BYU dropped its season opener at Virginia last week and the schedule doesn’t do the Cougars any favors as they run into a Texas team this week that demolished New Mexico State 56-7. Here’s a position-by-position look at this week’s matchup and which team will have the edge heading into Saturday’s game:
Texas junior David Ash versus BYU sophomore Taysom Hill
Ash started off the season slowly, throwing two picks as Texas trailed New Mexico State 7-0, but woke up in the second quarter. Ash threw four touchdown passes and scrambled for another on the ground, accounting for 35 of the team’s 56 points and leading Texas to a school-record 715 yards of total offense.
Hill got his first chance at leading the new BYU up tempo offense against Virginia, but struggled to complete only 13 of 40 passes and finished the game with one touchdown and one interception. There will be growing pains until Hill is better acclimated to Robert Anae’s offensive approach, but the pressure will be on the quarterback to keep up with Ash on Saturday.
Texas found just as much success on the ground as in the air against New Mexico State, rolling up 359 yards and four touchdowns. Jalen Overstreet, who converted from quarterback to running back this season, proved his coaches made a good decision by rushing for 92 yards and two touchdowns. Ash added 91 yards of his own, while two other Texas backs ran for over 60 yards each.
There’s no doubt as to who the Cougars are leaning on to be the workhorse back this season. Sophomore Jamaal Williams had 33 touches and rushed for a respectable 144 yards, but couldn’t find the end zone. Hill added 57 yards and a touchdown of his own, but no other BYU back had more than three carries.
Texas spread the ball around against New Mexico State, completing at least three receptions to four different receivers. Daje Johnson and Malcolm Brown led the team with a combined 176 yards receiving and both found the endzone.
BYU struggled in the passing game after a lengthy weather delay and Hill never really got it going. No receiver had more than 59 yards in the air and senior JD Falsev was the only one to reach the endzone. The Cougars will have to hope someone steps up this week and define themselves as a legitimate receiving option in this new offense.
Texas had no problem keeping Ash upright last week, surrendering zero sacks and the offensive line kept its composure, incurring only one false start penalty.
One of BYU’s biggest weaknesses in the opening game was the play up front, as the Cougar offensive line surrendered three sacks and six tackles for loss. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall admitted Tuesday the team had to put a priority on playing better up front if the new offensive scheme has any chance of success.
Defensive Line and Linebackers
Texas’ defensive front harassed New Mexico State all day, producing two sacks and seven tackles for loss Saturday. Junior defensive end Cedric Reed terrorized the Aggies, racking up 10 tackles, one tackle for loss, two quarterback hits and a sack. Junior linebacking duo Steve Edmond and Jordan Hicks combined for 15 tackles. Sophomore linebacker Dalton Santos had six tackles of his own, one tackle for loss and two pass breakups.
BYU’s line didn’t register a sack against Virginia, but racked up plenty of tackles behind the line, totalling seven tackles for loss. Defensive tackle Eathyn Manumaleuna, who was named to the Outland Trophy watch list before the season, posted eight tackles and a tackle for loss. Senior linebacker Kyle Van Noy showed why he’s considered the most talented player on the Cougar defense, getting 3.5 tackles of his own, 2.5 tackles for loss and a pass breakup.
Edge: Even (If BYU can play better along the offensive line)
Senior safety Adrian Phillips is the focal point of the Longhorns’ defensive backfield and played to his reputation against New Mexico State, racking up six tackles, registering a pass break up and grabbing an interception. However, Texas struggled in the passing game, giving up 242 yards through the air.
Junior defensive back tandem Robertson Daniel and Craig Bills were solid for the Cougars against Virginia, combining for 9.5 tackles, while Daniel had a pass breakup and Bills grabbed an interception. BYU limited Virginia to only 114 yards through the air and 3.6 yards per pass.
BYU may struggle to contain Ash and will struggle to keep up offensively as Hill and company continue adjusting to the new offensive scheme. Look for Texas to start the season off 2-0 and the Cougars to wait another week to find their first victory of 2013.