What you need to Know: BYU vs. Nevada

Hill rushes against Notre Dame - Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

After a a lackluster performance in South Bend, the Cougars head to Reno to take on the Wolf Pack of Nevada. Nevada has struggled but have won the last two meetings between the schools.

The History

On Saturday the Cougars will travel to Reno, Nevada to face the Nevada Wolf Pack for the ninth time. The Cougars have a winning record at 4-2-2 but in the modern era, the Cougars are only 1-2. The Series started in 1929 and the last game was played in 2010. Interestingly, the two ties both came at home in 1930 and 1940. On the road BYU has a 3-1 record with the lone loss coming in 2002.


Provo, UT 2001 (4-0-2)

In the second game of the Cougars high powered offense under new coach Gary Crowton, BYU put up points often and in a number of ways. Just over three minutes into the game Luke Staley capped off a 75-yard drive with an eight-yard touchdown run that put the Cougars up 7-0. After another first quarter score, a Matt Payne 27-yard field goal, Staley finished the first drive of the second quarter with a 44-yard rush that put BYU up 17-0. Before the end of the half the Cougars scored again on a Brian McDonald five yard rush, a 12-yard pass from Brandon Doman to Reno Mahe, and a 1-yard rush by Mcdonald to give the Cougars a 38-0 halftime lead. BYU continued to put up the points in the third quarter when Charlie Peterson hit Rod Wilkerson for a 53-yard touchdown followed by a two-yard rush by Peterson that put BYU up 52-0. A late rushing touchdown by Nevada ruined the shutout but the 598 offensive yards put up by the Cougars helped give the Cougars a 52-7 win and a 2-0 start to their season.

Reno, NV 2002 (4-1-2)

In a game that the Cougars were favored to win, the Wolf Pack was able to hold on and knock off the 24th ranked Cougars. Nevada started the scoring in the first quarter with a 40-yard field goal and then a 95-yard touchdown pass that put the Cougars into a 10 point deficit. BYU started the second quarter with a 31 yard touchdown pass from Bret Engemann to Rod Wilkerson to pull within three. However, Nevada was quick to respond with a 16-yard touchdown pass. With the score 17-7, Reno Mahe added a 4-yard rush to once again get the Cougars within three but two touchdowns in the final minute put the Wolf Pack up 31-14. The Cougars would shut out the Wolf Pack in the second half but were only able to score 14 of the 17 points required to tie the game. In the third quarter Marcus Whalen rushed for a 30 yard touchdown and Gabriel Reid caught a 9-yard touchdown pass in the fourth for the final scoring of the game. With the 31-28 win the Wolf Pack recorded their first win over a top 25 team.

Provo, UT 2010 (4-2-2)

In the first career start for freshman Jake Heaps, the Cougars couldn't create enough offense to beat a Colin Kaepernick led Wolf Pack. Even though the Cougar defense held Nevada to almost half of their 50 point average, the offense could only score 13 in the loss. The only Cougar touchdown came on a JJ Di Luigi 2 yard rush in the first quarter. With as many field goals as touchdowns in the game, the Cougars came out on the losing end for the second time in as many tries against Nevada.


The Outlook

After a frigid display of football in South Bend, the Cougars are looking to bounce back against a struggling Nevada team. BYU knows they blew an opportunity to make some noise nationally, and are regrouping and licking their wounds. With a strong showing in Reno, BYU could gain some momentum for the bowl game in late December but a loss would make for a long layover.

The Positives

With Notre Dame shutting down the Cougars offensive line and holding Jamaal Williams to 443 rushing yards, Paul Lasike made his name known to the masses. With only four rushes he racked up 101 yards on the ground, including a 46 yarder. With his physical play he showcased his talents, but also introduced defenses to his rugby mindset. Taysom Hill made another appearance in the run game as he over 100 yards for the Cougars second 100 yard rusher for the game.

Uani Unga again made noise on the defense with 19 tackles against the Irish putting his season total at 125 tackles. This sets a BYU single season record (NCAA has only kept official defensive stats since 2000) that was previously held by outside linebackers coach Kelly Poppinga. All ball carriers need to be aware of Unga as he is all over the field.

The Negatives

The difference in the game was the domination by Notre Dame on both sides of the line. A good portion of Hill's rushing yards came while running for his life. At times it seemed like the Irish defense was filtering through a sieve and were camped in the backfield. On the defensive side of the ball the Cougars had a tough time getting near Tommy Rees and numerous plays of 20 yards or more showed up in the box score. After giving up two first quarter touchdowns the defense buckled down and only gave up three field goals but the damage had been done.

The Match-ups

Cougar runners vs. Wolf Pack run defense.

The BYU rushers should be salivating at this match-up. Nevada ranks near the bottom of the nation in rush defense and is allowing almost 250 yards per game. If the Cougars offensive line can make any adjustments against a struggling defense, the BYU run game could go wild. Missed assignments and a lack of consistent tackling may be the undoing of the defense and BYU has the talent to produce.

Quarterback Cody Fajardo vs. the BYU discipline.

Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo may be the best dual threat quarterback that the Cougars have faced all year. With a completion percentage of 67 percent and an average yards per carry just under five, BYU will have their hands full. Fajardo is quick with his feet and is not prone to mistakes. He has thrown six touchdowns for each interception and has a talented group of receivers to help him. In order to limit the damage done by Fajardo, BYU will have to play sound defense and stick to their assignments. The BYU secondary must stick to their men and allow the front seven to stuff the run and spy Fajardo. If they let him use his feet, it could be a very long day.

For a complete breakdown of the Wolf Pack, read Nathan Mathis' Know the foe article here.

The Keys to Watch

When the Wolf Pack have the ball: Watch for Fajardo to look for Brandon Wimberly in the passing game. Wimberly has seven of the twelve touchdowns thrown by Fajardo and looks to add to that total. In order to set up the pass, look for Kendall Brock to take the brunt of the carries. He is averaging just under 4.5 yards per carry and is just as much of a threat on the ground as Fajardo. Look for the Cougar defense to first shore up the running game and limit the yards after contact. The front seven will put pressure on Fajardo and use a linebacker to spy him on the scramble. This could be another big game for Uani Unga as he has a nose for the runner.

When the Cougars have the ball: Watch for the Cougars to establish the run. The Cougars will look to dominate the line of scrimmage and create gaps and big plays for Williams and Hill. Lasike may have earned more time with his performance against Notre Dame and could provide a major advantage over an already struggling defense. The Wolf Pack defense will look to take away the run by stacking the line and making Hill beat them with the pass. If the Hill can drop the ball over the middle or the running backs can get into the second level, yards will be available to the offense. With no defender that can match Cody Hoffman, look for him to have another big game as Nevada can not afford to double team him while they face a strong BYU rush.

Interesting Tidbit

In 1928 Nevada officially adopted the nickname "Wolf Pack". They are only one of two teams in the nation that use the nickname, the other being North Carolina State. Nevada is a little unique as NC State uses the term as one word. Previous to the "Wolf" or "Wolf Pack" the team was known as the "Sagebrushers" or "Sage Hens". For a Nevada Wolf Pack history lesson, Click here.

Next Meeting

The Cougars and Wolf Pack will next meet in Provo on October 18, 2014. The two teams are also scheduled to meet once more in Provo in 2019 as the finale of a three-game series.

The Broadcasting Details

Time: 1:00 pm MDT

Where: Mackay Stadium- Reno, NV

TV: CBS Sports Network

Radio (BYU): KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYU Radio-Sirius XM 143

Listen Live via Internet (KSL): Click Here

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