PROVO — While CSU's true freshman quarterback, Pete Thomas, has received a lot of attention, the Ram defense is expected to challenge BYU's improving offense.
Though the Cougars exploded for 55 points against UNLV last week, they're still only averaging 20 points per game this season. CSU's defense forced five turnovers in a 24-19 loss at San Diego State last week.
The leader of the Ram defense is junior linebacker Mychal Sisson. Two years ago in Fort Collins, Sisson, as a freshman, gave the Rams an early 7-0 lead against BYU when he picked up a fumble and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown.
Last week, Sisson knocked the ball out of SDSU quarterback Ryan Lindley's hand, forcing a fumble, then picked up the ball and returned it 88 yards for a touchdown.
BYU knows it will have to be aware of Sisson on Saturday.
"I like him," said coach Bronco Mendenhall. "He's quick and he's active and he's fast and he plays hard. It doesn't take long to find him (on tape). He's a good player."
Sisson is No. 2 in the MWC in tackles-for-loss with 1.2 per game (14 overall), No. 3 in the MWC in forced fumbles (four), No. 6 in sacks (three), and No. 12 in tackles (74).
He's also among the league leaders in fumbles recovered (two).
"He's a playmaker. Every time you look up, he's making a play on defense," said CSU coach Steve Fairchild. "He obviously has athletic ability to cover a lot of ground out there on defense. Then here he goes again last week, just like he did against BYU two years ago, he scoops up a fumble and scores. He's very much a playmaker on our defense."
A DB COMMITMENT: Once again, BYU has turned to its Snow Junior College pipeline for help in the defensive secondary. Snow cornerback Preston Hadley committed to Mendenhall Tuesday. Next fall, Hadley is expected to help shore up a secondary that will be losing safety Andrew Rich, who also came from Snow. A 6-foot, 200-pounder, Hadley graduated from Pleasant Grove in 2006 before serving a mission. He reportedly has been clocked at 4.43 in the 40 and has a 35-inch vertical jump. Hadley also received scholarship offers from Washington State, New Mexico State and Kent State.
JJ'S IMPACT: Junior running back JJ Di Luigi has been BYU's most consistent offensive player this season, rushing for 681 yards and catching 37 passes for 362 yards.
"I think JJ, especially early on, (played) a pivotal role because he was a player who was getting big plays on offense," Mendenhall said. "We weren't getting many, but if we did get some they were coming from him, both in the run game and the pass game. He was kind of holding us and giving us a chance for a while there."
Mendenhall was quick to point out that Di Luigi wasn't the only one carrying the offense, pointing out the play of the offensive line and running back Bryan Kariya.
"Now we have started to add a few more pieces and a little bit more balance to that," he added. "But I think he was the catalyst, or at least the steadying factor for awhile."