The Cougars have the 11th best passing offense in the nation. Quarterback John Beck averages more than 300 yards per game in the air. This includes a 500-yard performance earlier this year against TCU. This weekend, the Notre Dame secondary will be put to the test. The Irish have given up over 300 yards passing a game but have made key turnovers at the right time. Last week's interception by Chinedum Ndukwe was the sixth takeaway by Notre Dame in the red zone this season.
While head coach Bronco Mendenhall takes care of the defense, assistant coach and offensive coordinator Robert Anae calls the offensive plays. Anae joined the Cougar staff when Mendenhall assumed the head coaching duties last December. He spent the last four years as the offensive line coach at Texas Tech, where throwing the ball is as natural as waking up in the morning. Anae has brought the same style of offense with him to BYU.
"It's a lot like watching Texas Tech playing ball," Notre Dame defensive coordinator Rick Minter said. "I got great respect for Mike Leach and the job he has done down there for a number of years all the way down to Hal Mumme at Kentucky. It's all out of the same family of their style of offense. Guys are buying into it and they are doing a nice job of moving the football. They've been a chameleon of late. They go out throwing against a lot of teams and then all of a sudden they run the ball like crazy last week. It presents two strong options for us to now consider. As I believe, you have to stop the run with a team who wants to throw the ball and not give them that daylight and second element. But they're doing a nice job.
"It's a unique style of play. It's something not everyone elects to do. They have been successful with it, particularly in the passing game. They had a great running game last week against Colorado State."
*Head coach Charlie Weis was talking shop after Wednesday's practice. BYU's defense is a 3-3-5 formation with three lineman, three linebackers and five defensive backs. The blitz could come from anywhere. The Cougars are allowing 25 points per game, 386 total yards (241 pass, 145 rush), have sacked the quarterback 15 times and piled up 39 tackles for loss in six games. Weis said when coaching in the pros, he faced this formation all game long against the Denver Broncos and had good success.
"There are vulnerabilities to what they are doing that I'd hope we'd be able to exploit," Weis said. "It causes some problems but it also gives your some opportunities, too. Most people you go against prefer to be less risky because they bring a lot of pressure. In the games we broke down, we've seen hundreds of pressures. We have over 200 pressures we've broken down from this year. When people are bringing pressure, sometimes you make a play but it leaves you very vulnerable.
"This is a team that goes between an odd defense to an even or over defense. Basically an odd defense is when neither guard is covered. Most conventional odd defenses then have four linebackers, two on each side. Well this team has three linebackers all stacked behind those three guys. Now the biggest issue they cause is who is the next guy. Is this safety coming down? Is that safety coming down? It definitely poses a problem. The scheme is more important than their size."
*The Irish accomplished one of their goals last Saturday against USC. They controlled the ball for almost 39 minutes of the game and kept the explosive Trojan offense off the field for the majority of the game.
This is not a new thing with Notre Dame. Weis's offense has kept a lot of opposing offenses off the field. The Irish have a 10-minute average advantage in the time of possession category in 2005 (35:12 to 24:48). The Irish have held the ball longer than every single opponent this season. The team who had the lowest time of possession differential: Michigan. The Wolverines had the ball for a little over 29 minutes in their 17-10 loss to Notre Dame.
*The game between the Irish and USC seemed to last an eternity. This was because of the high number of points scored between the two teams and the always long and numerous NBC commercials.
BYU is no stranger to long games. Earlier this season, the Cougars played a 4 hour and 42 minute ball game in a 51-50 overtime loss at home to TCU. The NCAA does not know what game was the longest in college football history. To put this into perspective, the two seven overtime games that involved Arkansas lasted 4 hours and 30 minutes (2003 vs. Kentucky) and 4 hours and 12 minutes (Mississippi in 2001).
In the contest, BYU quarterback John Beck threw for 517 yards and five touchdowns while deep-threat wide receiver Todd Watkins notched three touchdowns, including a 67-yard score.