Last week's keys to victory were crash testing the QB, containing the counter scatback and establishing the run. UNLV kept it close early in the game, but BYU's defensive line was too much, and Rebel QB Jarrod Jackson found out quickly that the beating he took at the hands of Utah was a cakewalk in comparison.
One particular player that will haunt Jackson's dreams was backup defensive end Justin Maddux who has done an excellent job in place of the injured Daniel Marquardt. Maddux drilled Jackson three times into the turf adding a few contusions to the QB's already black and blue ribcage. Jackson got his passing yards, but with only 14 points to show for it, it did not matter.
While many fans may want to disregard UNLV as being a poor team, and thus an insignificant vistory, I have to say that one aspect of the Cougar defense that has been frustrating to watch these past three years is how difficult it has been to stop any running back that does not double as a tank. Diminutive dancing feet seem to melt away in the ham-sized fists of the corn fed Cougar defensive tackles.
Dominique Dorsey gave BYU fits every time he got the ball. This game was special in that Erick Jackson was held to under 35 yards rushing, and given how many times the UNLV QB found himself dumped behind the line of scrimmage, BYU held the Rebels to just 2 yards rushing the entire game. This is new territory for the Cougars—a rushing defense that can handle all types of runners, instead of power backs.
Finally BYU's run game needed to be on to hurt UNLV where they are the strongest. Emotionally it tears at the psyche, and BYU succeeded in bringing their own four horsemen; Tahi, Brown, Tonga and newcomer Latu. They contributed to 212 yards rushing and 5 touchdowns, and they did it down the middle, through the gaps, off tackle, outside corner, and even through the air. UNLV had no answer as BYU ran roughshod over them.
With their 4th conference victory in the bag, it is off to Laramie to battle the Cowboys in War Memorial stadium. This week's keys to victory are:
1. Involve the Receivers Early
2. Corral Corey
3. Keep it Clean
Involve the receivers early:
All week fans have been talking up the rushing game and they well should, given how potent it has become over the past few weeks. BYU can run at will and given that Wyoming's run defense is about as week as CSU's, there is no question that Anae will send the horses. However, Laramie in late November tends to effect BYU teams, and even if the weather is scheduled to be better than normal this time of year, players still can become lethargic, which is why it is important to get the receivers involved early in the game.
Wyoming's secondary early in the season was about as good as it got in the MWC, but something happened on the way to the conference schedule. The secondary's wagon has lost its wheels. To be honest, one should wonder how Wyoming was ever considered a strong pass defensive team to begin with. Like David Copperfield, the Cowboys use smoke and mirrors to hide the fact that when a passing team comes to town, Wyoming has no answer.
Wyoming's four victories this season have come against teams that could only muster an average 135 yards passing against the Cowboys. While that sounds like an outstanding defensive effort, it begins to fade like a pair of worn chaps when looking at the competition: Louisiana Monroe, Air Force, Ole Miss and UNLV. None of these teams with the exception of UNLV are considered passing teams or of a quality to have challenged Wyoming.
Looking at the last four games, all losses by the way, and we see a different picture: 248 yards passing per game. I have to concede that they did hold both TCU and UNM under 120 yards passing, but TCU and UNM join Air Force at the bottom of the conference in passing. Their forte is running with the ball.
Both Colorado State and Utah had season highs in passing yards by their QB's against the Cowboys these past two weeks. While I don't see Beck beating his 517 yard TCU performance, 300+ is a stark reality for the Cowboy secondary.
Another ugly trend for Wyoming is the opposing team scores over the past four games: 28,27,39,43... what comes next?
Like his older brother Casey, Corey has done good things for Wyoming, and when he has all day to throw, he can do great things. The problem for Corey however is that the slightest pressure tends to bring out the worst in him. He has thrown for 15 touchdowns this season, and almost as many interceptions at 13. He has been sacked 22 times. Wyoming likes to throw the ball, and it is all about Jovon Bouknight. This kid is the real deal, and will be playing on Sundays. The problem is that Bramlett just is not poised enough to really showcase what Jovon can do. That is scary when you consider just what the Cowboy receiver has accomplished this season. With the BYU run defense being as strong as it is, the pass is the only real option Wyoming has. This is why pressure is vital. Get Corey's happy feet moving, and the likelihood of a continued string of picks for the Cougars will continue, even with Bouknight in the game.
Keep it Clean:
The last game BYU played in Laramie was a tough one for the Cougars. BYU lost discipline at key times during that game and induced a rain of yellow flags on the field. 2003 saw BYU incur 10 penalties for 56 yards compared to the Cowboys' one for five yards. In the cold night air of Laramie, penalties can add to the biting chill, and if the game is still in question, it could give the Cowboys enough buck to win it. As usual, BYU leads the MWC in penalties. It may just boil down to the fanatical effort they put out on the field. I have a hard time believing it is an issue of discipline. Discipline is how I would describe the offense over the course of the season, and the defense after UNLV may have just climbed aboard.