PROVO — BYU’s football team will try and rebound against Hawaii at home after two brutal losses to Utah and Boise State. On paper, Hawaii may present just what the doctor ordered considering its porous rush defense among many other factors.
But should fans expect a romp over the Rainbow Warriors come Friday night? We looked at the matchups and talked to the team to give our best preview into what should happen.
BYU rushing offense vs. Hawaii
The Cougars are still trying to find their groove on the ground four games into the season. Boise State again rendered their rush attack anemic, although it showed some strides from an awful outing against Utah.
To say that Hawaii can be had on the ground would be a gross understatement. Through four games, its given up an average of 160 yards on the ground, but yielded 355 rushing yards to Nevada last week.
It’s a defense that returns just two starters along its front seven, but its leading tackler is cornerback Mike Edwards. Having any defensive back as your leading tackler is rarely a good thing and often indicates opposing offenses making a lot of yards past the line of scrimmage.
The Rainbow Warriors present a 4-3 base defense that features defensive ends Paipai Falemalu (6-3, 245, senior) and Beau Yap (6-1, 260). Yap is tied for second on the team in total tackles.
Cougar question marks
Can the Cougars run the football against a team who appears to be poorly equipped to stop them? With their next four games — Utah State, Oregon State, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech — lined up against stiff rushing defenses, the Cougar offensive line, particularly the interior, needs to develop a good rhythm and confidence going forward.
Another question mark surrounds who will be playing center this week. Blair Tushaus has struggled mightily with his blocking assignments, and senior Braden Hansen may be tried out there in an effort to provide better overall play.
“We need to execute better and we need to target better,” offensive lineman Braden Brown said. “We’re obviously not satisfied with how we’ve been playing, and we know that it all starts with us on the offensive line. We have some young guys who I think are improving, but we need to get it together quickly so we can run the ball better and get this offense going.”
The offensive line play has been the main thing holding the offense down this season and coaches know this. Look for offensive coordinator Brandon Doman to be patient with the running game against Hawaii, allowing his offensive linemen to develop greater continuity and confidence with how they operate as a unit.
BYU passing offense vs. Hawaii
As bad as the ground game was last week against Boise State, the passing attack was even worse. This was in large part due to Riley Nelson playing two and a half quarters at, what he said to reporters earlier this week, 65 percent due to an ailing back. The results he put forth were nothing short of horrific: 19 yards and three interceptions.
Freshman Taysom Hill will likely see most of the reps, if not start altogether this week — he did show strides last week as the game wore on.
Hawaii isn’t much better in defending the pass as it is against the run. It gives up 232 yards passing through three games this year with both Nevada and USC shutting it down and focusing on the run during the second half of play. It’s a defense that plays a lot of man-press coverage with cover one being its base coverage scheme. Hawaii returns its two starting cornerbacks from a year ago: Mike Edwards 5-10, 180, junior, and John Hardy Tuliau 5-11, 180, junior.
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