COMMENTARY — It’s always good after a loss like BYU had to Utah, to see the Cougars bounce back and win the next game convincingly. BYU is now back to .500 with a 2-2 record and that much closer to a bowl game once again. The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders from Conference USA now have a taste in their mouth of what the Cougars offensive rushing attack as well as great defense can be. This Middle Tennessee team proved not to be a slouch but they could not keep up with BYU in the 37-10 loss. The Blue Raiders put up a really good fight for much of the first half, but BYU broke them down in the second quarter.
Defense, Defense, Defense! This year’s D is on track to really hurt their opponents offensive statistics. They held Middle Tennessee to 212 total yards of offense. The same names I talk about every week — Van Noy, Sorenson, Kaufusi and Bills — continue to impose their will on the opponents’ offenses. Austin Jorgenson recorded nine tackles for the team-high while Daniel Sorenson had a nice interception and takeaway.
How about a little more special teams this week? It was very nice to see the special teams putting some points on the board. Even though BYU’s kickoff return for a touchdown vs. Utah was called back, it was not a fluke. BYU had one kick returned 90 yards, followed by JD Falslev returning a punt 71 yards for a BYU touchdown. The Cougars special teams are really starting to gel all the way across the board and I have not seen this part of their game be consistent in Provo for many years.
All in all, BYU’s offense did keep up with the defense, putting up nearly 500 yards in offense last week game. Taysom Hill rushed for 165 yards and two touchdowns while showing once again that he has really great breakaway speed and athleticism. It was very nice to see him work on his passing game as he completed 14 of 19 passes for 177 yards. I saw much improvement as he kept his feet planted and had much better throwing technique. He did not have passes sailing away on him like he did much of last year and a few times earlier in the season. This was also without Cody Hoffman (last years absolute stand-out receiver), who has now missed two games in the 2013 season.
Ross Apo and Mitch Mathews combined for 85 of Hill’s 177 passing yards and kept several drives alive and moving down the field. I would look for BYU’s ground game to have continued success after watching Michael Alisa (who filled in for the injured Jamaal Williams) rack up two touchdowns off of 55 yards on the ground. Also, redshirt freshman Algernon Brown contributed and was able to show his stuff as he got some playing time with 68 yards on 11 carries.
This week is another big in-state rivalry game for BYU and represents a chance for BYU to pull out a win and at least go 1-1 with in-state rivals this season. The series is 45-34-4 all-time in BYU’s favor, but it is by far one of the hardest match-ups the Cougars face this season. Utah State brings a lot of fight and has home-field advantage this Friday as the Cougars go into Logan to try and knock off the Aggies. Please remember this Utah State program is not the same program as it was in so many past seasons.
The last few years they have really turned things around in Logan. Utah State has the current record of 3-2 and this could be a little better as they barely got beat at Utah in Week 1 and USC two weeks ago. Utah recovered a sneaky onside kick or else the Utes would have lost to the Aggies at home. Also, USC is not in one of its better years, but Utah State took them right down to the wire narrowly losing in L.A., 17-14. Last week, Utah State beat San Jose State 40-12. They should end up winning the Mountain West Conference championship very handily.
On paper, the Aggies look like a Top 25 type of program, but their two losses keep them out of the rankings. I see this week’s game as an absolute grudge match between an excellent Utah States offense and a top-notch BYU defense. If the Cougars can slow down Chuckie Keeton, they’ll have a chance. Last year’s 6-3 victory in Provo proved that the Cougars can shut USU down, but can they do it again?
This Aggies team has one of the more athletic and talented junior QBs around in Keeton and I would even say he is playing better football than any other QB in the state of Utah and most of the nation. Keeton is an all-around stud with an incredible arm and legs to back them up. He currently ranks second nationally with 17 touchdown passes and 22nd in pass efficiency. His completion percentage is 11th nationally and basically you can find him ranking very highly in any QB stat category there is. This does mean he has help, with very solid and aggressive offensive lineman, a good receiving corps and good running backs. The Cougars front seven has to put pressure on Keeton or he will make a lot of big plays. A lot of pressure will be on the BYU secondary. Keeton is a master at scrambling to make time and complete passes downfield. Also, containing him in the pocket will be up to Van Noy and Kaufusi. They must keep outside containment and put pressure on the junior quarterback or he will eat them alive.
BYU has a two-game winning streak in the Utah State series, but Bronco Mendenhall’s defense will have its hands full and has not yet seen this good of an offense this season. That being said, Mendenhall has proven he can beat this team with his 5-1 record vs. Utah State since he took the head coaching position in 2005.
I think we are in for a great game regardless of the score and game’s final victor. I think BYU will have to bring its A-game to beat the red-hot Aggies at their home on Friday night. I do believe if Keeton is contained and not given time to complete passes, BYU will win. It’s up to the defense to slow down this high-powered team.
BYU at Utah State
Kickoff is set for 6:05 p.m. MDT, Friday, Oct. 4, in Logan
You can find it televised on CBS Sports Network and on Sirius XM channel 143 as well as local radio on KDXU-AM 890.
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