Yes BYU looked like a cougar caught in the headlights as Aztecs laid back and dared the offense to do anything. It was obvious that BYU has not figured out how to successfully attack a zone defense. It is a bit ironic that BYU's game plan against Boston College may have been the answer to beating San Diego State. Against SDSU, Beck did not take advantage of the underneath routes; the very same routes that allowed his team to move so well between the twenties in week one.
Last week I stated that for BYU to win they needed to shut down O'Connell. Well the Aztec slinger's stats, 21-31-243 with no picks, makes it clear that BYU failed to contain him. O'Connell was sacked only once the entire game. Given free reign he was able to keep his offense on the field for long spells. I stated that BYU needed to create turnovers. One fumble recovery isn't what I had in mind. Again BYU goes without a pick. Until the secondary can get into the opposing QB's head with a pick or two during the game, they will have a tough time forcing them to respect the defensive backfield. Finally I stated that BYU needed to score lots of points. This is reminiscent of BYU of old, needing to outscore the opponent due to the lack of a dynamic defense. Ten points really doesn't impress anyone, especially when the opportunities were there to establish more control of the game and keep the offense on the field.
So now that the Cougars are slumped at 1-3 with their only win coming against a Div I-AA team, is there any reason to hope that they can beat the Lobos on the road this Saturday? Sure there is, and there are several keys to how BYU can win. Here they are:
-Jam the Line
Jam the Line
Both New Mexico and BYU are 3-3-5 teams. That is what they do. This means that their corners are often on an island waiting to explode somewhere depending on what the receivers are doing. 7-8 yards off the line gives the receivers ample room to maneuver. Now if BYU's D-line is healthy and can bring instant pressure, it would nullify the cushion. The good news for BYU is that Cameron Jensen, Paul Walkenhorst and Manaia Brown will be back. The bad news is they are still banged up.
The D-line needs some help from the defensive backfield. This means the corners should crowd the line and start laying licks on Lobo receivers. I would even suggest that tweeners like Bills be given the call to Jam wideouts on occasion. Bumping a receiver requires quickness not speed, and if Kehl or Bills can lay a few licks on Baskett, Brown and Mulchrone it could give the D-line enough time to break up the play completely. It would also place these players in a position to contain the ends, which have been a weakness for BYU this far into the season.
Baskett is going to get his catches, but the key is to making sure they are more static than real noise down the field. Lobo QB Kole McKamey has thrown 7 picks this season, and there is no reason why BYU cannot get a couple themselves. Seven of New Mexico's eleven fumbles this season have come in their last two games, not to mention 4 picks thrown versus TCU last week. They have not been taking care of the ball very well. They have however cleaned up given that they have lost only two fumbles all season. Any physical play at the line that the defensive backs can provide will increase the likelihood of turnovers.
BYU's offense can pass and RUN! I am not suggesting that Anae abandon the pass first mentality, but there needs to be a better balance. Whether it is Anae insisting on passing the ball or John Beck audibling out of running plays in favor of throwing it, it needs to change, and it needs to change now. Tahi and Brown especially need to be given the call. Of 119 teams in Div I-A, BYU is tied with Hawaii for 3rd to LAST in rushing percentage of total offensive yardage produced. Of BYU's 1688 yards of offense, a paltry 19.2% were generated on foot. Only Marshall and Kent State have run the ball less. Given their collective 5-12 record, it isn't a place where BYU should be with the backfield and offensive line talent they have.
To put it into perspective, take a look at the top four passing schools:
PassYds RushYds %yds of total
USC 1359 1119 45.1
Arizona State 1930 852 30.6
With the exception of Texas Tech, these teams are generating over 30% of their total offensive production on the ground. Now that conference schedules have begun in earnest, look for Texas Tech's to climb up to the 30% level. Why? Because good teams tend to adjust to what the opposing defense is doing. If they are willing to give up the run, than running the ball may not be such a bad idea. What is the collective record of these teams? Answer: 16-3.
TCU was able to run for 272 yards against New Mexico. While I don't think BYU is currently capably of putting up such numbers against a strong run defensive team, I am confident that if they rush the ball at least 25 times, they will open up the middle to deeper passing routes for enough big plays to win the game. Odds are high that Rocky will use zone coverage which can be used to BYU's advantage if they are willing to humble themselves a bit and accept that they might not be able to air it out for 300+ yards.
The worst thing that could happen is for BYU to have a couple of stifled drives and then begin to throw caution to the wind in desperation early in the first half trying to force what is n0t there (shades of UNLV and SDSU). This is about playing the entire game, slowly, methodically, with purpose. If the quick strike is there, great, by all means hit it, but if things get bogged down early, then be prepared for a dogfight in the trenches.
Beck needs to patiently work the offense and not force things. If the short stuff is there, then take it. Let the RBs and receivers earn their stripes by grinding out enough YAC to keep a drive alive. If Beck and Anae can remain cool a 3-0 or 7-10 first half can turn into a route in the 3rd and 4th quarters as first downs pile up and Rocky's aggressive 3-3-5ers hit a wall of fatigue.