Cougars Talk Wyoming Defense

The Cowboys of Wyoming gave Utah all the trouble they could handle last week and look to try and do the same to BYU this Saturday. So what is it about Wyoming's defense that has seen a recent surge in execution and a higher level of performance? Some Cougars from the offensive side of the ball share their insight.

While enjoying their Saturday off last week, many Cougars watched their next opponent face the Utes of Utah. For most of the game, the Cowboys made the contest an interesting one where it was anybody's game. In fact, Wyoming led for three quarters until Utah was able to come from behind by scoring 13 points in the fourth quarter for the win.

"They're a pretty good defense from what we've seen on film," Luke Ashworth said of Wyoming. "Utah is a pretty good offense and they were able to hold them for the most part, so we expect them to come out against us and play us just as hard."

The Cowboys' 3-4-4 defense is experienced, and the Cougars have some familiarity with Wyoming's personnel after having faced them in recent years. The Cowboy secondary uses a similar coverage philosophy to what BYU uses out on the edges.

"Their cornerbacks are pretty athletic and are brothers from what I hear," said Ashworth. "They're really athletic and are returning starters. Most of their secondary are returning starters and have a lot of experience. They like to play a lot of zone coverages, and so we're going to have to find those windows in the defense. The type of coverages they like to use are cover-two and Tampa-two where the linebacker comes out and plays kind of like a safety. They'll line the cornerbacks up pretty deep and drop back a linebacker into coverage like a safety."

"They're athletic guys and they have some experience back there [in the secondary]," said Max Hall. "They like to run a cover two and it's a defense that's very similar to what we run here. They'll bring up a linebacker and then drop a linebacker back into coverage and have had some success with that. It's a defense that's similar to what we run here."

"They'll play very little one-on-one coverage," said Andrew George. "They don't like to do that much like we don't like to do that here. Occasionally they'll do that, but for the most part it will be a zone coverage with a zone blitz to try and find holes. They like to run a lot of cover-two, cover-three and cover-four."

But while Wyoming's defense is similar to BYU's in a number of ways, they use their safeties differently.

"They like to play their safeties a lot further back than we do, and so it's not a huge difference but that's one thing they like to do," said Ashworth. "They have really good corners and so I think they feel they can get away with keeping their safeties further back. We're just going to have to work hard to show them that they have to respect our receivers."

"They'll use their cornerbacks to cover in space," said Hall. "Then allow their safeties to adjust to the routes the receivers are running. They do like to play their safeties back a little further than we do, and that may be because they feel their corners can cover ground a little longer, and so that might be one of the reasons why."

The Cowboy defense is also similar to BYU's up front in the trenches as well. The defensive line and the linebackers work together in similar manner to try and disrupt passing and running lanes while trying to create space to get to the quarterback.

"It's very similar to what our defense tries to do," said George. "They do some things differently, but as far as how they use their defensive line and linebackers they like to throw in some twists and different stunts to throw the blocking off for us and make it more difficult to pick up. We've worked on [that] this week and have recognized what they do, but like I said they run a very similar defense to what we run here at BYU. They do a lot of zone blitz and try to make you read what they're doing. It's just a smatter of studying film and trying to recognize it."

Like BYU, Wyoming's defense made the switch to a 3-4 defensive scheme for the 2006 season.

"The confusion of the defense and also the 3-4-4 allows for more speed to be on the field," said George. "Rather than having four defensive linemen you have four linebackers, and they can run a little bit better and cover a little more ground. If you have linebackers that can run well and cover a lot of ground it makes it a little more difficult."

One key player on the Cowboy defense is 6-foot-1-inch, 233-pound sophomore linebacker Brian Hendricks, who is one of the nation's leading tacklers.

"He's a really good player and plays hard," said George. "He flies around and plays with reckless abandon. He's a very aggressive player and I have a lot of respect for him because he's such a great player, and it shows by the numbers that he's putting up this year."

"He's a good player and is physical and flies around the ball," said Hall. "I think he's one of the top tacklers in the country and that says a lot about him as a football player, so we'll have to be ready for that and make sure we account for him and execute."

In the audio interview below, running back Harvey Unga gives his perspective on facing Wyoming's defense this Saturday at War Memorial Stadium.

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