Expect Colorado State to play like a bunch of Ducks today.
Two weeks ago, Oregon showed that BYU's high-tech passing game can be stopped if: 1. rushers spend the day in Ty Detmer's face, and 2. defenders catch a few Detmer passes.Stop Ty, stop the Y.
It's a simple formula, but it works. And it's what the BYU offense will try to cope with as it faces the Rams at noon in Cougar Stadium. The game will be televised live on Channel 5.
"We expect them to come with fire in their eyes," BYU center Bob Stephens said of the Ram pass rush. "They're going to try to get to Ty."
Against Utah's porous offensive line last week, the Ram pass rush sacked Ute quarterback Jason Woods seven times and harassed him on a lot more plays. In five games previous to that, however, the Rams had recorded just six sacks.
One option that was consistently open to the Utes that day was the tight end. Ute tight end Mike Anglesey caught five passes for 162 yards against the Rams, including a 72-yard scoring pass when he beat single coverage by a linebacker. Chances are the Rams won't assign a linebacker to cover BYU's speedy tight end Chris Smith, but if they do, Smith plans to take advantage of it.
"We like to see that," said Smith, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery 12 days ago but is expected to be near full strength today. Smith, by the way, made nine catches for 149 yards and two touchdowns against CSU last season.
The Rams rank third in the WAC in pass-efficiency defense, but they haven't faced a die-hard passing team yet. In six games only 155 passes have been thrown their way, and Detmer could toss about a third that many in this game.
On the other side of the ball, BYU's defense will face its first major challenge on the ground. The Cougar defense has been impressive against the rush, but hasn't faced a team yet that emphasizes the run like CSU. The Rams average 242 yards a game rushing.
The run is double important for the Rams against BYU, because keeping the ball on the ground and dominating the clock means Detmer is on the sidelines. Against Utah that scheme worked to perfection as the Rams finished with a 16-minute edge in time of possession.
"It's very important that we keep our offense on the field and their offense off the field," CSU Coach Earle Bruce said.
One area in which BYU has a distinct edge is punting. BYU's Earl Kauffman leads the WAC and is second in the nation in net punting at 42.5 yards per punt. Ram punter Tim Luke ranks eighth in the WAC at 32.5 yards.
Bruce thinks a key to the game will be how his team breaks out of the gate. "We haven't gotten off to a very quick start in any of our games," Bruce said. "That's one thing we must do Saturday. We can't let them dominate at the start and score a bunch of points on us early."
Bruce's concern isn't supported by the stats, however. Colorado State has scored more points in first quarters this season than in any other quarter. BYU, meanwhile, has scored its fewest points in the first quarter.
BYU Coach LaVell Edwards knows that a victory here would give a big boost to the Cougars' WAC title hopes, but he also knows that a loss won't knock them ot of the race.
"This is one of the early showdowns for the conference championship, but each of us still has to play Wyoming," Edwards told Associated Press. "There are a lot of tough games for both of us coming up. You can win the title with one loss, but history has shown you can't win it with two losses."