BYU football: Punchless Cougars to face a pair of top-10 teams in consecutive weeks
Provo • There probably have been worse times for the BYU football team to play host to a top-10 team in front of a split national television audience on ABC, but precious few come to mind as the No. 10 Oregon State Beavers roll into LaVell Edwards Stadium for a 1:30 p.m. showdown on Saturday.
The Beavers, 4-0 for the first time since 2002, will bring one of the better quarterbacks in the country, sophomore gunslinger Sean Mannion, into Provo to test the BYU defense that is now ranked No. 5 in the country after shutting down Utah State last Friday in a 6-3 win. But the onus to keep the contest competitive will clearly be on BYU's punchless offense.
BYU (4-2) will be without quarterback Taysom Hill, 2-0 as a starter, after the freshman was injured during a needless running play at the end of the game against the Aggies. The school confirmed Saturday that Hill suffered a knee injury and said more details would come after Monday's late-afternoon practice, but indications are overwhelming that Hill has at least one torn tendon in his knee and the injury is season-ending.
Hill becomes the second BYU quarterback to get injured on a running play this season, not surprising considering Cougar QBs have carried the ball 93 times in six games. Running backs have 165 carries, meaning that QBs have 36 percent of BYU's carries.
In last year's 38-28 win over Oregon State in Corvallis, BYU senior quarterback Riley Nelson played perhaps his best game as a Cougar, given the competition. Nelson told teammates and others on Saturday that he will definitely play this week against the Beavers, his sore back healed to the point where he feels like he can be effective.
"It was very close [to having Nelson play against Utah State]," coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "We gave him an evaluation gave him most of the snaps, actually, on Tuesday. And we didn't think we could form an evaluation without seeing him actually perform and he's close. And he could have played [Friday night], but I didn't think he was all the way ready, or healthy, and I didn't want to risk even against a good opponent, the impact of how that might happen on every other game we play, so yeah, it was close, and ultimately I had to make that call [to go with Hill]."
Oregon State will be the first top-10 team to play at BYU since No. 8 TCU walloped the No. 16 Cougars 38-7 on Oct. 24, 2009. Obviously not aware of BYU's dismal quarterback situation, Sagarin's computer rankings have BYU at No. 21 and OSU at No. 27. If No. 7 Notre Dame defeats No. 17 Stanford on Saturday, the Oct. 20 BYU-at-Notre Dame game will mark the first time in history BYU has played top-10 opponents back-to-back.
The Beavers jumped four spots in The Associated Press Top 25 despite not playing all that well Saturday in a 19-6 win over Washington State. Cornerback Jordan Poyer made three interceptions, defensive end Scott Crichton had three sacks and Mannion overcame three interceptions and three sacks by completing 25 of 42 passes for 270 yards.
Mannion, the Pac-12 offensive player of the week after throwing for 433 yards in a 38-35 win over Arizona the week prior, is No. 9 in the country in passing yards at 339.5 per game.
After Saturday's win, OSU coach Mike Riley said the Beavers would begin the "monumental" task of preparing for BYU on Sunday.
"As hard and sometimes ugly it was offensively, they pulled themselves together," Riley told Cliff Kirkpatrick of the Corvallis Gazette-Times. "There are a lot of young guys out there. They just made plays, so we won the game. Do we have a lot to work on from that game? Absolutely."
Category Rank Actual
Total Defense 5 229.33 ypg.
Scoring Defense 3 8.83 ppg.
Rushing Defense 1 59.5 ypg.
Passing Defense 12 169.83 ypg.
Oregon State offense
Category Rank Actual
Total Offense 32 458.0 ypg.
Scoring Offense 92 23.5 ppg.
Rushing Offense 103 118.5 ypg.
Passing Offense 8 339.5 ypg.
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