Leading up to Saturday's game most of the talk about BYU has revolved around its aggressive and talented defense, however West Virginia's defense knows it can't take the Cougars' offense lightly either despite a slow start to the season. Entering its fourth game of the season BYU ranks No.78 in the nation in passing yards per game (with a 212.3 yard average) and has thrown for just two touchdowns on the season. Those numbers may be enough for some secondaries to relax their attitudes, but WVU has entered the week with the mindset that the Cougars passing offense is a ticking time bomb that could explode at any second.
West Virginia cornerbacks coach Danny Adams (Better known as 'Blue') echoed defensive coordinator Tony Gibson's comments and stated that the Cougars have been very close to hitting several big plays down field.
"I think they're really close" Adams said. "I think they're a team that you have to take account for and really prepare for them. They're not far off."
One advantage the Cougars will have in the passing game is the size of their receivers compared to the corners and safeties in West Virginia's defense. BYU starting receivers Nick Kurtz and Moroni Laulu-Pututau stand at 6'6 and 6'4 respectively. Adams made note of the Cougar receivers stature and shared his thoughts on their receiving core but stated it doesn't change the way the Mountaineer corners are preparing.
"(BYU's receivers) are big guys," Adams said. "They stretch the field. I think they're strong and they play big. They run routes really well and they can catch. They will be a good test for us this week. We tend to (practice high-pointing the ball) week-in and week-out so there's no difference in preparation that's specialized for these guys. It's just what we do."
BYU's offense isn't the only unit looking to prove itself and have an impressive outing on Saturday as West Virginia's defense find themselves in a similar position after Tony Gibson called the entire unit out after a mediocre performance against Youngstown State in week two. Adams made note that he feels the unit has taken to the challenge and had a productive week of practice.
"I think as a whole we have responded well," Adams said. "The secondary, linebackers and defensive line collectively as a unit is ready for the next game."
One player in particular who is looking to improve on his performance from the Youngstown State game is bandit safety Jarrod Harper, who was in man coverage on the Penguins' second quarter 74 yard touchdown pass. Playing in the secondary requires a short memory, but Harper took a few seconds to reflect on the play.
"He caught a pass on me deep," Harper said. "I should have made the tackle. It was a good ball and good catch. That was my least favorite play (from the Youngstown State game). It's over with and done with now and it's behind me. It's time to move on to BYU."
Those big plays are something that the Mountaineers' next opponent, BYU, has not excelled in to this point in the season. Despite the Cougars' lack of a vertical passing threat, Harper still feels as if they will take a few shots and he is prepared to redeem himself if they choose to do so.
"At times with different personnel they like to take shots," Harper said. "You have to be able to see their formation and see their personnel and see how they're coming out. You have to study film like the coaches preach so you can know the personnel and know the situation and know what they like to do on first, second and third down. If you do that then you will be alright."
The Cougars are still looking to establish an offensive identity and starting quarterback Tanner Mangum (2 TDs, 4 INTs) has struggled in Ty Detmer's new offense, but Harper said the defense is still impressed by Mangum and feels that he is too talented to continue to struggle.
"(Mangum) is definitely a play maker," Harper said. "He's a good athlete and a good quarterback. He can make some plays in the air and on the ground so we're definitely looking forward to (facing him)."
Saturday's match-up between the BYU offense and West Virginia defense feature's two personnel groupings that are looking to prove themselves and respond to the criticism they have faced in recent weeks. It's safe to say that the winner for this battle of redemption could have impact on the outcome of Saturday afternoon's game.