PROVO — Cougar fans have waited two weeks to see their beloved team take the field after a bye last weekend. The reward for their wait is a game against the Idaho Vandals.
Sure, the Vandals don’t look like much on paper, with most fans and pundits expecting the Cougars to cruise to victory. The players and coaches see it a bit different, however.
“We can’t afford to overlook anybody,” said tight end Austin Holt. “Coach Mendenhall does a good job of us focusing on ourselves and our own improvement, and that doesn’t change no matter who we’re going up against. We have our goal in mind, which is our own improvement. We have three tough games coming up and then our bowl game, and we’re focused on that.”
The Vandals will come into LaVell Edwards Stadium with a 2-7 record but fresh off of a 32-29 victory over San Jose State, which is a team that gave the Cougars some trouble earlier in the year. They’ve been a bit of a hard luck team this year, losing some very close contests, including an overtime loss to Virginia on the road.
So how do the teams match up and what can fans expect Saturday night?
BYU rushing offense vs. Idaho
Just as Michael Alisa appeared to take center stage in the Cougar ground attack, senior workhorse JJ DiLuigi has re-emerged as the top ground-gainer on the team. He’s coming off a game against TCU where he ran the ball just 11 times but for 69 yards, including several long gains up the middle of the Horned Frog defense.
Alisa, meanwhile, gained just 11 yards on six total carries but will be looking to re-establish himself as the team’s top runner against Idaho.
Any mention of the Cougar ground game can’t be just limited to the running backs these days. Riley Nelson doubled DiLuigi’s run attempts last week with 23 and saw some good success with 84 net yards despite being sacked six times.
They’ll be going up against a Vandal defense that yields 124.9 yards per game. If you want a ready reference to what that number entails, BYU gives up 124.6 yards per game on the ground, though doing it against some better competition on the year.
They’ll present a 4-3 base defense that uses a lot of rotation and pre-snap movement among its front four down linemen.
“They have a tough and energetic front four. They play hard and they play physical, so they’ll be a challenge,” said offensive lineman Braden Brown. “They flop their defensive ends a lot, so I’ll be going up against some different guys throughout the game.”
Their free safety, Gary Walker, 6-0, 192 pounds, a junior, is their leading tackler and will be playing close to the line of scrimmage throughout the game, looking to make plays in the backfield. Their leading tackler among their front seven is senior middle linebacker Tre’Shawn Robinson, 5-11, 250 pounds.
There is a bitter taste lingering in the players mouths after the loss to TCU, and they’ll be looking to take a bit of that out on Idaho. The offensive line, in particular, wants to come out strong and aggressive, “We’re looking to just hit some guys again and throw some teams back and get going again,” said Brown.
BYU should be able to gain well over 200 yards against Idaho and even approach 300 yards rushing. Fans can expect a heavy dose of runs, especially if the Cougars jump out early, as they’re expected to do.
BYU passing attack vs. Idaho
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