Reflecting back to the Arizona game as the Cougars prepare for Utah, BYU left tackle Andrew Eide gave Total Blue Sports a compare and contrast between Arizona and Utah's defensive line and playing style.
"[Utah’s] a little bit different than Arizona's," said Eide. "[Arizona] were a little undersized but they were quick, and that's how they made up for the difference. Sometimes their quickness would cause a little havoc, but as long as we stuck to our technique we could run the ball against them.
"When it comes to Utah, we're expecting them to be a little bigger and stronger than Arizona was, and I know they don't like to do to many dynamic things. They just like to go head up on you with an attitude of trying to knock you back while saying, 'Hey, try and run it on us' and that's what we're going to do. We're expecting it to be a very physical game on both sides of the ball. We expect their defensive line to stay low and bring it and, you know, we have to do the same to them. So, that's kind of what we're looking at right now."
Rushing from the right side of Utah's defensive line, former Timpview High School star Pita Taumoepenu will be doing battle with Eide on passing downs. Eide is also preparing for Hunter Dimick as well.
"Well, the guy that I'll be going up against I believe his name is Pita [Taumoepenu] ," said Eide. "He's not really tall but he's quick, so he's quick and a pretty stout guy, so I know I'm going to have my hands full with him. Then on the other side they have Hunter Dimick who's an established player. For the most part I think they both just stick to one side and don't rotate sides, but I'll be ready for both of them in case that happens."
In the middle of Utah's defense are two very stout defensive tackles, one of whom is the younger brother of former Ute defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, who is now playing for the Carolina Panthers. Lowell Lotulelei will be joined by Filipo Mokofisi in an effort to plug the middle.
"I believe their defensive tackle's names are Lotulelei and Mokofisi," Eide said. "They're both stout dudes and bigger guys that play on the inside that like to plug up the middle, especially on our run plays. We just have to be physical in the middle of our line, get our feet going, and make sure we hold our blocks well on drive plays. If we can do that then I think we'll have a chance."
In 2015, Utah lost three senior linebackers in Gionni Paul, Jared Norris, and Jason Whittingham. Paul and Norris combined for 204 tackles last season, so the Utah linebacker corps will be revamped this season. Junior Sunia Tauteoli (6-0, 226 pounds) is the most experienced. Tauteoli is a physical player as expressed by Eide.
"Utah's linebackers, especially their middle linebacker, are guys that like to hit and fill pretty hard," Eide said. "I know that when they blitz they bring it pretty hard and aren't guys that like to evade us. Their middle linebacker, I'm not going to say he's a dirty guy but a feisty guy. He likes to really play football to the extreme, so we're expecting a full physicality on the front line and from their secondary as well."
The other two are Cody Barton (6-2, 232 pounds) is listed as a co-starter at the Rover linebacker position with junior Kavika Luafatasaga (6-4, 237-pounds). During the Utes season-opener against Southern Utah, the Thunderbirds were able to gash the front seven of Utah's defense and BYU was watching.
"SUU had some good runs that caught them off-guard for some long runs," said Eide. "I think SUU ran for about 125 yards on them. That doesn't guarantee that we're going to do the same thing because they're going to make some adjustments on their defense, but it is encouraging to us to see that it can be done. Utah saw what we did against Arizona and they know we like to run the ball, so there's not going to be any surprises for them or us in this game. They're a physical front seven and we're a physical team up front as well."
MENDENALL vs. SITAKE RIVALRY APPROACH
Bronco Mendenhall viewed the rivalry game against Utah as 'just another game.' The results left Utah winning 7 of the 10 rivalry games with Mendenhall at the helm, including the last 5 in a row. The approach by Kalani Sitake and his staff is much different according to Eide.
"You know, I feel like it's different with these coaches in how they look at the rivalry," said Eide. "Ninety-nine percent of these coaches all played football here at one time. I'm not saying that Bronco Mendenhall wasn't a BYU guy, but these guys historically have been here, they played here, and were a part of the rivalry throughout the years. You know, Utah is just not another game for these guys. It's their biggest rivalry game. You know, at the beginning of the season we weren't saying, 'Oh, let’s beat Utah!' No, we were saying, 'Let’s beat Arizona all the way' but in the back of our minds and in conversations we were thinking, 'Utah is not just another game for us.' This is a big game so I think the intensity is definitely getting stepped up big time for us. It means a little more for us now."
EIDE'S THREE KEYS TO BEATING UTAH
"Three of us weren't in spring ball: me, Keyan [Norman], and Tejan [Koroma]," said Eide. "We're still trying to gel as an offensive line, so we definitely made some errors in our footwork. Arizona stunted a lot so it caused us to make split second decisions that we weren't really ready for at that speed yet. The good thing for us is we have a really amazing running back and quarterback that to what all amazing running backs and quarterbacks do is make their o-line right all the time. We definitely got that issue under wraps and spent a lot of time making the improvements in making sure our technique is sound in our zone steps and all that. I think we're solid now as far as that goes."
"The first key is it all starts up front so the offensive line needs to bring it," said Eide. "We need to bring the intensity. Utah is not going to play against us with the same intensity as they did against SUU. They're going to step it up a whole new level because it's in Rice-Eccles Stadium, a place where they don't lose that often. The crowd loves to try and stop us on third down by being really loud, so I think the O-line has to keep its composure, which I think we did against Arizona last week.
"Then [second key is] we know our quarterback, wide receivers, and running backs are going to do good things, so they have to keep doing what they do best and that's run hard and make catches.
"The third thing is we saw how our defense kept a high octane offense like Arizona shut down for the most part. They have to continue to play hard and do to Utah what they did against Arizona. If our defense continues to play like they did against Arizona, which I think they will, that will be a key."