Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
PROVO — BYU travels to South Bend, Ind., to take on what looks to be a very stiff test against Notre Dame. The Irish are undefeated and riding high with their dominant defense that is sure to give a struggling Cougar offense all it can handle.
So what can fans expect to happen on Saturday? We looked at the match-ups and interviewed players and coaches to give our best glimpse on what to look for when BYU takes on Notre Dame.
BYU rushing attack vs. Notre Dame
BYU ran for just 81 yards last week against Oregon State and is still struggling to mount a good and effective push upfront. The interior offensive line has shown some strides since the Boise State game, but 81 yards rushing and a 2.4 yards per carry average from your starting running back isn’t adequate production.
Jamaal Williams will again lead the rushing charge and will likely be backed up by David Foote.
Notre Dame has faced some very good rushing offenses over the past four weeks and has fared very well in defending them. The Irish employ a so-called “no-crease” defense that alternates between a 3-4 and a 4-3 front on almost an equal basis.
It’s led by stud inside linebacker Manti Te’o (6-2, 255) and nose tackle Louis Nix (6-3, 326.) Both will be a chore to handle come Saturday. The Irish give up just 113.5 yards per game on the ground and have gone up against some good rushing teams such as Michigan State, Michigan and Stanford.
Cougar question mark
BYU's 51 passes thrown last week against Oregon State was too much, and BYU needs more balance with its offensive attack. Will offensive coordinator Brandon Doman show more patience with a running game that is most likely to see tough sledding on the outset against Notre Dame? Will the rushing game show enough production to warrant some patience from Doman?
Also, will 17-year-old freshman Jamaal Williams be overwhelmed by the atmosphere at Notre Dame and play within himself?
“We need to establish a run game to keep that defense off-balance,” said Doman. “We need to keep it relatively simple and allow those guys upfront to get confident and get everyone confident that we can be productive against a very good defense.”
BYU will do well to rush for more than 100 yards against Notre Dame. The Irish should present a rush defense that is as good as any the Cougars have faced so far this season. Look for BYU to try more rushing attempts this week, but not for much more yardage than the 81 it gained last week against Oregon State.
BYU passing attack vs. Notre Dame
The Cougar passing game finally showed some life last week with Riley Nelson apparently recovered from his back injury. The team was able to throw for 305 yards although it took 51 pass attempts to reach that number.
Notre Dame has been very stingy against the pass this season, but that’s largely the result of not facing very prolific passing offenses. It’s a defense that stays in base formation much of the time and plays opposing offenses straight up.
“They’re very good with their pass rush,” observed receiver Cody Hoffman. “They’re able to rush just four guys and still get the quarterback, and that’s tough to go against.”
The Irish pass rush is led by defensive end Stephon Tuitt (6-6, 303, sophomore) who has 6.5 sacks on the year, which leads the team. The secondary is relatively young and hasn’t been severely tested by opponents so far this year. Notre Dame employs consistent cover-2 and cover-4 zone concepts.
Cougar question mark
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