PROVO — Just when you thought that you had a handle on this BYU team, last Saturday happens. A lot of what fans thought they knew about the Cougars two games into the season has to be reassessed after the 54-10 drubbing at the hands of the University of Utah.
The team is marching on, however, and looking at the short week of practice in preparation for Friday night’s game as a good thing.
“We definitely want to get there as fast as we can and redeem ourselves,” said cornerback Corby Eason. “We don’t believe that what happened on Saturday was us. Getting to play earlier, that’s a good thing is how we’re looking at it. The sooner the better.”
They’ll face a 2-1 Central Florida that is coming off of a disappointing 17-10 loss at the hands of Florida International. So how does BYU match up against a very unfamiliar opponent?
BYU rushing attack vs. Central Florida
To label the Cougar ground attack as being anemic through three games would be an understatement. So far they’ve averaged a paltry 48.3 rushing yards per game and a shocking 1.9 yards per carry.
“We have to get better in running the football,” said quarterback Jake Heaps. “I have a lot of confidence in our guys to make it happen and I believe that it will happen. We have a great offensive line and great running backs and they’re going to get it done. I don’t have any doubt about that.”
Central Florida comes in with a defense that has been very good at defending the run. They’ll present a very good front seven and operate out of a 4-3 base alignment.
Teams have averaged just 72.3 yards per game on the ground against them so far this season.
“Defensively they’re a lot like us in that their defense is focused on stopping the run first,” said wide receiver McKay Jacobson. “They have a lot of good athletes on defense. They’re strong and athletic, and they’ll be a challenge for us.”
Their front seven is led by senior middle linebacker Josh Linam, 6-3, 237, and by converted running back Jonathan Davis, 5-9, 199, who has been in the opposing backfield all season in recording six tackles for losses through three games.
The vocal leader of their defense is defensive end Troy Davis, 6-2, 256. They’ll also feature a very aggressive and productive free safety named Kemal Ishmael, who will creep up to the line in run support.
Teams haven’t had to stack the box to defend the Cougar ground game, and look for Central Florida to play its safeties and even its linebackers considerably behind the line of scrimmage. Subsequently, the Cougars should again have chances to establish a power running attack.
A lot of the problems with the Cougar ground game has been up the middle where starting guards Braden Hansen and Houston Reynolds have battled through injuries. Reynolds isn’t expected to play as result, with Marco Thorson and Walter Kahaialii looking to pick up the slack at left guard.
Look for offensive coordinator Brandon Doman to revert back to more spread formations and a pass-to-set-up-the-run approach come Friday. BYU’s best running back has been JJ Di Luigi, and he operates best out of shotgun spread formation given his athletic makeup.
BYU passing attack vs. Central Florida
The passing attack saw some life last week against Utah before stalling in the second half of play. Heaps was able to throw for over 300 yards while wide receiver Cody Hoffman found some life, which should help the offense going forward.
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