Editor’s note: Brandon Gurney and Dan Sorensen, of utezone.com, break down the matchups when BYU has the football this Saturday. This is the second part of a two-part preview series. Part one can be read here.
BYU’s rushing attack vs. Utah
Overview of BYU (Gurney):
The Cougars are coming off a record-setting rushing performance against Texas two weeks ago. The team exploded for 550 yards rushing behind a rejuvenated offensive line and the powerful one-two punch provided by quarterback Taysom Hill and running back Jamaal Williams. Williams is currently the nation's No. 3 rusher at 163 yards per game while Hill comes in at No. 5 with an average of 150.5 yards per game. Paul Lasike was used frequently against the Longhorns and provides a nice change-up from Williams with his straight-ahead, bruising style.
BYU employs a lot of read option, which suits the running strengths of Hill perfectly. Against Texas, offensive coordinator Robert Anae called a good share of designed runs for Hill unlike he did the first game against Virginia. This will undoubtedly continue this week in light of the tremendous success of the ground attack against Texas.
Overview of Utah (Sorensen):
Utah’s defensive strength is unquestionably its ability to stop the run. The team is tied for 14th nationally in rushing defense, allowing only 96.7 yards per game. The Ute defensive line is once again the strength of the defense, led by seniors Tenny Palepoi and Trevor Reilly. Reilly is Utah’s leading tackler in terms of total tackles (19) and tackles for a loss (four). Palepoi headlines a deep rotation at defensive tackle and has recorded 15 tackles and 3.5 tackles for a loss.
Linebacker Jason Whittingham saw his first action of the season against Oregon State last week, and was constantly around the ball whenever the Beavers tried to run. Fellow linebacker Jared Norris has also quietly emerged as a solid playmaker for the Utes as well. Norris and Whittingham’s ability to pursue the play will be key if the Utes hope to slow down the Cougars’ ground game.
Key matchups for BYU (Gurney):
The big key for any offensive production rests squarely on the offensive line and its ability to continue the amazing improvements from week one to week two. Utah presents what could easily be considered the sternest test yet for this group with standouts such as Tenny Palepoi at tackle along with defensive ends Trevor Reilly and Nate Orchard.
If BYU's runners can consistently get to the second-level of pursuit, then it's hard not to like their chances. The Utah linebackers are generally not proven playmakers and could be gashed consistently by the abilities of Hill and Williams.
Key matchups for Utah (Sorensen):
The biggest matchup of the day will be whether Utah defensive ends Trevor Reilly and Nate Orchard are able to contain BYU quarterback Taysom Hill and force him back toward the middle of the field. Utah boasts capable defensive tackles and has seen solid play from the middle linebacker spot this year. Reilly and Orchard will need to stay sound in their technique and make plays when Hill decides to pull the ball down and run.
Rushing yards won't come as easy this week against a Utah front that should prove more capable than Texas. Ute coaches are preparing for BYU as they would against Air Force, and that should work well in limiting the Cougar's overall production.
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