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What you need to know: BYU vs. Utah State

With the return of Hoffman and Williams, the Cougar offense is ready to put their struggles behind them and come out of Logan with a win. The Aggies defense will be a tough test for Taysom and his crew, and the Cougars defense will have their hands full with Chuckie Keeton and company.

BYU meets USU in Logan on Friday
BYU meets USU in Logan on Friday
Douglas C. Pizac-US PRESSWIRE

The History

This Friday will mark the 83rd meeting between the Cougars and the Aggies. The first game was held in Provo in 1922 and the Aggies came out with a 42-3 victory. Overall, BYU holds a series lead at 45-34-3, while the Aggies have held the home field advantage by three games. Utah State took control of the series early when they won 30 of the first 50 meetings and then BYU took control in 1975. Since the win in 1975, the Cougars have only lost four times.

As an extra incentive for the game, the Old Wagon Wheel trophy was introduced in 1948 and has been awarded to the winning team ever since.

Another tradition was started in 1981 when the teams started meeting on the first Friday of October. Over the last couple of years, the series has taken on more importance even though the Cougars have won 12 of the last 13. With closer games, the teams are looking much more balanced and are beginning to lead to exciting finishes. With so many games we can choose to focus on, we will stay current and look at the last three games.

Logan, Utah 2010 USU 31-16

BYU traveled to Logan with a 10-game winning streak against the Aggies but were never really in this game. On Utah State's second possession of the game, Diondre Borel connected with Xavier Martin on a 79 yard TD pass to start the scoring. On the Cougars subsequent possession, freshman Jake Heaps threw an interception that set up an Aggies field goal. With no further scoring in the quarter, USU took their 10-0 lead into the second.

In the second quarter the Aggies added to their lead with a one-yard run by Borel. The Cougars finally got on the board with a field goal but gave up a 67 yard kick return that set up another Aggies touchdown just before the half, making the halftime score 24-3.

In the third quarter the Cougars offense began to move the ball, but could only put up one touchdown on a 75 yard drive. Bryan Kariya finished the drive with a 1-yard run. Even though the Aggies couldn’t match the yardage output of the Cougars, they still put a touchdown on the board to give themselves a 31-10 lead going into the fourth.

The 31-10 score held up until the final drive for BYU when JJ DiLuigi scored from two yards out with 31 seconds left in the game. Heaps ended up with 270 yards while going 27-55 with two interceptions. Junior McKay Jacobson ended up with 85 yards of receiving on eight catches.

Provo, Utah 2011 BYU 27-24

Seeking revenge for their first loss in 11 tries, the Cougars welcomed the Aggies into Provo by allowing Robin Turbin to rush 80 yards on the first play putting USU up 7-0 only 14 seconds into the game. BYU tried to match it but came up short after reaching the five yard line, so they settled for a field goal. BYU would then take a 10-7 lead after Jake Heaps scored on a 1-yard keeper. They would take the lead into the second quarter.

With very little scoring taking place in the second quarter, the Aggies took back the lead on a 13 yard pass from Chuckie Keeton to Eric Moats, with four minutes left in the half. The Cougars added a field goal with 55 seconds left in the half and went to the locker room down one, 14-13.

The only scoring of the third quarter took place with 8:37 left in the quarter. On a third down play, Keeton hit Turbin for a 24 yard touchdown and a 21-13 lead. With no scoring by the Cougars, the lead would hold up heading into the fourth quarter.

Utah State started the fourth quarter scoring by connecting on a field goal with 12:43 left in the game to take a 24-13 lead. At this point the Cougar offense replaced Heaps with Riley Nelson and he immediately led them on an 8 play, 60 yard drive that was capped off with a 24 yard pass to Cody Hoffman. Now only down by four, the Cougars defense went to work. After stopping the Aggies fake field goal attempt at the BYU 30 yard line, the defense held again allowing the offense one last shot with 2:36 remaining. The drive started at the Cougar four yard line and was highlighted by Nelson making plays with his feet, and a 40 yard pass to McKay Jacobson. With only seconds left in the game, Nelson found tight end Marcus Mathews in the back of the end zone and after the pass was deflected, Mathews came down with the ball for the winning touchdown and final score.

Provo, Utah 2012 BYU 6-3

In a game that matched a stout BYU defense against a very versatile Keeton, the defense won the battle. The Aggies made a field goal on their second drive of the game after the Cougars defense stopped the Aggies three times inside the ten yard line to take a 3-0 lead. This would hold up until the last three seconds of the half when Taysom Hill led the Cougars on a 25 second, 61 yard scoring drive. Hill completed passes of 8, 28, and 22 yards to Hoffman before tossing a 3-yard score to JD Falslev. With the missed extra point the Cougars would finish all scoring as they went into the half up 6-3.

The second half continued to be dominated by defense, and the Cougars recovered a fumble at the USU 9-yard line but failed to convert a fake field goal to miss an opportunity. The Cougars defense again came up big with an interception on a gadget play at the 2-yard line to prevent a touchdown. After a Hill interception, the Aggies missed a game tying field goal and the defense held one last time to run out the clock. BYU "out-gained" the Aggies 380 yards to 243 with Hill going 24-36 for 235 yards along with a touchdown and an interception.

The Outlook

The Cougars are coming off a week where they won the game by 27, but many fans and players came out feeling unfulfilled. For the second straight week, a number of points were left on the field due to poor blue zone play. There are positives that came from the game but as always, the negatives crept up and were glaring. Since the game was a win, we will start with the positives:

The Positives

Even though the Blue Raiders are a less talented team, the offensive line did manage to give Hill time to make his reads and go through his progression. This shows in his 74% completion percentage. Not only was he able to find the receivers open, he was accurate and the balls were being caught. The only interception came from a pass that went through the hands of Paul Lasike. BYU was again able to run the ball with a team total of 309 rushing yards, 175 of those coming from Hill. With Jamaal Williams out of the game due to a concussion, four running backs touched the ball to round out the running totals. In the passing game, Ross Apo finally led the receivers with four receptions for 38 yards and Mitch Mathews added three receptions and 47 yards. In total, Hill was able to connect with seven different receivers. The Defense continued to dominate as they held the Blue Raiders passing attack to a completion percentage of 47% and only allowed a total of 212 yards. The special teams also showed some signs of improvement with a 90 yard kick return that set up a touchdown and a 71 yard punt return for a touchdown.

The Negatives

Even with a blow-out of the Blue Raiders, the Cougars had plenty to focus and work on throughout the week. The biggest concern coming from the win was ball security. Turnovers can make or break a game and four lost fumbles and an interception is difficult to overcome. Based on his history, Falslev will not fumble the ball three times in the same game but it is still a worry that needs to be addressed. The interception is a worry but in this case it isn’t on the part of Hill. The ball was well thrown and should have been caught by Lasike, this would be more of a concern with the catching abilities of the running backs as this is the second time this year a pass has been catchable and it has slipped through their hands to a defender.

The specials teams seemed to take a step back in the coverage as they gave up a long kickoff return to start the game that ended with points for MTSU. The blocking teams took a step forward with the lanes that were opened up for the returners and penalties didn’t bring back the big returns.

The Match-ups

Special teams:

For the second week in a row, the special teams will play a large part in the outcome of this game. With two very strong defenses, points should be hard to come by. Not only will the return game be essential to get the extra couple of yards, the ability to pin someone in their own territory could make the difference between a field goal and a punt.

BYU run game vs. USU defense:

The Cougar run game must be established for any type of offensive attack. The run game must include a mix of Williams, Hill, Lasike, and Alisa in order to be effective. The strength of Hill is his athleticism and play making ability with his feet. If he is given the opportunity to run, and he makes the correct decisions, he will open up the field for the other running backs and for the receivers. Providing a good balance between the power run and spreading it out could prove to be detrimental to any defensive game plan.

Keeton vs. BYU front seven:

Chuckie Keeton is hands down the best quarterback in the state right now. With a great balance between the run and the pass, he can pick apart defenses in a number of ways. The only way for BYU to stop him or slow him down is to put on the pressure. Don’t expect too many sacks or drops for loss as he is too strong and elusive. The plan will need to be to contain him and force him into short gains, rushed passes that are off the mark or thrown away. The Cougar front seven is very physical and very well could put pressure on him, and when they do, they need to be careful to not over pursue and leave the field open for the taking.

The Keys to Watch

When the Aggies have the ball: Watch the pursuit of the Cougar front seven. Last year the defense was able to contain Keeton and limit the damage. Keeton has improved in all facets of the game so the defense will have to improve the game plan and the execution. If pressure can be put on Keeton, this could neutralize the talent of the receivers and tight ends. Taking away the talent at those positions will weaken any advantage they have over the Cougar secondary. If last week is any indication, look for Van Noy to play a little Bump and Run with the bump coming at the line to slow a receiver, and then the run into the back field for pressure.

When the Cougars have the ball: Watch for short and high percentage passes to be put into play. With quick passes to the big receivers like Cody Hoffman and Mitch Mathews, and a bit of elusiveness from Falslev and Williams on the screen, the field could be spread and the run game would benefit. The return of Hoffman and Williams will also provide an energy boost to the team so look for them to be emotional and energetic.

Since we were unable to see record broken by Hoffman last week, I have included the numbers again below. The chances are not as favorable this week as the defense is much better, but he is close enough to make it a reality.

"One last thing to keep an eye on is Cody Hoffman. If he can corral 9 catches in the game, he will break the all-time reception record for an individual. Right now this record is held by Dennis Pitta with 221. If he can manage three touchdown catches he will also become the all-time record holder for touchdown receptions."

Interesting Tidbits

Eric Shultz

Utah State right tackle Eric Shultz was a high school teammate to none other than Spencer Hadley. Shultz and Hadley helped lead their team to the finals their senior year. They were both stars on the football field, the basketball court, and on the track. For the full write up Click here.

The Next Chapter

The next meeting between USU and BYU will be in Provo on October 3rd, 2014

Memo to Cougar fans going to the game:

The Allstate Tailgate Tour, a unique and interactive fan experience visiting college football stadiums across the country, is heading to Logan, Utah this week as the Aggies take on the BYU Cougars on Friday, Oct. 4. From creating signs in support of the Cougars, to participating in games for a chance to win tailgate items, fans can take part in a variety of family-friendly activities at the Allstate Tailgate Tour. At the tour, fans will also be invited to enter the "Allstate Ultimate Road Trip Sweepstakes," where one grand prize winner and three friends will receive a VIP trip to the Allstate® Sugar Bowl® in New Orleans, where they will have the chance to watch the game with college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit, followed by a trip to the 2014 VIZO BCS National Championship™ in Pasadena. The grand prize winner will also take home a 2014 Buick Enclave.

WHEN: 3:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. MT

Friday, Oct. 4, 2013

WHERE: Corner of 800 East St. and 1100 North St.

Romney Stadium

800 East 1400 North

Logan, UT 84322

The Broadcasting Details

Time: 6:00 pm MDT

Where: Romney Stadium in Logan, Utah

TV: CBS Sports Network

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

Listen Live via Internet (KSL): Click Here

Radio Links (Utah State): Click Here