1) Curtis Brown: The re-emergence of the running game was huge last week and both Naufahu Tahi and Curtis Brown looked good. I particularly liked Brown's quick acceleration and forward lean. I like Brown mostly for his determination inside the 10. His second touchdown against CSU was not a thing of beauty, but it set the tone for the rest of the game: neither he nor BYU were to be denied. That says a lot about Brown, individually. It is also so important for the team to know that when they get down close, they've got lots of options for getting the ball in the end zone.
2) John Beck: The book on Beck was he was great on the long ball, but struggled with the touch passes. Did anyone else notice Beck's perfect flare passes to the running backs against CSU? I think the flare is a tough pass to throw because; a) The quarterback usually has to lob it a bit to get it over the defensive line, but too much lob is bad; and b) to be effective the pass has to hit the running back in stride with his momentum going forward. If the running back has to adjust to the ball, he loses momentum and the play often is a bust. Beck is developing all the throws and is just going to get tougher and tougher to defend.
3) BYU Offensive Line: This is not a dominant group – yet. However, I think we've seen some real progress, especially with assignments. Against CSU, I didn't see many blown assignments from the offensive line, especially with the blitz pick-up. The run-blocking was much better, albeit against a pretty weak rush defense. I expect BYU's offensive line to build on the confidence gained from last week.
4) Bryce Mahuika: My recent expectations for BYU return teams has been pretty low: for kick-offs, I've been hoping for touchbacks (20 yard line) and for punts I expect us to simply catch the ball and not fumble. That was until Mahuika showed his stuff last week. For the first time in a long time, I think we've found someone who can really help with positive field position. That puts more pressure on the opponent's offense.
5) Daniel Coats: Last year, Coats was BYU's "go to guy." You would think he would be a little frustrated this year with the lack of ball time he's gotten. If he is frustrated, you can't tell from his performance on the field. He is doing a lot of the dirty work that is helping make the offense go. His run-blocking against CSU was really strong and on passing plays he is helping a lot on protection rather than running routes. I love his unselfishness – and I think his time in the spotlight will come again.
6) Matt Payne: This is becoming cliché, but Payne remains a huge advantage for BYU. I'm thinking he's worth 10 points a game.
7) 181.4: UNLV is giving up an average of 181.4 yards rushing per game. I expect BYU to have success running the ball, as we did last week – which will limit the Rebels' ability to tee off with their blitz packages. Play-action passes will also be effective.
8) Outplayed by Reno: Yes, UNLV ended up beating UNR handily, but the final score is deceiving. UNLV only led 13-6 at halftime, even though Nevada had dominated the game statistically to that point. UNR had 249 yards of total offense and 17 first downs in the first half compared to 135 yards and nine first downs for UNLV. The Pack also held the lead in time of possession, 19:04 to 10:56. UNLV eventually wore down Reno, but their inability to control the first half at home against a weak team does not bode well for them this week in Provo.
9) Turnovers: For the second consecutive week, BYU won the turnover battle. Yes, Beck threw an ill-advised pass in the 1st quarter –costing BYU at least 3 points. Yes, Tahi fumbled inside the CSU 10 yard line. Fortunately, it was recovered by Reynolds. However, BYU has made great progress in the turnover department since Stanford. I expect the trend to continue against UNLV, who have had 12 turnovers in five games.
10) Confidence: I sense BYU's confidence rising after the team's performance the last two weeks. I think BYU knows they are a more talented team than UNLV; knows the effort required to win; and expects to win. The same cannot be said for UNLV.
… And 5 Reasons Why They May Not Win:
1) John Robinson: His status has been an issue in Las Vegas for the last 12 months. Whether or not this was a distraction to his team is debatable, but the issue is resolved and UNLV now has something to emotionally rally behind. I expect they'll give a good effort against BYU.
2) UNLV Balanced Offense: UNLV is averaging about 170 yards per game, both running and passing. That balance is what drives their offensive efficiency. If BYU can shut down the UNLV running game, I don't believe the UNLV passing game, led by a very inconsistent quarterback Kurt Nantkes, can beat BYU.
3) Dominique Dorsey: Dorsey is the kind of running back that historically gives BYU fits – small, quick and shifty. If he gets into a groove, it could be a long night for the BYU defense.
4) UNLV Defensive Experience: UNLV starts seven seniors and three juniors on defense. They aren't going to get fooled, nor are they going to panic. Their linebackers and safeties are particularly good. BYU will have to earn everything they get on offense.
5) Jamaal Brimmer: He will be playing on Sunday's next year and is the heart of the UNLV defense. Beck will need to be aware of where Brimmer is at all times: in coverage and in blitz.
KNUTE'S PREDICTION: BYU's offense continues to improve and has too many weapons for UNLV to stop. The UNLV offense can't keep pace and becomes one-dimensional. Nantkes reverts to form – gives up a few interceptions in the second half – and BYU wins going away: BYU 37 - UNLV 17.
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