BYU football notebook: Hopes will hang hopes on running game from here on out
PROVO — In BYU's 24-21 win over San Diego State earlier this month, the Cougars rushed 62 times for 271 yards.
Don't be surprised to see an extensive number of running plays called again Saturday against Wyoming, which is ranked last in the nation in rushing defense.
In fact, a run-first approach just might be BYU's offensive game plan for the rest of the season. Coach Bronco Mendenhall said that his team's offensive "identity" is running out of the I-formation and throwing short passes.
"As we continue to have a quarterback develop and mature, some of the strengths right now on our team appear to be the play of our offensive line, especially in the run game, and running backs that run the ball hard," Mendenhall said. "That doesn't mean that exclusively that's all you can do nor does it mean that will generate enough points to win enough games. But in terms of a starting place, and an identity to begin from, that's where we are."
What does true freshman quarterback Jake Heaps think about relying more on the running game?
"Whenever we can establish our running game, it always helps the quarterback," he said. "It sets up the pass, play-action, and sets up all sorts of things. We've got a great game plan heading into this thing. I think we have a sense of identity of what we want to do and what we want to accomplish. It's just a matter of executing our game plan ... We can be successful.
"It's not like we're going to run the ball every single play. We have some great running backs and some great offensive linemen. Establishing that running game is key. Everything else will open up."
Mendenhall said the ground-oriented offense will help Heaps' development.
"It's quite simple. When you're handing the ball off to an experienced player, behind an experienced line, you're not having to make any decisions about what coverage, where to deliver the ball ... with linemen and blitzers coming into your face, it's just a lower percentage of decisions that have to be made by a quarterback."
SHUTOUT STREAK: BYU has shut out Wyoming in the two teams' last two meetings.
The Cougars have dominated the Cowboys by a combined score of 96-0, with a 52-0 blanking last season and a 44-0 whipping of Wyoming in 2008. BYU forced nine turnovers while giving up zero turnovers in those two games.
Wyoming hasn't scored against BYU in nine quarters, since a third-quarter touchdown in 2007 at Laramie.
Why has the Cougar defense been so successful against the Cowboys?
"Coach Mendenhall has a good philosophy and knows exactly what they're going to do," said defensive lineman Vic So'oto. "It's not so much the players. The players can be interchangeable. It's his scheme, and what we do, that works."
"It's hard work and maybe we caught (Wyoming) not playing their best game," said linebacker Shane Hunter. "We've been able to hustle, fly around and make plays. We've been able to do that the past couple of years. Hopefully, we can keep that going on Saturday."
LOPSIDED WINS: BYU has played Wyoming five times under Mendenhall. The Cougars have won those games by a combined score of 221-38. That's an average BYU victory margin of 44-7 per game.
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