BYU football: Cougars' defense dominant versus Vandals
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
PROVO — Leading up to Saturday's game, Idaho's offense didn't look to be one that would give BYU's defense too many problems. Thanks to a dominating performance by the Cougars, which included a few new wrinkles, that proved to be exactly the case.
Although the Vandals did end up with 241 yards of total offense, 178 of them came after halftime with the game already well out of hand. With 3:52 remaining in the third quarter, and with many of the starters for BYU out of the game, Princeton McCarty galloped for an 82-yard touchdown run that more than doubled the Vandals' output up to that juncture.
The Cougars' pass defense was particularly dominant, holding Idaho to a negative-6 yards passing toward the end of the third quarter.
"It's hard to score any points, especially when you get a lead in a ballgame like this if they can't throw the ball," said coach Bronco Mendenhall. "There were a lot of screen attempts and a lot of stuff underneath and we had a good game plan for that."
The Cougars' gameplan was to play a lot of nickel defense. Throughout the night, the defense would go with two down-linemen, four linebackers and five defensive backs, which confused and all but completely shut down whatever Idaho threw at them.
A lot of the new looks included converted safety Joe Sampson, who saw what was perhaps his most work of the season as BYU's nickel back.
"With Jordan Pendleton out, we've played a lot of nickel this year, but it's looked different because it was an extra linebacker in instead of an extra defensive back," said Mendenhall. "Looking at our personnel, we thought that would be a good place for Joe Sampson to fit, so that's where he played and he got a lot of work. We'll get a chance to evaluate it, but by production, it certainly showed well."
The coverage units on special teams were very effective as well. On BYU's very first kickoff, Michael Alisa was able to get up the field in a hurry and drop the returner at the 10-yard line. On the next kickoff, Idaho only managed to get the ball out to the 16-yard line.
For the remainder of the game, Idaho preferred to just take a knee, even on several kicks that were just 1-yard deep in the end zone.
"I was very happy with the performance of our special teams," said Mendenhall.
After building an early lead and with the defense stopping Idaho at every turn, Mendenhall was able to use a variety of players. He was able to all but clear his bench, using second- and even third- and fourth-team defenders throughout the second half of play.
Players such as outside linebacker Alani Fua and cornerback Jordan Johnson were two of many players that thrived with their added reps. Fua recorded a couple of tackles-for-loss, with Johnson recording his second interception on the year.
"There's quite a bit of shifting and positioning for the next couple of weeks just with players going down with injury," said Mendenhall.
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