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Cougars Look to Exploit Ute Deficiencies

22 November 2010 Brett Richins 12 Comments
Rice-Eccles hosts the Holy War this year (Photo by Don Green).

Rice-Eccles hosts the Holy War this year (Photo by Don Green).

Jake Heaps and the BYU offense should be able to make some plays against the Utah defense they will face on Saturday afternoon in Rice-Eccles Stadium.

The Utes have struggled to stop the pass, especially in the past few weeks, and currently rank 88th in pass efficiency defense and 59th in pass yardage given up.

The Utes are giving up 214 yards per game through the air, but against better competition over the past three weeks that number has ballooned to 337. Even run-happy Air Force threw for 201 yards against Utah four weeks ago.

Over the past month, since the competition level has increased for Utah, the Utes are giving up 33 points and 453 total yard per game. Compare that to 12.9 points and 322 total yards per game in their first seven contests.

The Cougars meanwhile have been on a meteoric rise offensively. During the past three weeks, albeit against less than stellar defenses, the Cougars are averaging 48 points and 512 yards per game. That’s light years from where they were even against Wyoming four games ago.

During that span Jake Heaps has completed 63 percent of his passes for 256 yards per game with 8 touchdowns and no interceptions.

Make no mistake about it though, this Utah defense is still the best unit that the Cougars have faced since TCU. But unlike the Horned Frogs, the Utes do have an Achilles Heel that BYU can exploit.

Utah’s defensive philosophy is to play man coverage in the secondary. When they have NFL-caliber talent at multiple positions in the secondary, as they did last season in Robert Johnson and RJ Stanford, the Ute defense becomes very formidable.

This season the Utes have been much more vulnerable without the same level of talent in the secondary.

Don’t expect Utah to change much of what they do defensively though, they still believe they can go man up on the BYU receivers. They will put their corners on an island for most of the game on Saturday.

Expect the Cougars to try to exploit 6-4 receiver Cody Hoffman’s size advantage, by trying to get him matched up on the outside against 5-8 corner Lamar Chapman. Hoffman will also be asked to run some rub routes over the middle of the field as well.

Utah does lead the conference with 36 sacks on the season, a good number of those coming from the secondary. The Utes will bring safety and corner blitzes as witnessed by the fact that Chapman leads his team with 5.5 sacks.

If the Cougars can keep their freshman quarterback upright, there should be opportunities to make some good plays against Utah’s blitz packages.

Jake Heaps will need to show the same kind of poise and confidence on the road against Utah that he has shown the past few weeks against less talented defenses.

BYU’s running game has been key to Heaps’ recent development and success. Over the past four games the Cougars have pummeled opposing defenses, averaging 244 yards on the ground.

That juggernaut will face the No. 10 rush defense in the country in Utah. It will be interesting to see if the Cougars will continue to rely as heavily on the run game on Saturday. It would not be surprising to see BYU change some things up and come out slinging the ball around and using the pass in this game to set up the run.

In our next installment we’ll take a closer look at BYU’s surprising success on the ground this year.

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12 Comments »

  • Ryan F said:

    This Saturday will be fun…

  • kiyoshige said:

    We seem to do well when we establish the run. This will be tough to do against Utah. I don’t think we can win this game unless we can sustain long, consistent offensive drives.

  • Greg said:

    I’m nervous because we establish the run first, then we pass. Sadly, Robert Anae thinks he’s coaching Air Force. If I were Utah, my first two goals would be stopping the run with 7-8 in the box and getting pressure on Heaps from his blind side. I’m hoping to see BYU’s pro set a lot with two wideouts, a slot receiver or tight end, and two RBs pretty much all game. The RBs can protect, run the ball, or run wheel routes out of the backfield.

  • Yogi said:

    Game On !!!!

  • d$ said:

    I’m worried. If I’m Utah I blitz early and often. If they can shake Heaps up at the beginning, it’s going to be a long day. If the BYU receivers can hang on to the ball saturday then we have a really good chance. Catch a few passes and Utah can’t blitz as much and have to stay home. That opens things up for a really good day. I think Utah was overestimated at the beginning of the season, but let’s not underestimate them now.

  • Seasider said:

    Historically, BYU has had success running on the Utes but it hasn’t always come easy. Utah has a very physical front 7 but the good news is BYU’s O-line is very physical as well so they match up well. If used right, I can see DiLuigi presenting some problems to their run defense because of his quick feet and ability to change direction in a hurry. Kariya of course will get a lot of carries which will result in plenty of hard collisions with LB’s. I’m really interested in seeing how Quezada will handle things when gets the ball. He’s the closest thing to Unga we currently have on the team and Unga as we know always had a good game against Utah even when we lost. He could potentially have an Unga type performance but we’ll see.

  • B-rizz said:

    The Utah blitz could really tear things up for the cougars. One of the biggest reasons heaps has been more posed and accurate from the pocket, is that he’s had so much time, and so much less pressure lately. I’d expect the Utes to bring big, potentially dangerous blitzes.

  • zoo_baby said:

    BYU can’t put this game on Heaps’ shoulders. They need to stick with what got them here. They are VERY good when they get that run game going and I hope they can do that against Utah. I hope they don’t think they can pull a SDSU and put up 500 yds in the air. First of all, I don’t think they can. Second of all, look how far that got SDSU.

    In the recent past BYU has been able to run the ball effectively against the Utes and the Utes have been able to slow down BYU’s passing game.

    As Brett says, “BYU’s running game has been key to Heaps’ recent development and success.” I don’t think Heaps is good enough yet to be able to just come out and take control of the game. He needs a successful run game.

    I hope that BYU sticks with the run and doesn’t get pass happy because I don’t think that’s gonna work. Just please run a balanced game plan.

  • Gayle said:

    I think the key to this game will be the BYU defense. It may take a while to wear the Ute front line down to get the running game going strong and untill that happens the defense will have to be very good at stopping the Utes. If they can get to Wynn and force him into turning the ball over (which is something he does) then it could be a very good day to be a cougar.

  • Eric said:

    I was at Utah’s game last week vs. the Aztecs (neutral observer) and I can tell you that this years Ute Defense is NOT even close to the Ute defenses of recent past. I believe if the Cougs stay with their game plan and run the ball it will force Utah to put more in the box and Heaps and his receivers are finally good enough to exploit that. I predict another classic down to the wire nail biter. Cougs win 17-14.

  • WaybackCougar said:

    I just hope we bring both sides of our game and show the ability to go with what’s working. We know what happened to Max Hall when we insisted on passing when the run had been working. I think it could go either way. I don’t think we should be determined to go more with pass or run going in to the game. Be ready to do either or both.

    The improvement in recent games can be attributed to Heaps but Anae has certainly had a hand in it as well. People were ready to run Anae out of town earlier in the year. Saturday will give us a better idea–not only how Heaps is doing–but Anae and his staff as well.

  • Jacob said:

    Piece of cake for byu.

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