BYU welcomes a very dangerous Utah State Aggie team into LaVell Edwards stadium this Friday. It’s a team that should have knocked off Auburn on the road earlier this year and coming off of a tough loss at home to Colorado State.
It’s a matchup that historically hasn’t proven to be all that competitive most years, as BYU has owned the rivalry. That changed in dramatic fashion last year, however, as the Aggies beat down BYU 31-16, leading to some pretty dramatic changes within the Cougar coaching staff.
The Cougars will be looking for redemption while Utah State looks to prove that last year’s game wasn’t a mere fluke. The matchups are intriguing and relatively competitive across the board.
BYU rushing attack vs. Utah State
The BYU running game saw some life last week against Central Florida. After struggling to gain even 2 yards per carry, the Cougars were able to run for 127 yards and a respectable 4 yards per carry last week.
One of the big reasons was the return of senior running back Bryan Kariya, who rushed the ball 14 times for 52 yards and a touchdown. Offensive coordinator Brandon Doman simplified the run game and the offense in general, leading to some good success on the ground.
This week, they’ll be looking to improve from last week’s performance.
“Guys just need to get low and go,” said running back JJ Di Luigi. “We made some big improvements last week, but that has to continue this week. The offensive line will get better, we know that. But it’s up to us as running backs to make sure that we find those holes, hit them hard and keep aggressive.”
They’ll be facing a Utah State run defense that has been pretty darn good so far this season. The Aggies have yielded only 82 yards gained per game on a 2-yards-per-attempt average so far this season.
It’s a defense that has reminded Cougar players a lot of another team they’ve played this season.
“They’re almost just like Utah with how they play,” noted Di Luigi. “They run a lot of the same things, they run around well like Utah does and they’re very aggressive. They’ll be a challenge.”
The Aggie defensive system was installed by the former Ute defensive coordinator, so the similarities derive from what he brought in. It’s not exactly the same, however, as they use some nuances that differ from Utah’s base system.
“They run a 3-4 this year,” said tight end Austin Holt. “A lot of the concepts are the same and we saw some 3-4 against Utah, but that’s the big difference with them this year. It’s worked well for them — you saw them against a tough Auburn team and they were able to shut them down for the most part.”
The Aggie defense is led by senior inside linebacker Bobby Wagner, 6-1, 232. He’s the unquestioned leader of their defense and has recorded 336 total tackles during his career placing him ninth on the Aggie all-time tackle list.
“He definitely jumps out at you when you watch film,” observed Di Luigi. “He’s fast, he’s aggressive and he’s their best player, and he’s as good as anyone we’ve seen so far this year.”
It’s not just Wagner, however, as Utah State has a very good and experienced defensive line. It’s anchored at nose guard by junior Al Lapuaho, 6-3, 295, and defensive ends Bojay Filimoeatu, 6-2, 250, and Quinn Garner, 6-3, 263.
“They play hard and they come out you hard,” said Holt. “You can see why they’ve limited teams just watching film and how hard they play. They’re a good team.”
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