Corralling Keeton is the key

The Cougars have another short week this week as they get ready to face the Aggies of Utah State this Friday. The Cougar defense will face one of its toughest challenges when it takes on Chuckie Keeton, one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation.

After setting a single-season school record of 27 touchdowns and 3,992 passing yards, while adding an additional 619 yards and eight more touchdowns on the ground last year as a sophomore, Chuckie Keeton is a force to be reckoned with. Stopping Keeton will be the key to a Cougar victory on a short week of preparation.

"Our goal as the front seven is to contain him, especially the d-line," said Eathyn Manumaleuna. "We want him to not be flushed outside, and we're working hard this week to keep him inside the pocket, and if he needs to run, try and make him run up the middle where we have guys. He's very dangerous and a very good player."

"He's a good player," said Austen Jorgensen, who had a fantastic game against Middle Tennessee when he lead the defense with nine tackles (four solo). "He's fast and if he gets outside of you he can hurt you with his legs, so we have to make sure we keep him boxed up in the pocket and not let him beat us with his legs. If we let him run around, it's going to be a long night for us."

For his career at Utah State, Keeton ranks first all-time in school history with a completion percentage of 65.6 percent. He ranks fourth in total passing touchdowns so far with 38. He currently is ranked ninth all-time with 4,573 career passing yards. Keeton's passing game has improved greatly since his freshman year.

"He was great his freshman year," said Manumaleuna. "He was great then and he's great now. His running game has stepped up, I think. He's progressed and matured in the game and he knows how to play."

"We've seen him get a lot better in the passing game, so not only can he run but he can throw the ball on you," said Jorgensen. "We have to make sure we keep him one-dimensional and not allow him to set up the pass with his legs. It's going to be a challenge but I think we'll be ready. He's got a good arm and can put the ball right on the money."

The Utah State offense runs a similar offense to what BYU now runs with the option-ride. Keeton has become very good knowing when to hand the ball off in comparison to when to pull it and run.

"He's versatile and can go side-to-side and is very patient with the option-ride," said Jorgensen. "It's really difficult. He'll hold that ball and run the option-ride right down to the offensive line almost before making a decision to pull it. He's really good at it and waits till you make a mistake and then he'll beat you that way. The one area where he's improved is in his decision making in the option-ride offense."

And much like BYU's fast paced offense, Utah State runs a similar type of tempo as well. Facing a fast paced option-ride offense isn't anything new to BYU's defense.

"They run a fast paced tempo a lot like we do here," said Jorgensen. "It's very similar and they use Chuckie Keeton in similar ways, but we've practice against this a lot from our own offense and with Taysom who isn't slow either. They like to speed things up with their offense similar to what we do here, so we'll have to be ready for that. We'll have to be sure we play sound, disciplined defense and not be fooled by anything. I think that will be the key."

The Aggie offense likes to put pressure on linebackers and safeties by gashing defenses with the run. Once they've accomplished that, the play-action pass opens up. The Cougars are very aware of this.

"I would say Utah State's offense is run-based first. Just about everything they do is option ride-based first and then they like to do play action with the pass over the top," Jorgensen said. "Everything is based on establishing the run and get you in the box to defend against Keeton. Then they like to pick apart your defense with the pass. We have to make sure we just play disciplined and make sure that we don't get beat with the run so they can pass over the top of us."

Keeping Keeton corralled will be a challenge, but the game plan this year will be similar to last year when BYU beat Utah State 6-3. Keeton went 22 of 38 for 202 yards and only had a net gain of 23 yards on the ground, averaging just 2.3 yards per rush. The Cougars will have to have similar numbers this Friday to come away from Romney Stadium with a victory.

"We're aware of what they do well," said Manoa Pikula. "We know their quarterback likes to run the ball and then set up defenses with the pass by going over the top of you. Our front seven is going to have to make sure we keep him in the pocket and force him to beat us with his arm. If we can do that, I think we can come away with a win. Chuckie is a good player but I feel like if we stick to our assignments we should be okay. If we do our job and not try and do someone else's, we'll be fine. If we try and do too much and not be assignment-sound, then it will be a tough, but if we play like we did last year I think we'll be fine."

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