Week 8: BYU vs. TCU
This time of year, when Provo is starting to get a little chilly, many BYU students will take a trip down to San Diego to enjoy a nice little vacation. It’s still very warm down there and there is plenty to do.
Instead of going to Southern California to take care of the Aztecs of San Diego State, the BYU football team looked like they were on vacation. Sure, the offense was able to put up pretty good numbers, but there was very little fight in the Cougars. Their whole performance last Saturday was aptly summed up on one play.
In the fourth quarter, BYU had the ball and a commanding 14-point lead. Facing a fourth-and-one on their own forty yard line, Bronco decided to go for it. This might not have been the smartest decision on his part, but I was glad he did it because it proves my point.
On the play, the offensive line was blown back by the SDSU blitz and Harvey Unga was stuffed in the backfield. Everyone looked lethargic and lackluster, giving me reason to wonder how much they wanted to win.
My high school football coach always preached to us that if we couldn’t gain one yard on any given play then we didn’t deserve to win the football game. It was clear on this play that, based on effort alone, BYU didn’t deserve to win. They were able to come away with a victory because they were more talented, not because they wanted it more.
If they put up that kind of effort against TCU on Saturday, then it will be Florida State all over again. It’s a good thing they were embarrassed in Fort Worth last year, because now they will hopefully be seeking revenge.
Death via Play Action
One of the glaring stats from the game in San Diego was the fact that BYU had a hard time defending the pass. Big news, right? Well they made Ryan Linley look like Tom Brady and Vincent Brown like Andre Johnson. The biggest reason they were able to get open was the play action pass.
BYU has a good group of defenders when it comes to stopping the run. The linebackers and defensive backs are very good at filling the wholes and laying down a good hit. Because they are so aggressive in pursuit of the running game, they often get caught on their heels by play action passes. Also, the BYU cornerbacks cover double moves like the Wall Street Journal covers sports.
This is why they struggled so much against FSU and CSU. Both teams ran multiple play action passes and did so with good success. San Diego State exploited this weakness. Look for other teams to do so for the rest of the season.
OK, enough about San Diego State. This week is undoubtedly the most important game of the year, because BYU can either put themselves back on the list of BCS busters or they can put themselves back on the fast track to the Las Vegas Bowl. As fantastic as it would be to go to Vegas for a 37th consecutive season, I would assume the Cougars want a change of scenery.
People have been going bananas in the past week about how BYU is going to contain Jerry Hughes and his relentless pass rush. He is the leader of the defense, but there is another reason why TCU has one of the best defenses in the land.
Gary Patterson’s vaunted defense lines up in a 4-2-5. In order for this system to work they need two pseudo-safeties that can cover receivers and stop the run. The way they line up looks almost like they’re running a 4-4. These safeties are the reason why this defense works. Because they are so versatile, Patterson can blitz from every direction and control what the offense can do.
If BYU wants to win, they need to attack this defense and dictate the pace of play. Last year, TCU basically sucker-punched the Cougar offense in the mouth and held them in a headlock. BYU must come out with confidence and run the ball up the middle. The weakness in the 4-2-5 (if there even is one) is in the middle and that’s where they need to attack. Running the ball outside will never work against this team. They are just too fast and too talented.
Think that throwing the ball will be easy against the Horned Frogs? Think again. TCU’s defense has held their opponents to an average completion percentage of 45 percent.
Big Game Preparation
Ever since head coach Bronco Mendenhall took over the program in 2005, people have criticized him for his inability to win big games against good teams. He has a few quality wins, including this year’s upset of Oklahoma, but history still tells us that he struggles against ranked opponents.
Last year, the Cougars looked downright silly against TCU in Fort Worth because the game was played on a Thursday night, and coaches and players didn’t have much time to prepare for the Horned Frogs. They were riding a nice winning streak and thought that another game of simple execution would get them the win.
This year should be completely different. After being embarrassed last year, BYU coaches implemented a few new drills in practice and have made specific adjustments to prepare for this game.
Now Bronco will be the last one to say that he is seeking some payback. He will probably say that it’s like any other game and, if they execute and play the best of their ability, they will win the game. He did say that they will have a more specific game plan for TCU and their playmakers this year. Hopefully the Cougars will come out with some fire and take pride in defending their home turf.
This game has all the makings of a showdown; however, if BYU doesn’t come to play in the first half, TCU could run away with another easy victory. If the Horned Frogs jumps out to an early lead, BYU will be forced to become one dimensional — and we know how effective Max Hall is when he has to throw the ball every down. The Cougars need to play a balanced game with good ball control and long sustained drives. Obviously we expect big games out of Hall, Unga and Pitta, but DiLuigi and Kariya need to provide some big plays as well. I want to say that the Cougars will step up and show the rest of the country that they’re for real, but TCU is just too good defensively for us to keep pace. In a good old-fashioned slugfest, the Horned Frogs come out victorious after pulling out to an early lead. TCU 31, BYU 17.
1. J.J. DiLuigi — He is starting to provide a legitimate spark on offense.
2. Max Hall — Once again, he had no interceptions. Let’s hope this continues…
3. Scott Johnson — Had a touchdown-saving tackle and a key interception.
1. Andrew Rich — I love the way he hits, but he looked lost in the secondary against SDSU.
2. Swine flu — Colby Clawson and O’Neil Chambers were just two of the many victims.
3. Sideline reporters — In last week’s game, the woman asked Bronco how they were going to control SDSU’s running game. They had 34 rushing yards at the half. Nice.
Jake Welch is a sports correspondent for Rhombus. He has a problem with uninformed sideline reporters. You can follow him on Twitter @jraywelch.
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