PROVO — For a BYU defense that has yielded 950 yards and a host of big plays the past two weeks, Utah State's offensive capabilities pose a significant challenge.
"Explosive," is how Cougar coach Bronco Mendenhall describes the Aggies' offense — led by quarterback Diondre Borel and running back Robert Turbin — that visits LaVell Edwards Stadium on Friday (7 p.m., The mtn.).
USU scored 30 points in a close loss at Texas A&M and put up 53 points in last week's rout over Southern Utah. The Aggies rolled up 604 yards of total offense — the most since 2001 and the ninth-most in school history — against the Thunderbirds.
This season, Borel has completed 49-of-94 passes for 771 yards and four touchdowns and is coming off back-to-back 300-yard passing games. The 6-foot, 174-pound junior has also rushed 46 times for 111 yards and three touchdowns.
The Cougars know they'll need to account for Borel. Over the years, quarterbacks who can make plays with their feet have proven to be BYU's Achilles heel.
"He runs the ball very, very well. Guys who are able to do that, they just keep plays alive," said BYU defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen. "That's the toughest thing. They can sit back in the pocket, the pressure comes, and they can escape it. They can run around and just wait for receivers to get open.
"That's the hardest part about playing a mobile quarterback — when a play should be dead, they're able to keep it going. It kind of wears down a defense and it makes things frustrating. We really have to contain him and make sure he stays in that pocket and make sure we don't give him an opportunity to run around and make his reads."
A year ago in BYU's 34-14 win over USU in Logan, Borel completed 10-of-15 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown.
"He's a great athlete and he's fast and shifty. He can make pretty good throws," linebacker Coleby Clawson said of Borel. "We'll have to be at our best, especially as a defensive front, to contain him and keep in the pocket and force him to throw. We're going to have to keep him from creating throwing lanes and running lanes for him to use his athleticism."
"We had a hard time getting him on the ground a year ago," Mendenhall said. "When you consider how they're using him now with a little bit of option and zone-read series, they've understood what his strengths are and are using him at even a higher level than a year ago."
Mendenhall said his team learned from the mistakes it made against Florida State's mobile quarterback, Christian Ponder, who consistently helped his team get first downs and reach the end zone.
"We've incorporated a few drills and different things in practice that might help us and a few scheme ideas," Mendenhall said.
Turbin, a 5-foot-10, 202-pound sophomore, has gained 373 yards on the ground on 43 attempts (an average of 8.7 yards per carry) for three touchdowns. He rushed for a 96-yard TD in the season-opener at Utah.
"Not only is he physical, but he's fast. The plays that you do see that he can break away, nobody is catching him and he's big," Mendenhall said of Turbin, who rushed eight times for 74 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown, against the Cougars last season. "It's a unique combination of being big, physical and fast and that's pretty uncommon. From a year ago, I know our players were very impressed after playing him and thought he was one of the best running backs that we had seen."
In the victory over SUU, Turbin and junior running back Michael Smith combined to rush for 204 yards, becoming the first Aggie tandem to both run for over 100 yards in a game since 1989. Also, Turbin racked up 108 receiving yards to become the first USU running back to post a 100-yard receiving and 100-yard rushing performance in the same game since Emmett White in 2000. Turbin is the first Aggie to string together three consecutive 100-yard rushing outings since White did it in 2001.
It appears the BYU defense will have its hands full with Turbin and Borel.
"Those two players in combination are doing a nice job because those two are the ones who are touching the ball most of the time," Mendenhall said. "With the ball in both of those players' hands, I think it's a smart move by the coaching staff."
Cougars/Aggies on the air
Utah State (1-2)at No. 20 BYU (2-1, 1-0)
Friday, 7 p.m.
LaVell Edwards Stadium
TV: The mtn.
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM; 610 AM, 1230 AM, 95.9 FM
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company