Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
PROVO — The BYU football team takes on 10th-ranked Oregon State on Saturday in what looks to be a very competitive matchup. Both teams come in licking some wounds, however, due to significant losses at quarterback.
Oregon State will have to make due without starter Sean Mannion while BYU hopes Riley Nelson will be able to regain his preinjury form in the wake of Taysom Hill’s season-ending injury. So how does each team matchup up beyond the quarterback position? We looked at the matchups and talked to BYU coaches and players to give better insight on what should happen come Saturday afternoon.
BYU rushing attack vs. Oregon State
The Cougars had a somewhat pedestrian rushing effort against Utah State last week, although coach Bronco Mendenhall saw some good strides. The team had 145 yards rushing last week, but only managed a 3.2 yards per run average. Jamaal Williams did well handling the primary running back responsibilities, with 71 yards on 17 carries.
Oregon State presents a very good run defense that yields just 67.2 yards per game and 3.1 yards per rush. It operates out of a 4-3 base defense that will shift its front on occasion. Its two standouts are sophomore defensive ends Scott Crichton (6-3, 263) and Dylan Wynn (6-2, 260) and its leading tackler is cornerback Rashaad Reynolds (5-11, 188, junior)
Cougar question mark
Jamaal Williams should continue to do well in the lead role, but who will back him up? Coaches opted for Paul Lasike, but gave way to senior David Foote after Lasike fumbled on his second carry last week against the Aggies. Also, will the maligned Cougar offensive front, which now features Manaaki Vaitai and Solomone Kafu at guard along with Braden Hansen at center, continue with its progression against what looks to be a stiff Beaver defensive front.
“We just need to be confident in our assignments and trust each other,” said center Braden Hansen. “Oregon State has a very good defense, but I think we have a very good offensive line that is improving every week. I think we’ll continue to improve this week.”
The Cougar running backs fared decently against a good Utah State front, and that should continue against Oregon State. For the first time this year, the Cougar offensive front looks to have some continuity, and that should benefit the overall run production for the rest of the season if they can stay intact.
BYU passing attack vs. Oregon State
The Cougar passing game has been very inconsistent throughout the year in large part due to Riley Nelson’s injured back and Taysom Hill seeing his first reps as a collegiate quarterback. Taysom Hill is out for the rest of the year, but Nelson is back, although there are many question marks surrounding how effective he’ll prove to be after returning from injury.
Cody Hoffman has once again established himself as BYU’s go-to option on the passing tree, and that should only be punctuated with the return of Nelson. After a promising start, the Cougar tight ends have gone relatively quiet over the past few weeks.
The Beavers have given up big chunks of yardage through the air this season, most notably against Arizona two weeks ago. It’s a pass defense that relies on a mix of man and zone coverage and some press-man coverage to throw opposing offense’s timing off.
Cougar question mark
The glaring question mark is how will Riley Nelson fare in his first game back since being pulled against Boise State. Nelson’s back troubles were glaringly apparent in that game, but coaches claim he’s healthy and back to normal after sitting out for two weeks.
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