Can Nelson get more people involved with the passing game? Hoffman is great, and Nelson knows where to find him, but in order to see consistent success, Nelson needs to find receivers such as Ross Apo and JD Falslev more often.
The offensive line needs to force Notre Dame to get out of its comfort zone and bring five or even six pass rushers in order to get to Nelson.
“We need to find the holes in their zone,” said Hoffman. “They’re very good, but we’ll have open spots we can get to and we just need to be confident and execute like we know we can.”
Look for Notre Dame to crowd the line of scrimmage and force Nelson to beat its defense over-the-top and on the perimeter. This is something Nelson has failed to do consistently throughout his career, but will need to do to beat the Irish with intermediate and long passing in order to see good and consistent success. Limiting turnovers is also at a premium.
Cougar rush defense vs. Notre Dame
The Cougars allowed just 118 yards rushing last week but did allow Oregon State starter Storm Woods to rush for 5.2 yards per carry. It’s a rush defense that has been very consistent and stingy throughout the year, but will likely face its toughest test this week against the Irish.
Notre Dame employs a spread offense that runs much more than most teams that run out of a similar base formation. It averages 181.2 yards per game on the ground and will rotate three tailbacks throughout the game.
Its leading rusher is senior Theo Riddick (5-11, 200) who has 308 yards rushing on the year and also leads the Irish in receptions. The running back most capable of big gains is sophomore George Atkinson (6-1, 210) who has gained 299 yards so far this season on a 9.1 yards per carry average.
Cougar question mark
Notre Dame will pose the best rushing offense the team has faced so far this season. BYU is relatively thin in quality depth after injuries to Ian Dulan to start the year and then to Eathyn Manumaleuna. Look for Notre Dame to test that depth severely with a constant barrage of rushing attempts, and how BYU responds to that is certainly a question mark.
“We need to stop the run — we always focus on stopping the run first, and that will be key against Notre Dame,” said cornerback Preston Hadley. “We need to put them in throwing situations and make them throw more than they like to.”
BYU’s defense should rebound nicely after last week’s subpar performance against the Beavers. BYU should be able to limit Notre Dame below its season average on the ground and limit what the Irish are able to do offensively as a result.
BYU pass defense vs. Notre Dame
Oregon State was able to see success with precise execution with intermediate and deep routes throughout the game last week. BYU gave up 332 yards passing on just 32 pass attempts and will certainly have to improve that number against the Irish.
Notre Dame is a run-first offense, but can throw effectively if it has to. It averages 206.5 yards per game through the air and is expected to have the services of injured starter Everett Golson (6-0, 185.) Golson is a bit like Nelson in that he’s undersized and likes to operate out of the pocket and run on occasion. BYU did quite well in defending against a similar quarterback in Utah State’s Chuckie Keeton a couple of weeks ago, but struggled last week against Cody Vaz, a true pocket passer.
Notre Dame’s leading receivers, other than running back Theo Riddick, are TJ Jones (5-11, 190) and tight end Tyler Eifert (6-6, 251), who will line up as a wide receiver or slot receiver throughout any contest.
Cougar question mark
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