Irish Close Preparation for BYU

The Irish closed their final practice in preparation for BYU on Thursday. Irish Eyes spoke to both coordinators and coach Tyrone Willingham after practice to get their thoughts on the Cougars before Saturday's game. What can Irish fans expect from BYU on Saturday?

Offensive coordinator, Bill Diedrick, says the Cougar defense is designed to confuse the opposition. "They basically start with an odd alignment with three down lineman, three linebackers, and five defensive backs," said Diedrick. "What they do is give you a variety of looks. They come from all over, a lot of different places, a lot of combinations, really trying to confuse more than anything else."

The Cougar defense has had two weeks to prepare for this game and Diedrick says that's a concern for him. "I think it's always a concern when an opponent has two weeks to prepare. They've had a lot of days to prepare, but sometimes that works to your advantage and sometimes that works against you."

"I don't think you expect a lot of different things," Diedrick continued. "I think they'll have one or two specific things that are different than they've shown before that will be specifically designed for us."

The Cougars have been effective against the run this season, allowing just 3.2 yards per carry. We asked Diedrick why they've been able to stop the run this season. "A lot of their pressures or blitzes can be designed for both passing situations as well as the run. They do a variety of things. They always like to bring a lot of people coming from different areas. They try to build on what your tendencies are and blitz accordingly."

Defensive coordinator, Kent Baer, has also been impressed with the Cougar talent on offense. "They've got the ability to score a lot of points if you're not sound on what you're doing defensively. If the quarterback takes care of the ball, I really like their running back. (Toby) Christensen's a great player, I think the tight end is good, they've got some talent. A lot of formations, a lot of personnel groups, they can create a lot of problems for a defense."

One area the Cougars don't look to be very threatening is in a vertical passing game. We asked Baer if he thought the Cougars would try to stretch the field against his defense. "They have the ability to do it, they just don't take the chances like Florida State does. I said before going into the game against Florida State that that was the most vertical team I've ever seen. They choose to spread you out more, a lot of wide receivers in the game, a lot of combination routes underneath."

The Cougars have had the extra time to prepare and heal but Baer says he's not sure who has the advantage when a team has two weeks to prepare. "I have no idea how to judge that. I've seen teams play great after an off-week, and I've seen teams really struggle. I think the more veteran you are, maybe the better chance you have to come back and play well."

The Cougar offensive line has struggled some this year. They've allowed 31 sacks on the season, and only average 3.0 yards per carry in their running game. "I think it's been injuries, no question. I thought some people doing some pretty good jobs defensively and giving them some different schemes and getting after it. I didn't realize they've given up that many. All I know is they have the ability to throw the ball down field."

College football fans are used to seeing the Cougars score a lot of points and put up huge yardage totals through the air week after week. The Cougars are averaging a little over 18 points per game, and just 229 passing yards per game.

Coach Tyrone Willingham says this offense has struggled, but they are still a similar team under BYU head coach, Gary Crowton. "It's a very similar team in terms of what they're doing," Willingham said. "It's still a pass-oriented offense, but the difference is, I think they've had injuries. When you are missing key players from your lineup sometimes, it doesn't allow you to have that continuity, to have the consistency that you need to be a very productive and high-scoring offense."

We asked Willingham if he expected the BYU defense to come after his young offensive line and freshman quarterback this week. "I think they will definitely do that. I think that's part of their scheme, naturally. To try to create chaos, and from that chaos create big plays for their defense and always keep you in a deficit where you're in those third-and-long situations."

The Cougars have struggled with quarterback play this year. Sophomore Matt Berry will likely start the game and is completing an impressive 64 percent of his passes. He has thrown 10 interceptions on the year, however, in just six games played.

Willingham was asked if the game might come down to which quarterback plays the best. "I hope it comes down to us being able to control the football, mix in our passing game, and not having it come down to a quarterback who gets rattled down the stretch. If it does come down to that, I like our quarterback."

The Irish will have a battle on their hands on Saturday. The Cougars are dangerous, and can be disruptive on defense. The cougar defense has created 22 turnovers on the year, and shouldn't be taken lightly. Will the Irish be able to build upon their success against Navy? They will if #22 has a big day.


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