Cougars on the Road to UNLV

If there ever was a home away from home for the BYU Cougars, it would be Sam Boyd Stadium. The Cougars will be facing a Rebel team looking to right the course after losing to the University of Nevada 63-28 in Reno last week, and they'll have their hands full against UNLV's spread attack.

Looking at the UNLV wide receivers, the Cougars will face two-time First-Team All-MWC player Ryan Wolfe. Wolfe is arguably the Rebels' top receiver (averaging 84.0 yards per game), with Phillip Payne (averaging 71.2 yards per game) coming in right behind him.

"Receiver-wise, UNLV has a pretty good group of guys that are athletic and tall," said Cougar cornerback Brian Logan. "Some of their receivers are very tall. I think they have a sophomore [Payne] that played as a true freshman that's around 6'4".

"Then you have Wolfe coming back and I heard he's a really good player and was an all-conference player last year. I heard he's really good and is someone that runs great routes and has the speed to get open. He's a smart player and knows how to find holes in the defense to get open, but I'm up for the challenge, especially with them being taller guys. Over the past couple of weeks I've had a couple of deep balls thrown at me, so I'm sure they're going to try and come at me again. But like I said, I'm up for the challenge."

At times the Rebel offense will empty out the running back to bring out more wide receivers in a passing formation. Omar Clayton is currently ranked third in the conference (averaging 245 yards per game) in passing behind Max Hall and Grant Stucker of Colorado State, but he is also someone that can take off and run the ball if the pocket breaks down.

"I would classify what they run as a true spread offense," said Logan. "The majority of the time they run empty like what we've seen out here during practice, so we expect to see a lot of empty formations where they'll try and spread you out. They will do a ride series and that's something we're ready for as well."

UNLV's spread offense is designed to take defenders out of potential playmaking situations.

"I think with how UNLV uses the spread, they're objective is to try and make you miss your assignments," Logan said. "To me, the type of offense they run is a high-risk, high-reward offense. It's either hit or miss and not an offense that is designed to get some yards here and some there. As a defender, everyone has to know their assignments really well when facing this type of offense because they're going to challenge you on that. One has to know who has the quarterback and who has the pitchman when they run the option ride out of a variation of the spread offense."

"It's tough because they'll spread you out with the spread offense and then run it on you," said outside linebacker Jordan Pendleton. "But this isn't anything that we haven't seen before and it isn't something that we can't cover if we all do our assignments.

"The tricky part about the option spread offense is they can run different plays out of the same formation. They can either pass the ball to different receivers downfield or they can run the option or option pass out of that same formation. It's an offense that can be very misleading. I don't think they're trying to trick you, but it can be very misleading because you don't know which aspect of the offense they'll run."

With Utah State's head coach Gary Anderson and UNLV's head coach Mike Sanford having coached together at Utah, the two have taken parts of the Ute's offensive philosophy to their respective programs. The Cougars received a warm-up against Utah State in preparation for UNLV and conference play.

"We've seen these variations of the spread option with Utah State," said Logan. "Utah State ran more of the option ride than we think UNLV will, but having faced Utah State, it really helps us to better understand what our job assignments are and how to defend that quicker. They've helped us prepare better for what UNLV will try and do."

"There are some similarities between UNLV and Utah State's offense," said Pendleton. "They like to do the spread offense and the option ride. The main difference is UNLV likes to pass the ball a lot more than Utah State did. UNLV still runs the ball a lot, but their main objective is to pass the ball out of the spread, but that's what we are expecting from them."

There have been two quarterbacks running the UNLV offense this year. Junior quarterback Omar Clayton has primarily been the starter (85-of-129 for 983 yards).

However, sophomore quarterback Mike Clausen (36-of-64 for 371 yards) got the start against Nevada because Clayton had a hurt shoulder.

Last year, Clausen also saw some playing time against BYU and led the Rebels to two victories in place of an injured Clayton. It isn't known whether or not Clayton will see the field against the Cougars.

"They've got some good skill guys," said Pendleton. "They're a spread offense and like to put defenders in a lot of space. We're expecting to see [ Clayton], but we've heard that he might be hurt with a shoulder injury. If he does play we have to make sure we contain him."

Pendleton's Keys to Victory

"We have to contain the quarterback in our pass rush for starters. In our coverage, everybody has to do their individual jobs and not try and do more than what they're supposed to do. We have to get into the right spot and not try and cover someone else's guy. The third thing is we have to fly around to the ball. We have to recognize quickly what's developing and fly around to the ball."

Total Blue Sports Top Stories