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What you need to know: BYU vs Savannah State preview

BYU would like to send the seniors out in style as it hosts Savannah State in the last home game of the season.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

The History

The Saturday meeting between the BYU Cougars and Savannah State University Tigers will mark the first (and hopefully last) meeting between the schools. The game was put on the schedule after another school pulled out of a scheduled meeting with BYU. Savannah State is part of the MEAC conference and has lost all but one game over the last two years, and they don't look to be ready to change that on Saturday.

The Outlook

After another solid defensive performance, albeit against UNLV, the Cougars are moving on from their four-game losing streak and are trying to prepare themselves for the last three games of the season. BYU locked up a spot in the Miami Beach Bowl with its win over UNLV last week and is anxious to provide one last game to the seniors in Lavell Edwards Stadium.

The Positives

The offense continues to play well as Christian Stewart again had over 300 yards passing and Paul Lasike ended up with three touchdowns. Even Jordan Leslie got in on the rushing game as he took a backwards pass for a 30 yard rushing touchdown. Stewart once again showed that when needed, and the situation dictates, he can tuck the ball and pick up some yardage on the ground. If the Cougars continue to click on offense, their confidence will allow for the sky to be the limit.

The Negatives

Tackling continues to be a problem for at least a couple of plays each game. Against UNLV it just happened to be on special teams and a 68 yard rush. Missed tackles happen in every game, it just seems to be the same play that multiple Cougar defenders find themselves unable to wrap up. The special teams also managed to muff punts and kickoffs on a number of occasions, giving UNLV precious field position.

The Match-ups

SSU secondary vs BYU receivers

Over the last few weeks, the Cougars have adjusted their game plan and have shown that they are now a pass first, run second team. The receivers are benefiting from this mindset, but have also been part of helping make that transition. Mitch Mathews and Leslie have stepped into their roles and are providing sure-handed targets for Stewart, allowing for more opportunities for themselves and the other receivers.

As if the talent level wasn't tough enough for the Tigers secondary, the Cougars size will wreak havoc as they try to defend guys much taller and bigger. This could really become a problem in the redzone as a jump ball pass will favor the slew of Cougar receivers. If the Tigers secondary is to make any difference, they must knock the receivers off their routes and cause the timing to be off between Stewart and his playmakers.

The Keys to Watch

When the Tigers have the ball:

Watch for the Tigers to slow the game down and try to be methodical in their offense. The Tigers average just under 82 rushing yards per game and 168 passing yards per game. With the lack of offense they will look to minimize the possessions in the game and look to create short and accurate passes in order to move down the field.

Watch for the Cougars to put pressure on the Tigers offense with disguised blitzes and a furious pass rush.  Tino Smith and Leon Prunty have combined for 10 interceptions compared to 6 touchdowns, and are both hovering around the 50% completion percentage. With the BYU defense coming fast, the ball will be even less accurate and should give the secondary some opportunities to make plays.

When the Cougars have the ball:

Watch for Stewart to find his big receivers early, including the tight ends and inside receivers. The Tigers are giving up over 200 yards a game in both rushing and passing but a good portion of the rushing yards is in garbage time as the teams are running out the clock. Watch for the Cougars to have a chance to rest Scott Arellano as the offense shouldn't have much of a challenge as they face an outmanned defense. The biggest question of the game will be who will play quarterback in mop up duty late in the game.

Watch for the Tigers to focus on the pass and try to close the gaps without allowing the receivers to get behind them. The Tigers will try and flush Stewart from the pocket and adjust to the routes on the go. Watch for the blitz early but if it doesn't work, watch for the linebackers to jump back into coverage and provide fewer lanes as they try to pick their poison.

Interesting Tidbit

Savannah State University was originally founded as Georgia State Industrial College for Colored Youth in 1890. In 1932 the school became Georgia State College and then in 1996 the school was granted university status and given the current name.

Next Meeting

There are no future meetings between the schools scheduled at this time.

The Forecast

Game time should bring temperatures in the high 30's to low 40's and a 60% chance of rain/snow.

The Broadcasting Details

Time: 1:00 pm MDT

Where: Lavell Edwards Stadium-Provo, Utah



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