I think that we hit him early and we got him in third-and-long [situations]. They were in long-yardage [situations] more than they would like to be and we were able to go after him. We contained him good. We had a good pass rush against him last year. —BYU defensive coordinator Nick Howell, on how the Cougars played Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton last year
PROVO — Limiting Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton is the obvious focus of the BYU defense leading up to Friday's matchup between the two teams.
It won't be easy.
The junior quarterback has riddled opposing defenses this season with 71 percent passing and 17 touchdowns as opposed to just a single interception. He's also rushed the ball for 224 yards and another two touchdowns through five games.
Against BYU last season, however, Keeton was held to just 202 yards passing, 23 yards rushing on 10 attempts and, most importantly, no touchdowns. BYU ultimately won the game 6-3.
“I think that we hit him early and we got him in third-and-long [situations],” said BYU defensive coordinator Nick Howell. “They were in long-yardage [situations] more than they would like to be and we were able to go after him. We contained him good. We had a good pass rush against him last year.”
The BYU defense will attempt to mirror last year's success in attempting to take away Keeton's strengths.
“If you give up the quick throws on first down and second down, they’re going to get in medium and short situations,” Howell said. “That’s where they’re going to want to be, and if you don’t get them in third-and-long, then they’re going to dictate the tempo of the game, so you got to get good early.”
It won't just be a dink-and-dunk approach from the Aggie offense, however. Keeton has shown the ability to beat a defense in many ways and will look to beat BYU deep when the occasion arises.
“If you’ve watched the last two years, they’ve planned to take shots downfield,” Howell said. “When they do that, they’re going to protect him. They’re going to leave in a tight end, a back, and try to get one-on-one down the field. So that’s what we got to stop.”
Turnovers in short supply
BYU has produced just three take-aways through its first four games. It's not nearly enough, according to Howell.
The opportunities have been there most games, but defenders simply haven't been able to hang onto would-be interceptions or cause enough fumbles.
“We’re always focusing on it, so I think we need to get more guys to the ball,” Howell said of turnovers. “I think we ran to the ball really, really good against Virginia but I think a little bit of the edge has come off since then. We’ve dropped our fair share of balls in our hands.”
Howell hasn't lamented on the lack of turnovers with his players, but believes if the approach remains the same, those turnovers will come.
“If you sit there and talk about turnovers, and dropping balls all the time, then that’s what’s going to happen,” Howell said. “But if you just keep the message consistent and talk about making plays and being ball hungry. If you talk about being physical, and holding guys up and then smacking them, then I think it’s going to happen naturally.”
Williams may be limited
The good news is Jamaal Williams is set to return to the field after suffering a concussion in the game against Utah. The bad news is he may have a limited role in his first game back.
We’re going to watch that closely and we’ll be working with the trainers in that regard,” said offensive coordinator Robert Anae. “Any time a kid comes back [from a concussion], I’d rather err on the side of caution. So no, I’m not looking forward to Jamaal going back in with his normal work load.”