionable for Friday.
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1 of 11. Overview of Utah State rush defense
When Gary Andersen left Utah State for Wisconsin, many thought that the Aggie defense would take a hit. New defensive coordinator Todd Orlando kept a lot of the same principles that made USU a great defense in 2012 and has kept the Aggies in the upper echelon of defenses.
Week to week the defense has gotten better against the run. In week one against Utah, the Aggies allowed just 3.36 yards, a mark that has decreased every week. Last week San Jose State mustered just 101 yards of rushing offense on 35 attempts (2.89 yards per carry) in a 40-12 blowout.
The linebackers are the star in USU’s base 3-4 defense. Middle linebackers Jake Doughty and Zach Vigil lead the team with 50 and 46 tackles respectively. Outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell will move around the formation and spend a lot of time on the line of scrimmage and can make big plays, leading the team with six tackles for loss and two fumbles forced.
Safety Maurice Alexander is a converted linebacker and might see some more time near the line of scrimmage if the Aggies decide to load the box. The Aggies will rotate a lot of defensive linemen, but rarely do they show up in the box score. B.J. Larsen, Paul Piukala and the rest of the D-line focus on taking up blockers to let the talented linebackers make the majority of the plays.
2 of 11. Key matchup for BYU in the run game
BYU's offensive front vs. a stout Aggie defensive front is the key matchup. Anae made no bones about it — his team was beat in the trenches against Utah and that was the difference in the game. The Cougar offensive line has yet to produce more than 200 yards rushing against a quality defensive front and this will need to change should BYU hope to come out of Logan with a win.
Another key matchup will be the offensive line against the crowd. Illegal procedure penalties have become too common for this front and this will be the first time it plays in front of a truly hostile crowd. The front will have to remain composed and limit mental mistakes to sustain drives.
3 of 11. Key matchup for Utah State in the run game
Jake Doughty and Zach Vigil teamed up for 20 tackles and a fumble forced against Air Force, the most run-heavy team Utah State has seen this season. Containing Taysom Hill is going to be a much bigger task, but the Aggies must be stout in the middle to keep the Cougars from moving the ball. The defensive line has done its job in every game, so it will likely come down to Doughty and Vigil being able to make tackles in space and in one-on-one situations to keep the Hill and the Cougar run game from exploding.
4 of 11. BYU rushing outlook
Until Taysom Hill proves able to beat a defense with his arm, teams will continue to stack the box against him. The Aggies will likely put eight men in the box and even spy Hill with a safety or a linebacker. Utah State's strength is at linebacker and the Cougars will do extremely well to muster more than 200 yards rushing against what will likely prove to be the best defense they've faced this season.
5 of 11. Utah State rush defense outlook
This is strength-on-strength matchup. The Cougars can run the ball and the Aggies are geared to stop that from happening. Utah State will likely follow the blueprint that Utah laid out a few weeks ago and load the box to keep BYU from getting the ground game going.
With that in mind, look for the Aggies to hold the Cougars under their absurd 300 yards per game on the ground and end up somewhere closer to the 200 yards BYU gained against Utah two weeks ago.