PROVO — BYU matches up with Weber State this Saturday in a game that many feel is a foregone conclusion. BYU is expected to beat Weber State comfortably, but is that a valid assumption? We looked at the match-ups and talked to BYU players throughout the week in order to give a good glimpse at what will likely happen.
BYU rushing offense vs. Weber State
The Cougars had mixed results running the football last week against Washington State. Michael Alisa and David Foote provided for some good gains on the edge but were stalemated often through the middle — particularly in the second half and in the red zone.
Weber State presents a 4-2-5 defensive alignment that gave up 217 yards rushing on a 5.6 average to Fresno State last week. Its two best defensive players (defensive tackle Trevor Pletcher and linebacker Anthony Morales) were held out against Fresno due to injury but could play against BYU.
Cougar question mark
As alluded to above, the inside running game remains a question mark entering Saturday’s game. Center Blair Tushaus started for the first time last week and should be due for some improvement along with the offensive guard positions.
How much will true freshman Jamaal Williams play, and will Adam Hine get some reps? If the game goes like most assume, both players should be getting plenty of work.
“Weber State has a good nose tackle, and we can’t take them lightly,” said center Blair Tushaus. “They vary their front, but we’ll see mostly a four-man front. We’re taking the mentality that we need to be at our best regardless of how an opponent looks on paper because anyone can upset anyone on any given Saturday, so we can’t overlook Weber State for sure.”
BYU should enjoy a much more productive running game against Weber State. If BYU gets out to the early lead most are anticipating, the play-calling should go very conservative with a lot of running attempts as a result. Fans can expect BYU to eclipse the 200-yard mark on the ground on Saturday.
BYU passing offense vs. Weber State
The passing attack was efficient last week against WSU. Riley Nelson threw for 285 yards and two touchdowns on 25-36 passing, with players such as Skyler Ridley and Kaneakua Friel stepping up big.
Weber State gave up 298 yards passing last week to Fresno along with an 80 percent completion rate. It’s largely a young and inexperienced defensive backfield that is learning a new defensive system, so initial struggles are largely granted.
Cougar question mark
Cody Hoffman left last week’s game early with a quad injury. How he looks coming off of that injury is a question mark along with how much he’ll play. Ross Apo had a pedestrian outing against WSU, but fans and coaches are hopeful he’ll step up and make big plays down the field. It will also be worth noting if Friel can repeat upon his breakout performance last week.
“We need to focus on what we do offensively and completing our own assignments,” said Tushaus. “Any opponent has strengths, and we need to be ready for anything. I feel we did a good job pass-blocking last week and with our passing game, but we need to work to get even better this week.”
Look for BYU’s rushing attempts to far outweigh its passing attempts come Saturday. Coach Bronco Mendenhall isn’t someone who likes to run up the score, so look for the Cougars to shut down a lot of their passing arsenal for most of the second half should they jump out to an early lead.
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