"From what I've seen on film is this team is a little more physical than the team I remember playing in ‘06," said Cougar nose guard Romney Fuga. "They do have athletes and can do things with those athletes. Their offensive line isn't too great and may not be as skilled as some of the guys that we've already played, but they do play hard every play."
Running back Robert Turbin rushed for 148 yards against Texas A&M, while quarterback Diondre Borel rushed for 47 yards and two touchdowns. Borel also passed for 334 yards against the A&M defense, with wide receiver Stanley Morrison being his primary receiver in that game. The Cougars know that Borel is a real threat to rush for first downs when plays break down.
"[Borel] is an athletic quarterback and from what I've heard he isn't quite as accurate as some of the other quarterbacks that we've played against, but that doesn't mean he can't create opportunities to make plays," Fuga said. "He's an athlete and is fast and can hurt you in different ways. We have to make sure we contain well and stop the run. If we can stop the run then I think we'll have a pretty good game."
Romney feels the Cougar defense needs to control their lanes and gaps to not to allow Borel and Turbin to take advantage of any holes through the defensive line.
"I think we learned some things from Colorado State that we can apply to this game," Fuga said. "I still think we have some things that we need to work on as a defense. During the Florida State game there were some things that we were obviously exposed on, so we worked on those things prior to the Colorado State game and thought we did a much better job. During the Colorado State game we had a lot of passing yards against us, so I think there are some things that we can tighten up there along with applying more pressure on the quarterback from the front. We did improve on staying in our run-gap lanes and passing lanes a lot better and didn't allow them to have room to execute in that way up front. It was good because the quarterback that we're facing now at Utah State is a mobile quarterback, so having played Colorado State and improving on some things we didn't do well against Florida State was good even though we can always get better."
Regardless of Utah State's struggles in the past, the Cougars are preparing for a tough game.
"This is an instate team and therefore a rival," said Fuga. "We can't take them lightly. If we do, then we leave the opportunity open for them to beat us and surprise us."
"You know, obviously Utah State has a lot of personnel differences, but we still respect Utah State's program and what they've done," said Pitta. "We believe they're a team that's on the rise and we can't take them lightly. This is a game that's important to them and important to us and a state rivalry."
One can look at what Utah did defensively last year to understand more about the Aggie defensive scheme. BYU expects the Aggies to mirror much of what Utah did defensively and have been watching film for confirmation.
"Yeah, we looked at how Utah played against us schematically," said Pitta. "With their head coach coming from Utah, I think we'll see a lot of similarities in what Utah's defense does. Obviously with their head coach coming over from Utah they run a lot of the same schemes. They like to run a lot of man-to-man coverage and a little cover-two, so our challenge this week is going to primarily be creating separation against man coverage. We saw a lot of that when we played Florida State, and so I think we're well-equipped to handle the challenge.
"Their defense is pretty much the identical defense of Utah," said center R.J. Willing. "They throw a lot more junk at you. They'll be walking all over the place and will stem at the last minute [stemming is when a defensive lineman realigns himself by shifting to the correct spot prior to the snap] to try and confuse us. We've been focusing on the mental part of the game to not get caught up in that. They are going to try and throw a lot of different things at us, and so for us we have to watch a lot of film so we can be familiar with the types of things they do defensively. When we see them doing certain things we'll know what to do because we've prepared for it during the week."
"They like to move around a lot to try and confuse you before a play," said Cougar tackle Matt Reynolds. "Our focus has been to get used to that and then also know how to block it."
"We've got enough film on them, especially over these past four games, that we can take a good look at what they do," said Willing. "Their defensive line won't be the biggest d-line we've faced, but they will be a very scrappy. We also think that because it will be an instate game that they'll take it very seriously like a rivalry game, so we have to take it very seriously as well. We know it's going to be a very hard-fought game and they're going to try and play their best game, so we can't take this game lightly and have to come out and play our best game also."
"They're typically a 4-3-4 defense but shift around out of that base," Pitta said. "They like to drop back some defensive ends and things like that, kind of like Utah's defense, so we're expecting all kinds of different looks up front.
"We know they'll try and put pressure on us. They'll try and man-up on the edges and then bring guys to put pressure on you from different areas on the field. It's something that we have to be ready for and I think we are."
The Cougars anticipate the Aggies utilizing zone blitzes to try and disguise where the pressure is coming from. However, the Cougars got a large dose of zone blitzing from Colorado State, and that has helped them prepare for Utah State.
"Colorado State was primarily a zone blitz team," said Willing. "We got a really good look at how a defense runs a zone blitz-style defense. What has really helped us is being able to go back and watch film and correct some of the mistakes we made against the Colorado State zone blitz that will help us with Utah State's zone blitz."
"I think the Colorado State game will have helped us become more familiar with playing against Utah State's zone blitz because it helped us to become more familiar with it," said Reynolds. "It will probably help us from playing Colorado State in that they played half the game from a 3-4 front, which is what Utah State likes to come at you with at times. They'll sometimes come from a 4-3 look but drop back a defensive end into coverage while in a zone blitz. It's just something we have to be ready for, and having played Colorado State, that will help us with the familiarity part."
Former USU QB Riley Nelson
BYU quarterback Riley Nelson transferred to BYU following his mission. Nelson has a lot of ties to Utah State and talks about that history in this audio interview.