By now, the BYU defense has proved it knows how to stop the run, but can it stop a passing game?
That will be answered on Saturday when the 10th-ranked Cougars host Boise State at LaVell Edwards Stadium. BYU will look to earn its third straight win against the Broncos.
Last weekend, BYU held Utah State to just 22 rushing yards — a new season low after allowing Arizona only 81 rushing yards in the season opener. Overall, the Cougars are allowing opponents 127.4 yards per game.
Through five games, Boise State is averaging 74.6 rushing yards per game, but 303.8 passing yards per game. And that presents BYU with a different problem than what it’s faced previously.
“As we prepare for our opponent, whoever it is, week by week, the study is to try to figure out who they really are, what they do well [and] try to make them play left-handed as much as we can,” defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki said. “There’s risk-reward and everything that you do on defense, as well as on offense, so it’s figuring out where we feel we’re best as far as taking away what they do and just having a game plan for that kind of thing.”
As of Tuesday night, however, Tuiaki said the staff was still in the process of finalizing its plan. A good chunk of figuring out that plan will come from studying Boise State quarterback Hank Bachmeier.
Last season, Bachmeier was out due to injury and was unable to play against the Cougars. So, BYU hasn’t faced the Broncos’ quarterback before and he hasn’t faced the Cougar defense before.
Through five games this season, Bachmeier has completed 65.6% of his passes for 1,519 yards — his longest pass for 69 yards — and 11 touchdowns, while being picked off four times.
“We’ve just got to play to our assignments, and that counts for everyone on the field,” defensive back Kaleb Hayes said. “We’ve always been preached and taught to do our one-eleventh throughout the field, so just trust your teammates. We’ve got to trust our teammates and a play is going to come our way. That’s just what I feel our defense has got to do for this game.”
Part of what will challenge BYU is the fact that Boise State has a new staff.
Andy Avalos, a former Boise State player, was named the program’s head coach in January. With him came a new staff.
At offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach this year is Tim Plough, who came to Boise from his alma mater UC Davis, where he served as the Aggies’ offensive coordinator from 2017-19.
Tuiaki is expecting to see a different scheme than what the Cougars have come to know over the past few years, but a lot of the pieces are the same.
While before Boise State played more of a pro-style offense, now the Broncos are playing more of a run-pass option.
“They do show that they’ve got capability,” Tuiaki said. “They’ve got a really good quarterback and a lot of really good receivers and running backs and they’ve got the capability. It is a little bit different from the Boise that we’ve faced the last five years as far as scheme, but they certainly have shown that they have the ability, just the personnel, to push the ball down downfield.”