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What you need to know: BYU vs. Wisconsin

When BYU visits Camp Randall on Saturday, it will be only the second meeting between the schools. They do have two more on tap down the road, but none may be as exciting as the teams that will take the field this week.

Taysom looking to run.
Taysom looking to run.
George Frey

The History

BYU and Wisconsin have faced off only once in the history of the two programs. With the BYU win in 1980, BYU goes into Saturday’s game up 1-0. The two schools also have games scheduled in 2018 and 2019 with the last game being scheduled in Provo.

Madison, WI 1980 (1-0)

In the first and only meeting between the Cougars and Badgers, BYU came out of Madison with a 28-3 victory. The Cougar offense, led by quarterback Jim McMahon, could only muster up seven points in the first half to lead 7-0. With the Defense continuing to pressure the Badgers, McMahon led the offense to three second-half touchdowns while going 12-15 for 175 yards. McMahon finished the game with 337 yards passing and the defense kept the Badgers to a second half field goal.

The Outlook

After another strong performance, this time against a good Boise St. team, the Cougars look to be rolling along and starting to play like everyone expected early in the year. The offense put up 37 points while the defense gave up only 20. With the continued improvement of the offense, the Cougars could be dangerous and should have a shot to win each of their next four games.

The Positives

The 24 first-half points were a good start for the team and with the defense only allowing three points, the team was put in a very good position to win. The three BYU touchdowns were a mixture of Taysom Hill using his legs on a 20 yard rush, his long pass to Ross Apo and then a short pass to Cody Hoffman. When BYU can get all three facets of the game going well, they are hard to stop. In many cases, they are only stopping themselves.

The Negatives

On the other hand, the second half was concerning. In fact, it was mentioned by Coach Mendenhall that it appeared that the team was going conservative too early. Although that may be true, it also could be a lack of focus by a team that is winning decisively. Dropped passes and penalties on third down could have kept drives alive and perhaps led to a few more points. For a team that still may play a couple of close games, the lack of a killer instinct needs to be addressed.

The Match-ups

Stellar Wisconsin Defense vs. the, BYU offensive line

The match up of the day could be the Wisconsin defensive line against the Cougars offensive line. The Badgers are ranked 5th in the country in rush defense and 15th against the pass. The Badgers are very physical and will test the young Cougars severely. It will be interesting to see how the offense can react to the pressure that is sure to be put on them and how they will adjust if they can’t match it. If there is a weakness in the Badger defense, it would be their secondary. This could be offset by the front seven if they can put enough pressure on Hill to throw off his passing and shake his confidence.

BYU front seven vs. Wisconsin offensive line

Just like their counterparts on defense, the Wisconsin offensive line is also very physical and they are very successful in opening holes for the running backs and providing time for Joel Stave. Wisconsin doesn’t ask Stave to do much but he delivers when needed. Last week the Iowa defense was able to get some pressure on Stave and he seemed to be just a little off. BYU needs to get the same pressure or more on him and limit the rush in order to win this game. With the physicality of the offensive line, the Cougars will need help from the entire defensive lineman and not just rely on Bronson Kaufusi and Eathyn Manumaleuna.

Special Teams

Field position will be at a premium in this game. With two strong defenses, the special teams will play a key role on Saturday. BYU is sitting at 4th in the country in kickoff returns at 27.14 yards per return, with Adam Hine coming in 3rd with 31.9. At the same time, Wisconsin sits at 14th with 25.13 yards per return. BYU took a hit when they found out that JD Falslev would be out 3-4 weeks with a broken hand. Not only do they lose the spark that he brings to the team but he helped BYU average 10.39 yards per return. This is good enough for 37th in the country. Wisconsin struggles a bit on punt returns as they are ranked 85th at 6.21 yards per return. Both teams are sub-par in the punt game as BYU is ranked 112th at 33.88 net yards per punt while Wisconsin is 88th with 35.94 net yards per punt. Both teams are average on defending the punt return but BYU does get a boost with the return of Daniel Sorensen that will electrify the fans when he chases it down inside the 10.

Finally we need to address the kickers. BYU has been given a second life in this as Justin Sorensen has hit all 29 extra points attempted and is 14 of 17 in field goals. Wisconsin has not attempted as many field goals (8), but has missed just as many (3).

For a full breakdown of the Wisconsin Badgers click on our own Vanqish the Foe author Nathin Mathis’ post Know the Foe.

The Keys to Watch

When Wisconsin has the ball: Watch for the offense to try and run the ball into, past, through and all around the Cougar Defense. If they can manufacture any success with the run, this will open up the pass against a BYU secondary that will be tested. Look for BYU to try and create stops and pressure with their front seven so that the corners are not left by themselves and in a position to give up long passes. The Badgers receivers are talented and can cause havoc if left open. It will be interesting to see how the Cougars can counter the big strong tight ends that will be used to block and catch against a very physical defense.

When BYU has the ball: Look for the Cougars to let Hill make plays. If the offensive line can give him time to progress through his receivers and set his feet, he could make some plays with his arm. He will be required to make some plays with his feet and the opportunities will be available to him. Though the defense is strong and stout, they can give up yards to a good running quarterback. In September they allowed Ohio State’s Braxton Miller 83 yards after he came off a sprained ankle. Though the offensive line is better at OSU, some wonder if Hill might be the better runner. On the other hand, Chris Borland has no intention of letting the Cougar offense beat them. He missed last week and is anxious to hit the field again. The defense takes pride in their abilities and schemes and will work hard to keep Hill contained and the running backs behind the line. With the aggressiveness of the defense, they may bring up eight or nine into the box and rely on their corners to shut down the Cougar receivers. This should open up the passing game if time is granted to Hill.

Interesting Tidbit

Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen has proven his loyalty to his staff and players on numerous occasions. Anyone that followed him while he was at Utah State can recall the time he spent calling each and every one of his players after he decided to accept the job at Wisconsin. However, many people don’t realize that because of his loyalty to Kyle Wittingham, his friend and fellow coach, he took a step down the ladder in his coaching career in 1994. At the time he was a defensive line coach at Idaho State along with Wittingham. When Wittingham was let go because of personality differences between himself and the head coach, Andersen felt Wittingham was treated unfairly. In taking a stand he went from coaching a Division I-AA college to working at a youth custody program for $12 an hour, while his wife was pregnant with twins. It is hard to find such loyalty in coaching today, and for this we applaud Coach Anderson. To read the full article on this, click here.

Next Meeting

The next game in the series is on September 15th, 2018 at Camp Randall Stadium.

The Broadcasting Details

Time: 1:30 pm MST

Where: Camp Randall Stadium - Madison, WI


Internet: WatchESPN

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

Listen Live via Internet (KSL): Click Here

Radio Links (Wisconsin): Click Here