RENO, Nev. — So far, November hasn't been a friendly month for the BYU football team. The Cougars have suffered two tough road losses — to Wisconsin (27-17) and then to Notre Dame (23-13) — during the final month of the regular season.
Both losses took place on the national stage and took a big toll on a program that seeks positive exposure on a national level.
The Cougars have a chance at some road redemption this Saturday (1 p.m. MST) as they travel to take on Nevada in their final game of the regular season.
Despite the big disappointment that came with last week's loss to Notre Dame, Cougar players are hoping to finish the regular season on a high note.
“I’m super (excited) to get out there and play,” said senior linebacker and Reno native Kyle Van Noy. “It’s never fun to lose and it wasn’t fun coming out with a loss. It hurt and it wasn’t fun last week against Notre Dame, so we’re really looking forward to going out and hopefully redeeming ourselves.”
Nevada has struggled and enters with a disappointing 4-7 record but presents some unique challenges.
First and foremost is a wide-open offensive attack that should prove familiar.
“Their offense is very, very similar to ours,” BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “I’d say that 80 percent of the offense is similar to ours, and maybe a hair more than that. So the styles — a mobile quarterback, a good running game, big receivers — makes for a unique matchup.”
The Wolf Pack are led by junior quarterback Cody Fajardo, who plays a lot like BYU quarterback Taysom Hill.
"He's definitely a duel-threat guy that can present some challenges," said BYU defensive coordinator Nick Howell. "He's good and we'll have a good challenge in trying to stop him."
Fajardo's main target is 6-foot-3 senior Brandon Wimberly, who has 87 receptions for 872 yards and seven touchdowns on the season.
"He's good and he sort of reminds me of the big receivers we have here," said cornerback Mike Hague.
Nevada has struggled defending both the pass and the run this season. The Wolf Pack are giving up 506.6 yards and 35 points per game. Despite those struggles, BYU senior receiver JD Falslev isn't taking them lightly.
“They have a lot of good athletes on their team and they’re going to try and defend us well and be physical with us,” Falslev said. “Coverage-wise they throw a lot of different stuff. We’re preparing for things we can exploit and hopefully we can exploit some things on Saturday.”
BYU's offense has had struggles of its own in losses against the Badgers and the Irish. First and foremost among the struggles is converting long drives into touchdowns.
The offense has proved very adept at moving the ball — until reaching the opponent's 20-yard line.
"It has to change," Falslev said. "That's the biggest thing holding us back and yeah, it's been frustrating. All we can do is try and get better and we've been practicing hard all week to get better in those situations. We have to finish what we do on offense."
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