Cougars to Face a Tough TCU Defense

As the No. 16 Cougars face No. 8 TCU this Homecoming weekend with ESPN's College GameDay in town, the Mountain West Conference championship and a possible BCS bowl will be put on the line. It's a classic matchup between a high-powered offense and a tough defense.

Last week Cougar quarterback Max Hall completed 27-of-39 passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns. It was his best outing of the season. Cougar fans hope Hall's performance is a sign of good things to come.

"One thing I have to do is I have to get the ball out of my hands quick," said Hall about the game against TCU. "They get a good pass rush. They're quick and get a good pass rush on quarterbacks because of their speed up front."

Looking to make an impact against the Cougar offense will be 6-foot-3-inch, 257-pound senior defensive end Jerry Hughes. Hughes has been named a First-Team Midseason All-American by Phil Steele and will be facing Cougar offensive guard Nick Alletto on the right side of the offensive line.

"Most great defenses have a great defensive line," said offensive tackle Matt Reynolds. "They are really athletic up front and they've been coached really well. They have two really good defensive ends this year and Jerry Hughes is known because of his abilities and tenacity on the defensive line. He's an awesome pass rusher and this will be a good opportunity for Nick to really kind of come into his own. He has a really good chance to showcase what he's got."

Containing the front four of TCU will be vital in allowing Hall to pick apart the defensive secondary.

"TCU's defensive line is a mixture of finesse and physical and I think that's why they've had some success," Reynolds said. "They come up and will try and dance around you and then they'll come up and try and run you over. I think that's why some offensive lines have had problems with them in the past."

One difference in BYU's offense this year compared to last year is the time in which Hall releases the ball. Last year there were longer drops that allowed receivers more time to develop their routes downfield. However, this year changes have been made that will help slow down the pass rush of TCU.

"I think one reason why they got to me last year was because we had five-step drops out of the gun," said Hall. "We had long developing reads [and] downfield throws as opposed to the quick stuff we're doing this year and getting the ball out of my hands. We just have to keep doing what we're doing and get the ball out of my hands quickly and be smart about it, but they have a good defensive end and we have to account for him."

Hall also believes the Cougar offense is more diverse.

"The second year when they beat us they took away our weapons," said Hall. "We just didn't really have another answer, and so I just think the game plan is a lot better and we're spreading the ball around a lot better. Our third down conversions and percentages are a lot better. If you look at our third downs, I think we've converted our third downs to 10 different guys, so we have a lot more different things going on this year than last year."

The two teams that have ran the ball the best against the TCU defense are Clemson (3.7 yards per carry) and Air Force (5.1 yards per carry). One statistic Hall keeps his eye on is his run-checks, when he checks into the right run call. Running the ball well against a tough TCU defense will only help Hall in the passing game.

"I think our passing offense is better than [Clemson and Air Force]," Hall said. "Hopefully we can pass to set up the run and run the ball well. I think TCU is going to focus on our passing game, but they're also going to see that we run the ball well. So I don't know what they're going to do and it's going to be interesting to see what they do and how they start the game.

"I've had teams throw all kinds of things at me and it will be my responsibility to make the right reads and get us into the right play. The coaches do put a lot on our players to know what's going in understanding our different reads, routes and blocking assignments. A lot of times there are two or three different plays and it's up to me to get us into the right play. If I can do that, then we'll be successful. I've challenged our guys to be more prepared and to know the script better than any other game, and hopefully they'll come through."

Keys to Victory

Hall and Reynolds gave their keys to victory over TCU.

"We have to have ball security," Hall said. "We have to take care of the ball and not turn the ball over and have to win the turnover margin. We have to execute well on offense and take what they give us and not force anything downfield. And last, our defense has to make a couple of big plays."

"I think our keys to victory are for us to stay who we are do what we've been doing," Reynolds said. "Our success has usually been charted towards our abilities to execute better than they do and our turnover ratios. I think we can't turn the ball over and [we must] minimize penalties and basically just execute better than they can. I have confidence in our guys that's exactly what they'll do."

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