Cougars Take on the Rams

Colorado State head coach Sonny Lubick believes Coach Bronco Mendenhall's BYU Cougars have one of most balanced teams in the Mountain West Conference. With BYU's offense ranking fourth in the country in passing and sixth in total offense and the Cougar defense leading the nation in turnover margin, Coach Lubick's assessment seems spot on.

"They are easily a top 20 football team," Lubick said Monday during his weekly news conference before going on to say that BYU could have easily won the Arizona and Boston College games. "They are the most balanced offense we've seen. These guys moved the ball against Boston College and Arizona. They will be a handful to contain."

While the Rams are searching for a way to end their three-game losing streak, BYU will seek to extend its five-game win streak and add to its 4-0 conference record. The Cougars have broken down game film on Colorado State and are practicing according to their analysis.

"From what I've seen on film, we're going to stop their running game," said junior cornerback Ben Criddle. "I think we have a very good run defense up front, and CSU hasn't been able to run the ball that well all year. I believe they're averaging a little over two yards [2.3] per carry, so I think they're going to want to try and test us out in the secondary and open up the passing game against us.

"Their quarterback [6-foot-2, 236-pound Caleb Hanie] is really good, and he's got a strong arm and can throw the ball down field and connect with some of their good receivers this year. I don't know the name of their receivers but number 7 [6-foot, 190-pound Johnny Walker] and number 87 [5-foot-11, 177-pound Damon Morton] are their main guys they like to go to.

BYU outside linebacker David Nixon agrees with Criddle's forecast of CSU's offensive plan.

"I think Ben's right," said Nixon. "We're expecting [the deep pass], but we're just going to run our defense as always and try to stop the pass, and I think we'll be successful at it. Colorado State doesn't have a whole lot of running plays. The plays they do run, like the zone and zone lead, their really good at. The zone lead is when the offensive linemen are blocking down and you've got the fullback lead blocking for the tailback to open up the gap for them, so they've got three or four run plays that they do really well. They don't have tons of them but the one's they do have, they do really well.

"They don't have a lot of plays in their play book but the one's they do have they do well. They have a big play book in regards to the passing game and can pass all over the field, but in regard to the run their linemen know where to block and who to block. Their linemen are big, and they can move well, and we're scouting them out and can see their guards and tackles and how they move. We're going to try to use their weaknesses against them. I think we'll be ready for them."

BYU's secondary, which is only allowing 5.9 yards average per pass and 206 yards per game, expects to be tested early in much the same way Arizona tested the BYU defense.

"They do a lot of screen passes, and what Coach Mendenhall has emphasized this week on our keys to success is their screen package," said inside linebacker Cameron Jensen. "They want to run the ball if they can, but if they can't they'll definitely pass the ball. They've got some good receivers and their offense is similar to Arizona but they run a lot more screens."

"I think they're going to be passing a lot doing of digs with posts behind it to try and stretch the field a little bit," said Criddle. "I think they're going to try and do this because they're going to try and keep up with our offense."

"[Hanie] has a good arm," said Nixon. "He also reads the coverages really well. He's a completely different style of quarterback than the Air Force quarterback because he can throw. Their passing game is all over the place. It's quite a bit different than Air Force, but we're adjusting to it this week, and we should be good."

As part of defending CSU's passing game, BYU's outside linebackers will have to watch 6-foot-3, 251-pound Chris Kawaulok and 6-foot-6, 237-pound Kevin McPeek.

"They've got some big tight ends," said Nixon. "We've been scouting them too because they've got some big league tight ends. You know, it's the same each week and you just play each athlete to their abilities and that's what we've been doing."

With the new BYU defense, coaches have schemed the linebackers into the pass defense for the first time this year.

"That's why I love our new defense, we play a bigger roll in the pass defense," said Jensen. "It's fun as a linebacker dropping back into coverage, but our number one responsibility is to stop the run. It is fun though dropping back into those passing lanes to help out the pass."

On the year, Jensen is tied with cornerback Justin Robinson with two interceptions on a defense that currently has 12.

"I've got a couple, and hopefully I can get a few more this game as well," said Jensen with a grin.

To see how BYU's defense stacks up against the Ram's offense, click on the following link:

BYU's Defense vs. CSU's offense

On the other side of the ball, BYU's offense expects to see a CSU 4-3 and 4-2 defensive variation with a safety zone blitz.

"They run a 4-3 to a 4-2 depending on what the offense does or what formation we have," said bruising tailback Fui Vakapuna. "Their safety likes to move up and do a lot of zone blitzing. The basically run a defense a lot like what Arizona ran.

"Their safeties like to roam down or roam up, and their linebackers are pretty good. They're much like the linebackers we've faced all season long, and we just have to be focused and worry about what we do as an offense and not worry too much about what talent they have. I feel confident that we'll do well."

The responsibility to pick up the Rams' zone blitz will fall on the shoulders of BYU's big offensive linemen up front.

"Don't give the running backs any credit," chuckled Kuresa. "The backs just run the ball and block whoever we tell them to. It's mostly on Sete [Aulai] and the rest of us to try and figure out the zone blitzes schemes. It can be hard, and now-a-days, more teams are doing the zone blitzes than not. It is complicated, but because so many teams that we face do it, we're familiar with the routine of how to block against it. Some teams may execute it better than others but we as an offensive line understand how to block against it. If we communicate well across the offensive line, then we can counter more affectively those teams that do execute it better than others."

Facing a four man front with a zone blitz for the first time in a few weeks, the Cougar offensive linemen have been working to reacquaint themselves with the scheme.

"It's a bit different up front than it was last week," said big offensive guard Jake Kuresa. "Air Force ran a three down front and now we're back to a four down front, which we haven't seen for a few weeks. They like to do a lot of zone blitzing so we've got to get back to making those types of reads, which we didn't do last week or the week before.

"They're a much improved defense from last year, and they play very physical and it's showing in their statistics. I think the things that have worked for us in the past we can't count on any more."

The statistical deficiencies of CSU's defenses in years past are no more. That means that BYU's offensive game plan from last season will not work this time around.

"We have to establish the run all over again, and we know they're going to try and stop the run," Kuresa said. "They're going to try and do that so we can't establish the play action because that's been our strength. We're going to keep doing the same things we've been doing all year, and worry about what it is that we do well and focus on us rather than what Colorado State does."

To see how BYU's offense stacks up against CSU's defense, click on the following link:

BYU's offense vs. CSU's defense

BYU senior quarterback John Beck has been named as a finalist for the 2006 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. The prestigious award is presented annually to the nation's top senior collegiate quarterback by the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation, Inc.

Joining Beck in the finals are Houston's Kevin Kolb, Notre Dame's Brady Quinn, Ohio State's Troy Smith and Michigan State's Drew Stanton. The finalists were selected by a committee of football experts from across the United States, and the winner will be announced on December 1st, 2006. The award presentation will be on December 8th, 2006 at the Tremont Grand Meeting & Banquet Facility in downtown Baltimore, Maryland.

"It is a great honor for John to be recognized as one of the top-five senior quarterbacks in the country," BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said on BYUCougars.com. "I'm sure John will be the first to tell you that this is an honor he shares with and credits to his teammates. I've said this before; his performance this season—on and off the field—is a reflection of the direction this program is heading. John continues to work hard and is extremely focused. He continues to exhibit solid leadership as the quarterback of this football team and as a team captain."

To hear senior BYU quarterback John Beck give his take on the CSU defense, click on the following link:

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