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.
BYU rush defense vs. Weber State
There was exactly nothing to complain about concerning BYU’s ability to defend the run against Washington State. WSU finished with -5 yards rushing, although it didn’t try all that much to establish a ground attack.
Weber State presents a ride-style option attack much like Texas presented in the second half of last year’s game. Quarterback Mike Hoke was the team’s leading rusher last game with 31 yards on 12 carries, with 21 of those yards coming on one attempt. Its leading running back is CJ Tuckett, who rushed the ball 10 times for 24 yards against Fresno.
Cougar question mark
Will BYU maintain gap discipline and not consistently be caught being too aggressive like it did against Texas last season? No one should mistake the rushing attack by Weber for Texas, but the principles in defending a ride-option remain the same.
“It’s all about focusing on our own execution and what we do to be effective more than what our opponent does,” said safety Mike Hague. “We respect Weber State and we respect what they do on offense, but our focus is on us, and that’s largely the same for every opponent we play.”
BYU should fare well against a rushing attack that didn’t do much last week against Fresno State. Look for Weber to get down early and scrap a lot of the run attempts it otherwise would employ.
BYU pass defense vs. Weber State
BYU did very well last week defending against WSU’s wide-open passing attack. Cornerback Jordan Johnson stepped up big as did his defensive back teammates. The pass rush was also adequate in limiting WSU to just 229 yards passing and no touchdowns.
Weber’s passing attack is led by receivers Shaydon Kehano (5-11, 190) and Jordan Clemente (6-4, 220.) Kehano led the team in yards last week (59) while Clemente led the team in receptions (9.) Overall, the Wildcats threw for 202 yards.
Cougar question mark
How much nickel defense will the Cougars present against Weber State and how will they choose to rush the quarterback? Last week saw a lot of nickel packages and a variety of blitz packages. How aggressive Mendenhall chooses to be in defending the Wildcats will be worth noting.
“Weber State is a balanced offense that does a lot of the same things other teams have done against us,” said Hague. “They’ll run a lot of different stuff off of their ride-spread offense, so we need to stay disciplined with our assignments and be ready for anything.”
Fans can expect Mendenhall to go with soft zones should his team get off to an early lead. Weber should gain close to 200 yards passing as a result.
Weber State shouldn’t give BYU much trouble with what it presents on both sides of the football. Look for BYU to get off to a big lead early and then cruise to a comfortable win.
Final score: BYU 42, Weber State 7