3 Keys to the Game
1. Create turnovers. The Utes don’t have an interception this year, a statistic Utah coach Kyle Whittingham has harped on all week. The Utes would love to give their offense some short fields with which to work.
2. Establish the run. The Utes can go deep, but will still want to establish a ground game with speedy James Poole, as well as QB Travis Wilson. Wilson rushed for 142 yards against Oregon State — and could have had more.
3. Play like a Utah defense. Utah has a reputation of being a stingy defense against the run and a good coverage team. While the secondary is suspect, the Utes have the ability to contain BYU QB Taysom Hill.
1. Take care of the football. Look no further than two years ago, when the Cougars committed seven turnovers in a 54-10 loss to Utah, to see how damaging giveaways can be.
2. Win the special teams battle. Tight games almost always come down to a special teams play, and most of the past Utah-BYU games have been no exception.
3. Get off to a good start. BYU’s crowd tends to get quiet and almost disappear when the Cougars fall behind at home. Last year, Utah’s crowd provided a huge lift, causing numerous false starts and a miscue on a snap that led to an easy Ute TD.
Utah running back James Poole against BYU’s rush defense. Poole rushed for a career-high 117 yards last week against Oregon State, while the Cougars haven’t allowed Virginia to rush for just 109 total yards and Texas just 132 yards. If Poole can gash the Cougars’ defense, it will invariably slow the pass rush on Travis Wilson,
Linebackers Kyle Van Noy, Alani Fua against Utah blitz pickup (mostly tackles Jeremiah Poutasi, Siasosi Aiono). Van Noy and Fua will be coming hard off the edge all night against the Utes in an effort to get to Utah quarterback Travis Wilson before he has time to throw. But they will also try to contain his outside runs, something Oregon State couldn’t do last week.
The Utes have issues on defense, as their overtime loss to Oregon State revealed. But Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is very good at making defensive adjustments and seems to have a handle on the Cougars. Whittingham is 5-3 against BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall. Give the former Cougar linebacker the edge in coaching.
In the past, the Cougars have been accused of not taking this game as importantly as Utah has. That cannot be said this year, because the Cougars to a man have said they’ve prepared harder and longer for this game than any they can remember. The pressure is squarely on BYU to break the three-game skid against the Utes
This is Utah’s first away game this season. The Utes have played in hostile stadiums before, but doing so for the first time in a season is always an adjustment.
The Utes may have more overall talent than the Cougars, but BYU will have the best player on the field: linebacker Kyle Van Noy. He has willed BYU to big wins in the past. Can he do it again?
By the Numbers
0 — The Utes have yet to allow a 100-yard rusher this season. USU QB Chuckie Keeton was the closest to breaking the mark with 85 yards.
2 — Receiver Dres Anderson has had back-to-back 100 yard games with 103 against Weber State and 101 against OSU. He will be Wilson’s go-to man Saturday.
3 — Three of Utah’s coaches played at BYU. They are head coach Kyle Whittingham, defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake and receivers coach Aaron Roderick.
99 — The Cougars ran an eye-popping 99 plays two weeks ago in a 40-21 win over Texas, and will obviously try to push the pace again when Utah visits.
3 — Sophomore running back Jamaal Williams is No. 3 nationally in rushing yards per game, averaging 163, but Utah’s front seven has proven to be adept at stopping the run.
1 — Receiver Cody Hoffman’s quest to become the No. 1 receiver in school history has been slowed by a hamstring injury. He should play and get some ball thrown his way, as Utah loads up to stop the run.