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What you need to know: BYU vs Wagner preview

Wagner comes into Provo with a 0-6 record and will soon find out how hard it is to play against BYU

Mitch Mathews is one of the large Cougar receivers
Mitch Mathews is one of the large Cougar receivers
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The History

The BYU Cougars will take on the Wagner Seahawks in Provo for the first time in the history of the schools. This game wasn't originally scheduled but when the Cougars rearranged their schedule in order to play the Missouri Tigers later this season, Wagner became the beneficiary. Originally BYU had the UNLV Rebels slated to play this year but that has been moved out and thus the Cougars get the Seahawks and Tigers.

The Outlook

Another fourth quarter come from behind win has given the Cougars fans another boost and more faith in this team. This year the team, and the fans, believe the Cougars will win going into the fourth quarter instead of hoping not to lose in the fourth quarter like they did last year. The Cougars still have plenty to work on, but have made strides with their young players and continue to build for the future.

The Positives

Once again the Cougars showed they can score on long drives and in pressure situations. Although it didn't come down to the final drive this week, it did come down to 21 straight points. This speaks highly of both the offense and  the defense in the 2nd half. In fact, in the final three quarters the Cougars defense only gave up 136 yards to a team that averaged almost 600 yards per game. For the game they kept them to almost half of their yards and gave up 15 points less than the Bearcats average.

The Negatives

The slow starts haven't hurt the Cougars in the last three games, but they will bite them at some point if the team continues the trend. On offense the Cougars had 19 yards in the entire first quarter, while giving up 205. Both sides of the ball need to start quickly and put teams on the defensive early in the game. The double-digit deficits need to stop as the season goes along.

The Match-up

In reality, there is no match-up that will be a key to this game. Wagner is not good any way you look at it. The only match-up that comes close to mattering is how the 3rd/4th string Cougars play against whoever is left in for the Seahawks. Production won't be as much of an issue as live playing time will be. The longer the Cougars can have their backups in the game, the less shell-shocked they will be if needed in the future.

The Keys to Watch

When the Seahawks have the ball:

Watch for the Seahawks to bring in a balanced attack as they average just over 122 rushing yards and 141 yards passing per game.  The Seahawks rely on junior Mathais McKinnon to provide the bulk of the rushing as he has 71 of the teams 206 rushes. He is averaging 4.9 yards per rush and has a total of 345 yards on the year. Others will get some rushing attempts but none have the average or totals to match McKinnon. Sophomore quarterback Alex Thomson leads the passing attack, as well as is second in rushes, but is only completing 53% of his passes. He has 602 yards passing on the year and has thrown five touchdowns to three interceptions. As he drops back his first target will be Andre Yevchinecz who has almost doubled the receptions of the next receiver on the list. Thomson will spread the ball around a bit but seems to feel more comfortable with Andre.

Watch for the Cougars to use the blitz early and often as they look to gain a large lead early so the substitutions can flow freely. Not only will the Cougars be the best defense the 0-6 Seahawks have faced, it should also be the most confusing. BYU will disguise their plays and try to force they young quarterback into quick passes and bad decisions. Facing a less than spectacular offense, they only average 13 points per game, watch for names that you haven't seen before as the defense will get to plug players in and pull players out as they gain experience and playing time.

When the Cougars have the ball:

Watch for BYU to play Mangum sparingly based on his hamstring. If there is no worry with his legs, watch for the Cougars to leave him in a bit longer as they continue to work on the current plays, and possibly open up the playbook a bit and use the time as an extra practice when the lead has been solidified. Look for lots of young players to get in during the second half and take advantage of their time in the spotlight. In this scenario there will be more mistakes made, but it will all be in the name of growth.

Watch for the Seahawks to put up very little fight as they will be mismatched in every possible way. Already giving up 33 points per game and almost 420 yards per game, the defense will be lucky to see BYU punter Jonny Linehan once. If the Cougars do trot out the rugby style punter, it will most likely have been due to a Cougar penalty. The Seahawks can't afford to make any mistakes and so watch for them to play hard but to struggle at stopping the run and the pass.

Interesting Tidbit

In 2012 the Wagner Seahawks claimed the Northeast Conference Championship for the first time in school history. The Seahawks also became the first NEC school to win an FCS playoff game and to finish in the Top 25 of both major FCS polls. Last year Wagner earned a share of the NEC championship for their second one in school history. For more on these and other accomplishments, take a look at the 2015 Wagner Football Guide.

Next Meeting

There is no future meeting planned between the teams at this time.

The Broadcasting Details

Time: 1:00 pm MDT

Where: Lavell Edwards Stadium-Provo, Utah



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

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