After what was deemed the end of the BYU football season when the Cougars lost to USF, BYU has completely turned their season around with two stellar wins against Boise State and Utah State. In the latter, BYU looked unstoppable on offense, exploiting USU’s weaknesses and racking up 42 points and 639 yards. The defense did their part as well, with 5 forced turnovers and a second half shutout. Now, we look ahead to Liberty, a team BYU has never faced on the gridiron. To get a feel as to what we might expect with this game, we spoke with Jon Manson from A Sea of Red.
Vanquish The Foe: Liberty comes into this game 6-3. How has the team performed in regards to the pre-season expectations surrounding them?
Jon Manson: It’s probably right on par with what most fans expected. The Syracuse game was a little disappointing because we should have competed better with them. We left points in the board in the first quarter that could have made the game to be decided in the 4th quarter. The Rutgers game was also disappointing, but other than those two the team has took care of business in the games they have been favored. At least one more win in the final three games to become bowl eligible while not getting embarrassed at BYU or Virginia will finish out a successful first season under Hugh Freeze.
VTF: We all have heard about Buckshot Calvert and Liberty’s strong passing game, but could you elaborate just a bit on what makes it so effective?
Jon: He has a cannon for an arm and lots of weapons. Antonio Gandy-Golden is an NFL WR, but there have been games where Buckshot has had 9 receivers catch a pass. Liberty frequently uses a quick, up-tempo attack which makes it difficult for the defense to get set up.
VTF: What is the strength of the Flames’ defense? Who are 3 guys BYU should be aware of and why?
Jon: I’m not sure there’s really a strength of the defense. Our pass rush has been better than anticipated led by senior DE Jessie Lemonier. The secondary has been solid, but there have been times our linebackers have been overwhelmed. One thing that is concerning in this game is Rutgers was able to line up and just run the ball down our throats and we couldn’t do anything to stop that. With BYU’s size advantage up front, the same could happen Saturday.
VTF: What can BYU do on offense to take advantage of the weaknesses in Liberty’s defense?
Jon: Like I mentioned above, if BYU is able to line up and over power us with a strong run game we may not have an answer for it.
VTF: Antonio Gandy-Golden is an absolute monster at wide receiver. Does BYU have any chance of slowing him down? What could they do to try to limit him?
Jon: Most teams have had to double or even triple team him. Many games, Calvert has targeted AGG a ton in the first quarter, defenses adjust, and then Buckshot finds other targets. AGG is fun to watch though, I hope the BYU faithful get a chance to witness his ability. It seems most games he has at least one play where the opposing team’s fans just have their jaw drop. Go look up some of his highlight videos, definitely an exciting player.
VTF: What must BYU do on defense to make Calvert uncomfortable and force him into making mistakes?
Jon: Get pressure on him. If he has all day to throw, he will be able to pick up big chunks of yardage. Syracuse did an excellent job of pressuring him early and getting him rattled. That hasn’t really been much of an issue since then though.
Jon: I expect a very competitive game decided in the 4th quarter. I’ll go BYU 38, Liberty 27.