BYU's defense has a chance to make a statement against a good Utah State offense.
A team needs to have a level of confidence in their play in order to succeed. This doesn’t mean the team is cocky, but they do need to have a certain swagger. The confidence of BYU’s defense has been wavering since their loss to Florida State.
BYU has traditionally had trouble containing mobile quarterbacks. Anyone who watched the Florida State game knows the play making ability of Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder really hurt the Cougars defense throughout the game.
Florida State was able to control the ball on the ground. Florida State used Ponder’s mobility to convert key third downs early in the game, and that kept Max Hall and BYU’s offense off the field. Utah State will try to follow this blueprint against BYU this Friday.
Utah State is much improved from last season. The Aggies have a strong offense this season led by quarterback Diondre Borel, and star running back Robert Turbin. Utah State’s offense is currently ranked ninth in the nation in total offense.
The Aggies are currently ranked ahead of the touted BYU offense. Plus, the Aggies’ offensive numbers aren’t inflated from playing multiple low level opponents. Utah State played a good Texas A&M team, a Utah team with an extremely good defense, and their single gimmie game of the season so far was against a scrappy Southern Utah squad. The Aggies’ offense is legit, and it is lead by Borel and Turbin.
Diondre Borel is mobile playmaker, who knows how to control the football. Borel only has a single interception this season. He is not an accurate passer only completing 52% of his passes, but he is an excellent game manger. On third down Borel is good at using his athletic ability to convert third downs on the ground.
Robert Turbin has breakaway speed. Every time Turbin touches the ball he has the potential to turn the play into a touchdown. Turbin is also able to run with power. He is strong enough to run over defenders, and pickup additional yards after contact. It will take solid tackling to bring him down.
The Utah State game will be an interesting opportunity for BYU’s defense to really demonstrate just what they are made of this season.
What is the goal for BYU’s defense against Utah State? Regain their swagger.
BYU’s defense was great in the first two games against the run. The defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage, and the linebackers were flying all over the field. The last two games the defense has looked sluggish, and the defensive line has been manhandled.
The keys for BYU to stop Utah State’s offense will start with the defensive line. Jan Jorgenson and Brett Denny need to get constant pressure on Borel; however, they need to play assignment sound football. They need to know where they are on the field during their pass rush. They cannot overrun the pocket, and allow Borel to step up and evade the initial pass rush.
The linebackers will have to be playing to stop the run. The linebackers will need to fill the gaps with solid run blitzes to contain Turbin. The linebacker will also be the second line of defense against the mobility of Borel. This means that either Coleby Clawson or Terrance Hooks needs to be spying on Borel. Whoever is spying on Borel will need to make sure to punish Borel, if he chooses to leave the pocket.
With BYU focusing on the run the secondary will need to stay home and protect against the play-action pass. The four members of the secondary are averaging the most tackles per game on the Cougar defense. This aggression by the defensive secondary, to cheat down on the run, has burned BYU in the last two games when teams use play-action passing.
Florida State and Colorado State both took advantage of the play-action pass to pick apart BYU’s defense. Utah State with such a powerful running game will be looking to hit a few home run balls against the Cougars Friday night.
BYU’s secondary will have to rely on the front seven to control the line of scrimmage, which will allow the secondary to stay home and defend against the pass.
BYU’s defense is built on being assignment sound. BYU believes their defense will out execute the opposing team’s offense. Against Oklahoma to start the season each unit of the defense was nearly perfect in their assignments, and the defense looked to be a formidable juggernaut in the Mountain West Conference.
BYU’s defense really has a chance to reestablish itself as the strength of the 2009 Cougar football team with a solid effort. While national media and most average fans will not think much of stopping Utah State’s offense; if BYU were to hold Utah State under ten points it would be a real moral victory. A moral victory and confidence boaster BYU could continue to build on during conference play.
One of the biggest supports BYU’s defense can receive is solid play from BYU’s offense. BYU needs to keep their defense off the field. This means limiting the number of times they allow their opponents to start with a short field by turning over the ball.
It also means the offense needs to rely more on the running game to overpower the smaller Aggie defense. While the Aggies are ranked number nine in total offense, they are ranked 117th in total defense.
BYU could get into a shootout with Utah State and win. They have more fire power on the offensive side of the ball to simply out score the Aggies. Yet, BYU would benefit more over the course of the season by constructing long sustained drives.
Controlling the football against a weaker Utah State team would allow BYU’s defense to rest, and be more dominate on the field. This would allow BYU defenders to have a solid performance against an offense ranked in the top 10. BYU’s defense would regain their swagger which they had in the first two games of the season.
It is going to take a complete offense and defense for BYU to win the conference this season. If the BYU’s offense will lend a hand this Friday, then BYU’s defense could have a statement level performance.