BF.C Keys to the Game: BYU

THIS IS IT, Beaver Nation. Gut check time. In a black and orange-tinged season of uncharted waters and big surprises, the Beavers enter Provo this weekend against Brigham Young without the services of Sean Mannion, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Wednesday. But here's the thing…

In Vaz we trust.

The last two meetings with BYU have been unkind to the Beavers, last year's physically manhandling and the frigid December 2009 Maaco Las Vegas Bowl where the Beavs were also out-hit and out-hustled. Sounds dire, doesn't it?

HOLD ON. Let's look closer:

True, Provo is not traditionally a friendly place for West Coast teams to visit. The 4000 foot elevation and a raucous crowd celebrating Homecoming with a planned Blackout game won't make the road any easier for the Beavs. BYU features a stud nose tackle and a pair of big, fast defensive ends to anchor their 3-4 up front. The 3-4 is typically a run-stuffing defense and BYU has performed to expectation and then some: BYU is the No. 1 rated rushing defense in the country.

But is that BYU rushing defense overrated? They're good, but are they *THAT* good? Beaverfootball.com put their crack research team -- a Ouija Board, Magic 8-ball, the guy who sells t-shirts in the park and statistical genius Drew Wilson-McGrath -- on the case. And the answer is, "very doubtful".

The only remotely credible rushing attack BYU has have faced to date is Utah State – a team ranked No. 64 nationally. The stats are skewed by Hawaii (114th), Utah (112th), Weber State (FCS division), Boise State (78th) and Washington State (LOLth, Mike Leach doesn't care about running the football). While the BYU front seven is good, nobody should mistake them for the Crimson Tide or what's going on at LSU.

The BYU secondary, however, should be respected – the rankings have more relevance because WRs-DBs are more often apples to apples than DLs versus OLs. BYU is No. 12 nationally and 13th in pass efficiency defense is nothing to sneeze at either. If Mannion were playing the question to ask here would still be more, "Yeah but who have you played, BYU?". Instead Cody Vaz will need to play conservative football and trust his defense – which is made easier by the fact that BYU is dreadful on offense.

BYU is rushing for 189 yards per game but they are now fully forced to rely on true freshman running back Jamaal Williams to carry the football. With Riley Nelson hobbled by a **persistent back injury it's unlikely that Nelson will be carrying the ball much – or throwing the ball much, if he is going to finish the game.

**Nelson has sat out the last two games with what this week was finally revealed to be fractured vertebrae. Can a guy come back that quick from fractured vertebrae in his back? BYU's trainer thinks so, although BYU continues to be closed mouthed on details surround his injury and BYU practices are closed to media. See this link

DRAGGING OUT the magic 8 ball again, we asked if the game will be a low-scoring defensive slugfest of old-time SEC proportions and every time the answer was: You may rely on it.

This may well come down to a duel of kickers and punters. Somewhere out there BF.C's Sarg1 just had a seizure.

Here's how the Beavs bring him back to normalcy:

1. Cut down on the hankies. Right now Oregon State is No. 5 in the country for penalty yards per game, and not in the good way. In a tight defensive battle with field position being paramount, the Beavers will need to cut down on procedural and celebration type penalties. It's one thing to have flags thrown for aggressive DB play -- that's the cost of doing business, but unnecessary penalties could cost the game.

2. Don't get careless with the rock. BYU has a hard-hitting, aggressive defense and their secondary is good to excellent. Cody Vaz will need to be conservative with his reads and take care of the football, and Storm Woods and Co. need to make sure they don't get a case of fumble-itis Saturday. Not coming out negative in the turnover department is critical.

3. Laces Out, Dan. In the kicking department the scales tilt strongly in Oregon State's favor – despite grumbles about Trevor Romaine's adventurous boots, the sophomore boasts the second-best accuracy in the Pac-12. This is not the game for Romaine to have a meltdown and wind up in a mental institution only to escape and kidnap Miami's mascot.

AT THE RISK of getting all dewy-eyed and overly rah-rah: Despite Drew Wilson-McGrath's dire prediction of a 14-13 loss, the BF.C brain trust still has Beaver Fever. Even with the panic that followed the announcement of Sean Mannion's knee injury, the persistent feeling is that the glass slipper is still on Cinderella's foot, and maybe the injury isn't all bad…

Without Mannion the Beavers are collectively anxious to prove that they are deserving of their Top 15 ranking (10/14), they should come ready to play and there's no chance of a letdown (the only thing you worry about is if they'll be too keyed up.)

The bonus key to the game: Riley and Co. have the delicate task of balancing motivation and fire with cool execution and the team playing within themselves. In what is fast becoming Riley's finest season in his entire career, we think he's up to the task. Send your super slo-mo button hook pattern instant replays to orangeattack@beaverfootball.com.


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