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What you need to know about BYU-Virginia.

On Saturday BYU faces Virginia in their season openers. Take a look at the series history, the match-ups and the keys to watch in the fourth meeting between the schools.

Cougars Prepare
Cougars Prepare
George Frey

The History

Virginia leads the series 2-1 with wins in 1987 (22-16 in All American bowl), 1999 (45-40 @ #17 BYU) BYU won in 2000 (38-35 @ Virginia)

All American Bowl 1987 (0-1)

BYU faced Virginia for the first time in the 1987 All American Bowl.  In front of 37,000 fans and with temperatures in the 40's, the Cougars could never quite make the plays to win the game.  With two missed field goals, a dropped touchdown pass, and a tipped 4th down pass inside the 2 yard line, the team failed to capitalize on their opportunities.  David Miles had 188 yards in receptions while Sean Covey completed 37 of his 61 pass attempts with 394 yards in the 22-16 loss.

Provo, Ut 1999 (0-2)

In Virginia's first visit to Provo, #17 BYU lost a shootout.  Kevin Feterick went 28-47 for 303 yards but offset his 3 touchdowns with 3 interceptions.  The first two interceptions helped put the Cougars into a 21-0 hole in the first quarter.  With better play in the second quarter, BYU pulled within 28-19 at the half after a Brian Gray pick 6.  Less than a minute into the second half a controversial fumble gave Virginia another touchdown.  The controversy involved a pass that was ruled a backwards lateral that was missed and then picked up by Virginia and returned for a touchdown.   The game went down to the final 2 minutes where the Cougars reached the 8 yard line before being called for holding and ending up at the 16.  The drive ended in the end zone with the 3rd Feterick interception. The final score, 45-40, Virginia's win.

Charlottesville, VA 2000 (1-2)

BYU visited the home of the Cavaliers for the first time in 2000.  For the second straight year the Cougars fell behind early by a score of 21-0.  This time the Cougars were shut out for the first half and did all their damage in the second.  In the process of earning player of the game honors, Bret Engemann completed 34 of 41 passes and racked up 447 yards (318 in the 2nd half) and 2 touchdowns.  Virginia had a chance to win in regulation but missed a 48 yard field goal with 10 seconds left in the game.  BYU stepped up in overtime with Tyson Smith picking off a pass and setting the stage for Owen Pochman to hit the 26 yard field goal to win the game.  It took a field goal in overtime for the Cougars to leave with their first and only win against Virginia. This win also marked the first BYU win against George Welsh who was previously 3-0, including a win while coaching for Navy.

The Outlook

This game features two teams that are coming of disappointing seasons in 2012.  Both teams are looking at improvement on the offensive side of the ball and are looking to build momentum in the face of daunting schedules.

The Cougars excelled on the defensive side of the ball but couldn't capitalize with an ineffective offense.  In the 5 losses on the year, only once did the Cougars score more than 21 points.  The defense still kept them in these games as 4 of the 5 losses were by a combined 13 points.

Virginia ended the season 4-8 with a heartbreaking loss to their rival in the last game of their season.  Earlier in the year the Cavaliers endured a six game losing streak and were consistently inconsistent.  They boasted wins against Penn State, NC State, and Miami but gave up games against Louisiana Tech, Duke and Wake Forest.

The Match-ups

QB/Receivers vs. the Secondary

One of the key match-ups that can't be ignored will be the quarterback and receivers versus the secondary.  When BYU has the ball we will be watching an inexperienced quarterback in Taysom Hill try to execute a new offense that is set to wear down the defense, but may leave the offense susceptible to unnecessary mistakes.  He will be facing a very aggressive defense in style and a talented and veteran secondary.  The secondary is anchored by a talented cornerback in Demetrious Nicholson.  He is listed as a pre-season All-ACC second teamer by Phil Steele.  He tied for the ACC lead in pass breakups with 15 and recorded 56 tackles in 2012.  With the strength of the defense being the Cavaliers secondary, the talented cougar receivers will be tested and will need to run crisp and accurate routes in order to give Hill a chance.

When the Cavalier offense is on the field, they will be facing a depleted Cougar secondary.  The injury bug hit the cornerbacks hard during the offseason and for the sake of depth the defensive staff had to move over receiver Michael Davis to the cornerback position.  Coach Nick Howell vows to have his secondary prepared for the season but until we have seen them in a game, we can only take the word of the coach.  The Cavalier wide receivers are talented but inconsistent.  The quarterback play of David Watford could be a big part of this but for this offense to succeed the receivers and tight ends must step up.

Offensive Line vs. Defensive Line

Both teams will require excellent play from their offensive lines to compensate for the lack of experience from their quarterbacks.  Both teams also have questions about the effectiveness of the men up front.  For both defenses this is good because without seeing more from either team, both defensive lines are considered average until they prove themselves.

The defensive front for the Cougars is anchored by the two-sport star Bronson Kaufusi and Senior Eathyn Manumaleuna.  After losing Ziggy Ansah to the NFL, Kaufusi will play a much bigger role and will need to step up.  If the front line can put constant pressure on the quarterback, this will allow the secondary a chance to grow into their roles.

The Cavaliers have a veteran in Jake Snyder who will be looked to for leadership.  He has started all but one games in the last two seasons and can be a solid anchor for this group.  The group has talent but they will have to excel in order to meet expectations.  Last year the team ranked 90th in sacks and the top pass rusher is no longer on the team, as he was deemed ineligible in January.  The line may hold against the rush, but the question is how they will improve against pass.

The Keys To Watch

Most season openers involve questions that surround both teams.  This particular match-up takes it to the extreme.  Both coaching staffs have been through major changes and are implementing new styles of football.  Both offenses are looking at playing up to expectations while the defenses are trying to replace key loses.

When BYU has the ball we can expect the Cougars to speed up the pace of the game and take advantage of mismatches.  One goal should be to match up the tight ends with a group of linebackers that were less than stellar in 2012.  If the offensive line can open holes for the running backs, this will take away the strength of the Cavalier front line, allowing Hill valuable time to find his targets.  Cody Hoffman should draw a double team so the other receivers need to take advantage and get open.

When the ball is in the hands of the Cavaliers, expect the Cougars front line to try and disrupt by pressuring the quarterback and giving the secondary time to adjust.  The talented linebackers should cause havoc with both the run game and the pass game so expect to hear their names mentioned often.  If the Cougars can't put pressure on Watford, expect to hear the name Taquan "Smoke" Mizzell.  He is the stellar running back that also bolsters the special teams by returning kicks and punts.  Keep an eye on the talented group of receivers that are led by junior Darius Jennings.  Jennings led the team with 568 yards and had 5 touchdown catches.

Interesting tidbit

In 2003 Mike London (Head Coach, 4th season) donated bone marrow to his daughter Ticynn who was diagnosed with Fanconi Anemia, a blood disorder that can lead to leukemia.  The odds that a parent can be a donor to their own child are ten thousand to one.  For the full story click here.

Next Meeting

The next time these two teams will meet is scheduled at LaVell Edwards Stadium on September 20th, 2014.

The Broadcasting Details

Time: 1:30 pm MDT

Where: Scott Stadium- Charlottesville, VA


Internet: WatchESPN

Radio (BYU): KSL News Radio 102.7 FM & 1160 AM

Internet Listen Live (KSL): Click Here

Radio Links (Virginia): Click Here