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Know the Foe: Utah State Q&A with Mountain West Connection

BYU comes out of their second bye week of the season to face rival Utah State. With the rest of the season seemingly hanging on this one game, we spoke with our friends at Mountain West Connection to find out just what BYU needs to do to come away with a “W”.

NCAA Football: Utah State at Brigham Young Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Well everyone, how we feeling after another week off from BYU Football? The win against Boise State gave everyone lots of positive energy heading into last week’s bye, and now we’re ready for the home stretch. This Utah State game is huge for this team, as it will set the tone for the final month of the season. The team is getting healthier too, which is crucial because Utah State is no longer a push-over. To get a feel for this Aggies team, we spoke with Alex Eiden from Mountain West Connection to give us the rundown on what should be another great game in this rivalry.

Vanquish The Foe: Before the season started, Jordan Love was seen as a potential Heisman candidate and first round draft pick. How would you assess his play now that it’s a little over halfway through the season?

Alex Eiden: I think it’s clear to see his 2019 campaign has not lived up the hype it was given over the offseason. He’s still got NFL talent, and early-round talent as well. He’s fallen out of his 1st round projection, but could certainly be a steal in the 2nd or 3rd. The main problem here is that his stats, like the entire offense, aren’t what they were. He lost all of his top receivers from last season, and when last year’s coaching staff left for Texas Tech, it seemed all the explosions and points did too. Love has a great arm and throws beautiful passes, it’s his accuracy that’s a big inconsistency. If he can improve upon that in the second half of the season, his draft stock will rise once again.

NCAA Football: Utah State at Wake Forest
Love has thrown for 1,620 yards this year with 8 TDs and 9 INTs.
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

VTF: Last week the Aggies suffered a pretty big loss to Air Force, 31-7. Is that simply the result of Air Force using the triple option, or are there other factors that show the team under-performed?

Alex: While most will say that USU wasn’t ready for the option, it seems like the Aggie offense was not ready for the Falcons defense either. The Aggies had 14 total rushing yards. 14. That can’t happen, because without a run threat, defenders were ready for Love and the passing attack. Utah State was simply out-done in every aspect of the game last Saturday.

VTF: Siaosi Mariner has far-and-away been Love’s favorite target this year. If BYU can contain Mariner, does Utah State have sufficient help from the other receivers to carry the pass game?

Alex: I’ve been preaching it all year, but getting the tight ends involved would go a long way for the Aggie offense. Caleb Repp and Carson Terrell are both talented receivers and can give Love that last ditch option if Mariner or Thompkins or whoever else isn’t open.

VTF: David Woodward leads the team with 93 tackles, and second place is all the way down at 49. That’s insane! What about his play-style allows him to always be in the middle of it all, and how can BYU neutralize him?

Alex: He’s incredibly intelligent out on the field. He’s the epitome of a “defensive QB.” Combine that with his great athleticism that allows him to get to the ballcarrier quickly and his impressive tackling ability and that’s where you get that huge gap between him and 2nd on the team in tackles. BYU’s best hope is to contain him as much as possible, run plays away from him, send extra blockers, etc. He’s one of the best linebackers in the country because he’s hard to stop, but if the Cougs want to do it, that’s how.

VTF: BYU coaches have yet to name a starting QB for this game, with Jaren Hall returning from a concussion and Baylor Romney playing extremely well in the win against Boise State. Of those two, who do you think would give Utah State the most trouble? Why?

Alex: I think the Aggies are going to have a tough time no matter who BYU decides upon because of the fact that there isn’t a lot of film on either player. Aggies kinda have to come in ready for whatever/whoever comes their way. Against Boise, it seems like BYU wanted to utilize lots of throws to the flat and trick plays to work with an inexperienced QB. They worked extremely well against a good BSU defense, so the Aggies will have to be prepared for some belated Halloween tricks that hopefully don’t turn into BYU treats.

VTF: If I were to say to you, “BYU beat Utah State because 3 players balled-out.” who in your mind are those 3 players?

Alex: The Aggies run defense is their strongest unit, so if BYU can run the ball effectively with someone like Sione Finau, alongside attacking a weaker USU secondary, they’ll have success. As seen in the Air Force game, stopping the Aggie run game can really shut them down, so if a defensive player like Isaiah Kaufusi can make plays at the LOS or in the backfield, Utah State could have some serious problems scoring. Third, it would probably be a Cougar receiver having a big day, someone like Matt Bushman or Dax Milne.

VTF: Predictions?

Alex: It’s hard to say what kind performance Utah State will put on after the season they’ve had. Do they run and gun their way to 40 points? Do they shutdown completely and struggle to get to 20 points? How does the secondary look against what would be a heavily inexperienced QB no matter who gets the start? Since I write FOR Utah State, I’ll go glass-half-full and I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say that the Air Force shellacking was a wake up call. The offense pulls it together, the defense focuses on the run, and the Aggies win a game that will be closer than the final score will indicate.

Utah State 35, BYU 24