Provo • A lot has been made at BYU over the past two weeks about cutting down on turnovers in the rivalry game against Utah. Simply put, giveaways have cost the Cougars dearly in their past three games against the Utes, all losses.
But what about forcing turnovers?
New defensive coordinator Nick Howell said Monday he is well aware that the onus will be on BYU’s defense in Saturday’s 8:15 p.m. game at LaVell Edwards Stadium (ESPN2) to keep the Cougars on the positive side of the turnover ledger.
“We need them, and they don’t need them,” he said. “It’s that simple.”
BYU’s defense mostly has been stout in two games this season, holding Virginia to 223 yards and Texas to 445. The Cougars forced two turnovers against Virginia, safety Craig Bills’ interception and a fumble, but had none against the Longhorns.
“We can definitely do better,” Howell said. “The Virginia game, we had three chances we didn’t get, so we have put an emphasis on that. They understand that. So yeah, we are not pleased with how the turnovers have gone so far. But we have played good defense so far.”
Coach Bronco Mendenhall said Monday that in hindsight the Cougars probably would have been better off facing Utah last weekend, instead of having a bye week. But Howell, who will have to figure out a way to stop Utah’s explosive offense, said the extra time has been helpful.
Tricks up their sleeve?
BYU rarely runs trick plays, or gadget plays. But Utah certainly does, and usually with success. Howell knows that and says the Cougars believe they will be ready for them.
“We prepare for that every week,” Howell said. “We have a trick play file that is 100 years old, with everything we have ever seen from anybody in it. We have a good idea of what they are going to do. Really, trick plays [work] when you don’t do what you are supposed to do, so the focus is on doing what you are supposed to do, and then you should be OK.”
There were almost some ugly incidents when Utah fans stormed the field last year, and obviously one particular rush to celebrate almost cost their team three points. Will BYU fans try to storm the field this year if the Cougars snap a three-game losing skid to the Utes? Receiver Cody Hoffman wouldn’t mind seeing it.
“I feel like it is just fans being fans,” he said. “I mean, they are not the only fans that rush the field when their team wins such a big game. I mean, there’s nothing you can do about it [if you are on the losing end]. You just kinda got to get them out of the way and go to the locker room and just focus on the week after.”
Justin Sorensen’s four field goals against Texas were the most in one game for BYU since 2000. ... The Cougars have allowed just seven rushing touchdowns over the past 15 games, ranking third in the nation in fewest allowed. Michigan State and Notre Dame are the only schools that have allowed fewer rushing TDs since the start of the 2012 season.
Utah at BYU, 8:15 p.m.
TV • ESPN2