Gary Andersen is well aware of how dangerous BYU's offense can be.
He's been creating game plans — some extremely successful, others less so — to limit the Cougar scoring machine for the better part of a decade with Utah.
Now that he's coaching at Utah State, he has a tougher task on his hands as he tries to retool the Aggies into a legitimate contender for in-state bragging rights.
"They are a tremendous football team. They have won 10 games consistently for years and years," Andersen said. "Bronco (Mendenhall) has done a great job. They have tremendous football players. Their scheme is very consistent as far as being good on both sides of the football."
To prepare for the Cougars this year, Andersen and the Aggies might be thinking the best defense is a good offense. And, for a change, that's exactly what Utah State has.
Averaging 489 yards per game, USU is ranked No. 9 in the country. Their 33.33 points per game leaves the Aggies as the 29th-best team in Division I.
Those numbers are good, and they need to be. Utah State's defense — 35.67 points and 486.33 yards per game allowed — are way down the list.
To keep BYU's offense from exploiting that, the Aggies hope to keep Max Hall, Dennis Pitta and Harvey Unga off the field as much as possible.
And that means some careful study of the Cougar defense in an effort to let the likes of Diondre Borel, Robert Turbin and Michael Smith eat up yardage.
"They do a lot of the things that Utah does on defense. They try to do some of those confusing things," said Turbin, who leads USU in rushing with 373 yards and an average of 8.7 yards per carry. "They have put that into their defense, so we are really going to have to evaluate them and figure those things out ... They have a good defense, but it doesn't concern me. We are just going to have to be ready for it. We are going to have to pay attention to detail. We will be ready."
Utah State is putting a premium on reducing the mistakes that have cost them scoring opportunities while also giving opponents short-field situations and easy points.
"The bottom line for us is to be able to execute at a very high level. (BYU is) going to have success on offense. They have success on offense every single week," Andersen said. "You have to find a way to get them off pace and play extremely hard. We have to get turnovers and get our offense on the field. Then, on offense, you have to control the football. You have to control the ball and score on offense."
If the Aggies are able to control the clock and force BYU to punt often, Andersen said, they'll be able to hang in there with the Cougars.
"I do know this. If you just sit back there and say you are going to play base defense and put them in a position to dink and dunk the football underneath you and don't respect the run and throw game, you are going to have a major issue," Andersen said. "You have to put pressure on the quarterback. If you just let him sit back there and he feels at home and at peace, you are going to have some issues."
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