Saturday will be the first meeting between the BYU Cougars and the West Virginia Mountaineers. The Mountaineers started playing football in 1891 and have won close to 60 percent of their football games in that time span. This game also marks the first time that BYU will play at FedExField, the home of the Washington Redskins.
Once again the Cougars defense played a tremendous game only to be overshadowed by the lack of an offensive punch. As long as the defense continues to carry the team, the Cougars will be in most of their games. However, if the defense can't maintain their momentum then the team will be in a very precarious position.
Hands down the positive of the last game, and the season, has to be the BYU defense. Keeping UCLA and their quality offense to 17 points is quite the feat. The defense played rough, fast, and didn't let the Bruins offense dictate the game. Leading the defensive onslaught was none other than Butch Pau'u. He dazzled the crowd with 19 total tackles, 11 of them being solo. Although they had their moments of struggle, the defense held up and kept the Cougars in a game that the offense wanted to give away.
Once again dropped passes and inaccurate throws haunted the BYU offense. It is hard for a team to move the ball when it keeps getting tipped, dropped, or thrown so far off target that there has to be a miscommunication. Continued drops on third down brought the kicking team out early and often and helped the Cougars to only two first downs in the entire first half. Something has to change if BYU wants to win, and it needs to happen soon.
The BYU red-zone defense vs the West Virginia red-zone offense:
One key match-up will be how the teams play in the red-zone. Currently, the Mountaineers have struggled inside the twenty as they have only scored a touchdown once in seven attempts. This could be a key to the game as the BYU defense has been able to limit big plays. If the Cougars can force shorter plays by the West Virginia offense, the odds will be in the Cougars favor.
The Keys to Watch
When the Mountaineers have the ball:
Watch for senior quarterback Skyler Howard to lead the offense of the Mountaineers. He is currently the only quarterback that has thrown a pass this year for West Virginia and has played with some rib soreness. The Mountaineers did have a bye week so he could be coming into the game at full strength. Watch for senior running back Rushel Shell to compliment Howard with the running game, although he hasn't played a full game this year. He was injured in the first game and then wasn't needed as much in their easy win over Youngstown State. Howard has a couple of receivers in Daikiel Shorts and Shelton Gibson who will look to outplay the Cougars secondary. Currently, the two have more than two-thirds of the receiving yards for the Mountaineers and look to add to that number.
Watch for the Cougars to play physical and pound the ball handlers. This Cougars defense has shown a tendency to hit hard and hit often, possibly causing problems with offensive players that may not be at 100 percent. The secondary has played well enough to give the front seven some leeway in putting pressure on the quarterback, so watch for a few risks to be taken by the Cougars coaching staff.
When the Cougars have the ball:
Watch for the Cougars to address some of their offensive issues by catching the ball. The receivers have had a bad three games when it comes to catching passes and they know this play can't continue. The fault doesn't lie on the receivers alone but if they can make the easy catches and toss in the occasional hard catch, this offense would be much more successful driving the field. Watch for Taysom Hill to take what is given to him and not force the play as much. If the receivers can get on the same page as their quarterback, look for the offense to score a few more points against a weaker defense than the Cougars have faced the last two weeks.
Watch for the Mountaineers to put the pressure on the offensive line to protect their quarterback. After watching game tape from the UCLA game the West Virginia defense has to be chomping at the bit to go after Hill. Hill spent much of the game trying to escape the defense and when he did get time his passes ended up off target. Watch for the defense to leave their secondary to fend for themselves as the Cougars have yet to show a deep threat. The lack of a vertical passing game will mean that the struggling offensive line will be facing 6, 7, or even 8 men in the box until Hill and his receivers can connect and force the Mountaineers to play the pass.
One of the Mountaineers most treasured traditions is the singing of the John Denver song "Take Me Home, Country Roads" at every pregame show and after every win at home. The song has been sung at their home stadium by John Denver himself and has been played at every home game since 1972.
There is no future meeting scheduled between the schools at this time.
The Broadcasting Details
Time: 1:30 pm MT
Where: FedExField-Lancaster, Maryland
Radio(BYU): KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYU Radio-Sirius XM 143
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