Mark A. Philbrick, Mark A. Philbrick
PROVO — From the Big Ten to the Big Sky.
That’s the change in competition for BYU this week, as the Cougars host Idaho State Saturday (1 p.m. MST, BYUtv) at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
BYU fell at No. 17 Wisconsin of the Big Ten Conference last week, and now faces the 3-7 Bengals, who belong to the Big Sky Conference.
Among other things, Saturday is a chance for the Cougar offense to get back on track after struggling at Camp Randall Stadium. BYU visits Notre Dame on Nov. 23.
In that 27-17 setback in Madison, Wis., BYU converted on just 7 of 19 third-down attempts. Quarterback Taysom Hill completed 19 of 41 passes for 207 yards with one interception and two touchdowns, and he was sacked four times. The Cougars also committed some costly penalties that short-circuited a few drives.
The Badgers are among the top 10 in the nation in several national defensive categories.
“I want to give credit to Wisconsin. They’re a good football program,” said quarterbacks coach Jason Beck. “They play hard and play sound. They make it hard on you. There’s a reason, going into the game, that they were such a highly ranked defense. They definitely presented their share of challenges to our team. We’ll focus on the things we need to improve on and get better at to go forward.”
“It could have been better,” offensive lineman De’Ondre Wesley said of the offensive performance last week. “Besides some minor mistakes, I feel that on a couple of plays if we would have gotten one or two blocks, we could have busted the game wide open. Reviewing tape, if we could have fixed a few minor mistakes, we could have scored a lot easier. I just felt that we were a step slow. I feel that we are just as good as them in everything, but we just were a step slow.”
Offensive coordinator Robert Anae is eager to see his players improve Saturday.
“We’ve got another game this week,” he said. “You lose a game; you learn from it; you put it behind you; and you push to the next one. I’m very excited. It appears our players are excited to prepare and play a game this Saturday.”
The Cougars are expected to put up big numbers against Idaho State.
The Bengals rank No. 100 in rushing defense (215.9 ypg), No. 94 in pass defense (246.6 ypg), No. 85 in pass efficiency defense (136.5), No. 106 in total defense (462.5 ypg) and No. 85 in scoring defense (30.8 ppg).
Still, the Cougars say they respect Idaho State.
“We are not going to take them lightly. Every opponent that we play has the potential to be a great team,” Wesley said. “We have to fix some things during practice and go through film and get some things fixed and get our plays and pass-protection down. Going into this game, I feel like we will have some big plays and do some good things.”
“We’re putting the focus back on fundamentals and core beliefs — going hard and going fast,” Beck said. “That’s what we’re pushing with our guys.”
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