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What you need to know: BYU vs Connecticut preview

Coming off a dismal performance against Michigan, the Cougars are looking to rebound at home.

Bryant Shirreffs throws a pass against Navy
Bryant Shirreffs throws a pass against Navy
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The History

The BYU Cougars and the Connecticut Huskies have only met once before and that was in the opening game last year.  The result of the game last year was a positive for the Cougars, hopefully the same will be true of the home game this week.

East Hartford, CT 2014 (35-10)

In the first meeting between the schools the Cougars took control early as Taysom Hill put on a show. After receiving the kickoff the Cougars took the first drive 75 yards in 15 plays and scored on a seven yard Hill run. On the Huskies first drive BYU linebacker Jherremya Leuta-Douyere put his helmet into the ball and Max DeLorenzo fumbled the ball to Bronson Kaufusi. With a short field, Hill wasted no time in hitting Mitch Mathews on a pass down the middle for a 26 yard touchdown. Once again the Cougars defense would cause a turnover as Craig Bills picked off Casey Cochran. After another short drive Hill found Adam Hine for a seven yard touchdown, and the first touchdown reception for Hine. After a Cougars turnover late in the second quarter the Huskies found some momentum and scored on a one yard touchdown run with only 2:33 left in the half. BYU didn't let the lack of time hamper them as Hill found Terenn Houk for a 35 yard touchdown and a 28-7 halftime lead.

The second half started off strong for the Huskies as they took the ball and drove down the field into the red zone but a fake field goal failed as the Cougar defense sniffed it out. Another Cougar fumble ended in a field goal for the Huskies but it wouldn't be enough. BYU started their own drive and went 90 yards as Hill scored from 26 yards out to put the finishing touches on the game. Hill ended the game with five touchdowns, two on the ground and three in the air, 308 yards passing on 28/36 passes, and 97 yards rushing in the 35-10 win.

The Outlook

After last week the outlook seems a bit more grim than necessary. The Cougars had a bad game to say the least, however, the schedule eases up a bit as the best teams are behind them. Don't believe for a minute that the Cougars are as bad as they played on Saturday, and that they won't look better in the weeks to come. They are better, and they will improve. Just wait and see.

The Positives

There weren't many that came out of the Michigan game but if one were to stretch a tiny bit, one could point to the poor performance by Tanner Mangum. Now that he has had his poor freshman game of the season, maybe we can get back to watching the accurate and poised Mangum that we fell in love with. Since we are stretching, we can also feel better about the second half defense of the Cougars as they pitched a second half shutout.

The Negatives

The game against Michigan should be chalked up as one of those games that should never be reviewed, re-watched, or ever spoken of again. But since we have to, let's touch on a couple of the low points from Saturday. First and foremost will be the second straight week of the Cougars defense giving up over 200 yards of rushing. Sure the team they played was good, but BYU needs to solidify their rush defense quickly or things could spiral out of control.

Another low point was the offense failing to score and getting just over 100 total offensive yards for the game. 55 passing yards can't, and won't, cut it and 50 yards of rushing didn't help. For the first time in almost 150 games the Cougars failed to score even a field goal. This can either send the Cougars into a spiral similar to last year, or they can use it as motivation to never let it happen again. Stay tuned for Friday as we find out the answer.

The Match-up

The key match-up for this game will be the UConn front seven against the Cougars running game. If the Cougars offensive line can control the line of scrimmage and open a few holes for the running backs, the Huskies defense could have a very long night. A serviceable run game will take pressure off Mangum as he rebounds from a tough outing in Ann Arbor. However, if the Huskies front seven can create havoc in the backfield, prevent the runners from gaining yardage, and disrupting Mangum, then the game could be rough for the Cougar offense.

The Keys to Watch

When the Huskies have the ball:

Watch the Huskies to give the ball to their workhorse running back Ron Johnson over, and over, and over again. In four games he has rushed the ball 55 times, although it is only for 131 yards. When the ball isn't in Johnsons hands watch for UConn quarterback Bryant Shirreffs. On the ground Shirreffs has rushed 38 times for 93 yards, but has been more effective through the air. At 67% passing, and 628 yards through the air, the Huskies have more than doubled the yardage on the ground. Watch for the Huskies to play smash mouth football inside the red zone as they have only two passing touchdowns compared to four rushing.

Watch for the Cougars to make Shirreff beat them through the air. The Cougars defense has been embarrassed in the running game and so expect them to come out and angry and fired up to prove to the home crowd that there is still some run defense left in Provo. Watch for the defense to force UConn into passing situations and then throwing confusing looks at the sophomore quarterback.

When the Cougars have the ball:

Watch for the Cougars to get the backfield back on track as they look to rush the ball more in order to balance out the offense. When not coming from behind the balance will help Mangum find a flow to the game that wasn't present on Saturday. Watch for the Cougars to take a few shots down field but to focus on the shorter and easier passes. As the offense builds back the confidence of Mangum the longer passes will be used more often, opening up the running game for the backfield.

Watch for the Huskies to bump the receivers and to do anything they can within the first five yards in order to disrupt the patterns and the timing of BYU. If the defense can knock the timing off, Mangum will struggle to complete passes, similar to the Cougars performance against Michigan. Watch for UConn to put a spy on Mangum so that he feels just as uncomfortable outside the pocket as they hope he will be in the pocket.

Interesting Tidbit

Because of the Huskies athletic success over the year, the Huskies have a 2,700 square foot museum dedicated to athletics. The Husky Heritage Sports Museum is home to memorabilia from their 12 National Championship teams that cover four sports and the 88 All-Americans in 17 sports. Another feature is the six-screen video wall that gives behind-the-scenes looks at the schools "Winning Moments" in highlights and documentaries. For a full look at the museum you can get the details on the UConn athletic website.

Next Meeting

There is no future scheduling agreement between BYU and UConn at this time.

The Broadcasting Details

Time: 8:15 pm MDT

Where: Lavell Edwards Stadium-Provo, Utah


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

Listen Live via Internet(KSL): Click Here