Defense Ready for Anything and Everything

Utah's offense will present a bevy of trick plays and a wide-open attack that can give an opposing defense fits. The Cougar defenders know that they'll see plenty of tricks, as Utah will unload even more on their chief rival. Preparing for what Utah might throw at the Cougars is a big challenge for the defense as it prepares for Saturday's so-called Holy War.

"[The Utes] throw everything at you," noted senior linebacker Kelly Poppinga. "They're a wide-open attack that you have to prepare for and be ready for. They're going to be a big challenge for us with what they do offensively."

The last two games Utah has played have indeed been an extravaganza of every trick-play ever conceived. Utah has shown fumble-rooskies, hook ‘n ladders, statue of liberties and just about every other conceivable gadget play to get an advantage over an opponent.

"They've been able to execute all those plays they run at a very high level, which makes it difficult for us," said safety Corby Hodgkiss. "It's one thing to have to prepare for trick plays, but it's another thing to prepare for those plays knowing that your opponent is very good at executing them. We'll have to be ready for everything."

The array of plays Utah presents can make an opponent's head spin. Utah will run its wide array of gadget plays from just about any formation, leading to a difficult prep week for the Cougar defense.

"They move their guys around a lot to try and fool you pre-snap," said Poppinga. "There's a lot of trickery involved, but you have to hand it to them. They've had a lot of success doing what they do."

So will all this be new to the Cougar defenders when Utah brings the kitchen sink to throw at the Cougar defense this Saturday?

"We've seen it before. We saw it with Tulsa," said Poppinga. "Utah is very similar to Tulsa with what they do offensively. They spread it out, use a lot of formations, run the fly-sweep a lot and all that stuff. So yeah, we've seen it before and last time we didn't do so well."

Indeed, the low point for the Cougar defense came with the Tulsa game, which saw the Cougar defenders confused and incapable of stopping the Tulsa onslaught throughout the game. If the Cougar defense fares against Utah the same way it did against Tulsa, the Utes are very likely to walk away with a comfortable victory.

"We hopefully fixed what worked against us with Tulsa," said Poppinga. "Having played them, we think we know what worked and why, and we know what we have to do different this time around, so hopefully having that experience against Tulsa will help."

Ironically, the difference that had to be made against Tulsa wasn't much of a difference at all, considering the base 3-4 zone-heavy system run by the Cougar defense. Most of Tulsa's success came by exploiting BYU being overly aggressive and not assignment-sound.

"I think our defense matches up well against Utah, or at least it should," said Hodgkiss. "If we're disciplined in our assignments and read the play right, then we should be fine."

Hodgkiss and his teammates know that their collective concentration level has to be very sharp this coming week to defend successfully against the misdirection and gadget plays that will for sure be coming their way.

"Trick plays are run in order for the opponent to lose their concentration and focus," said Hodgkiss. "So it's really kind of simple. We just have to read our keys, make sure we keep our assignments, and we'll be fine. We just have to read our keys correctly and not get overly aggressive."

Of course, doing such is easier said than done. Poppinga and his teammates are well aware that emotions may come into play, leading to overly aggressive play that may get them in trouble when Utah's offense utilizes misdirection.

"They're another opponent," said Poppinga regarding Utah. "It's our next opponent, so it's our biggest game right now. That's how we're looking at it. What's important is that we all do our assignments, stay disciplined and execute the game plan, and we'll be fine."

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