Cougars Prepare for a Tough Opponent

As the Cougars prep for Arizona, they're well aware of the improvements the Wildcats have made since they last faced them a season ago. Indeed, they'll be facing a team that will be playing in its first bowl for a great while, and a team that finished its regular season in top form by romping over instate rival Arizona State.

"They're playing very well and they're going to be a lot better than the team we played last year," observed offensive lineman Dallas Reynolds. "Their defense is always tough, but on offense I think they've improved a lot and we're going to have to be ready for them."

On offense, quite a bit has changed for the Wildcats and the wide-open attack they tried to install when the Cougars faced them back in 2006. Arizona is intent on running the football these days and it's something that they do very well.

"They just run it right at you from the power-I and with one back for the most part," said linebacker Matt Bauman. "They have two very good running backs and that's what they try to do to beat a defense, and they do it very well."

What Arizona brings out of the backfield are two extremely quick and shifty running backs in the form of Nick Grigsby and Keola Antolin. Grigsby is the primary running back, and he brings a good combination of strength, smarts, and - most of all - speed.

"He hits the hole very hard, and although he's fast, he doesn't try to take it around the edge as much as you'd think," said Bauman regarding Grigsby. "He knows how to use his blocks and he's very good through the hole. He's probably one of the best - if not the best - running back we've faced this year."

A good comparison for both Grigsby and Antolin would be Oregon State's freshman phenom Jacquizz Rodgers. They stay very low to the ground and tend to get lost by defenses as they run effectively behind their blockers through the hole.

"We need to be very quick on our gap reads and then just play downhill and play fast going downhill," said Bauman in how to defend against Arizona's rushing attack. "They don't try to spread it out or use misdirection much, so we need to be that much quicker with our reads and match them with how hard they run it at us. We need to play downhill."

The Wildcats also present challenges with their passing attack with savvy veteran quarterback Willie Tuitama, who has had a successful season. Tuitama's primary targets will be speedster wide receiver Michael Thomas and tight end Rob Gronkowski.

"They throw the ball well," said Bauman. "They don't spread you out much, but they use play action and they just do things well with what they do. They're much better offensively than most people think. They're very well coached and we'll have to be ready for a well-managed and well-executed offensive system that is running hot right now coming in."

Tough as Always

Arizona has been noted for their tough defense over the years and not much has changed this season, as the Wildcats will again present a very tough defense for the Cougar offense to go against. They utilize a very solid 4-3 defense that can execute at a high level.

"They're very tough up the middle," said Reynolds about the Arizona interior line, specifically Earl Mitchell and Donald Horton, the players he'll be going against primarily. "They're both as good as any tackles I've gone against this year, probably as good as the UCLA tackles. They're fast, strong and they're going to be tough to go against."

On defense Arizona doesn't try to do too much, staying in its base formation while playing opposing offenses straight up. The Cougar offensive players know they won't be facing a lot of blitzes or different looks, but rather a solid base defense that executes extremely well.

"They're sort of like Washington defensively with what they do, but they do things better than Washington's defense from what I've seen," observed Reynolds. "They'll just rush four guys at you most times and sit back in a zone coverage. If we can contain their rush then we'll be okay, but they're usually able to put on a good rush with just four guys."

Reynolds believes that if the offensive line just stays within itself and its technique, the Cougars will be fine and effective when running the football.

"I think we've had the tendency to maybe get too aggressive as an offensive line, and when we do that we're not as effective when run blocking," said Reynolds. "The key is to stay within our technique and not try to do too much so we can work together. That's the key for any offensive line, and when we stay within our technique and play off each other is when we've been the most successful as a unit."

Little Brother Getting it Done

One of the bigger boosts to the offensive line this year has been the play of freshman left tackle Matt Reynolds. Since a bit of a shaky start against Northern Iowa in the first game of the year, there hasn't been a lot of flaws to be found in Matt Reynolds' play at the critical left tackle position.

"I can't say enough about him and how he's playing," said Dallas. "He never makes the same mistake twice and he's making almost no mistakes here now. He's athletic and knows how to play the position, and I couldn't be more pleased with how he's done. It's incredible how well he's been doing."

One of the bigger bylines of BYU's past game against Utah was how Matt Reynolds would perform against stud Ute defensive end Paul Kruger. After the game I was asked by many fans on the site how Matt Reynolds did and the answer was that I didn't notice. Kruger did nothing, and in watching the tape it was readily apparent that Matt Reynolds was able to handle Kruger, which leads one to believe that he could handle most defensive ends around the country.

"He's going to be very good," said Dallas about his younger brother. "He's as good as any of us right now on the offensive line, and when he gets more time and goes against better and better defenses, wow, he's going to be very good."

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