In the regular season finale the BYU Cougars will travel to take on the California Bears. The teams have met three times, twice in the regular season and once in the Las Vegas Bowl. BYU and Cal faced off the first time in 1999 in Provo and then in Berkeley in 2001.
Berkeley, CA 2001 (44-16)
Brandon Doman and Luke Staley continued to make defenses look bad as they put up 44 points on the home team. It didn't look good early on as the Bears scored first and shut out the Cougars in the first quarter. After tying up the game the Cougars put up 14 points, including a 53-yard pass from Doman to Brian McDonald as time expired, in the final two minutes of the half to take a 21-7 lead into the half. The Cougars would add three more touchdowns in the third quarter and a field goal in the fourth to round out their scoring. Doman finished the game 16 of 24 with 272 yards passing and three touchdowns. He also rushed for three touchdowns.
Las Vegas, NV 2005 (28-35)
In the first year of the Bronco Mendenhall era, the Cougars went to Vegas to take on the Marshawn Lynch led Bears. Lynch ran all over the Cougars as he finished the game with 194 yards on 24 carries and three touchdowns. Wide Receiver DeSean Jackson added six receptions for 130 yards and two touchdowns. The Cougars never led and the Bears took a 21-14 lead into the half, and extended it to 35-14 before the Cougars attempted a fourth quarter comeback. After a Cougars touchdown in the first minute of the quarter and then a 96 yard drive to pull within seven, an John Beck interception with less than two minutes left in the game sealed the deal for Cal. Beck ended the game 35 of 53 with 353 yards passing, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Beck also led the Cougars in rushing with 42 yards on seven attempts.
An expected thrashing of Savannah State really did nothing but provide an opportunity for back up seniors and young players to step on the field. The game was over early and the Tigers defense was not expected to put up any type of fight. The starters only played a quarter and a half so other than working on some timing the game didn't answer any questions. The game against Cal will be a good measuring stick game for both the offense and defense as they play a better than expected Bears team.
The chance to see some of the future stars for the Cougars was a treat for the fans and coaches. Nate Carter stole the show as he racked up 116 yards and a touchdown. A couple of freshman quarterbacks in McCoy Hill and Hunter Moore found the field and their first taste of College football. If you don't recognize the name Moore, don't feel bad because up until the game he had been the practice team quarterback.
What may be the biggest positive coming out of the game could be the fact that not only did key players have a chance to rest, there weren't any substantial injuries sustained in the game. It has been a while since the Cougars came out of a game without losing a player. This is important going into the game against Cal as the Cougars try to finish strong.
It is hard to find fault in the Cougars after their performance against the Tigers as the starters played an almost flawless game, as they should have. Most of the mistakes were made by young guys on offense and special teams. The knock on the starters would have been the penalties. Four of the seven penalties were on the starters in the first quarter and a half. Penalties are a part of the game but they need to rein them in against better teams or they will continue to cost the team.
Passing Offense vs Passing Defense
With two of the worst passing defenses in the country, look for this to be a tough match-up for both teams. The Bears passing offense is ranked 5th in the country with 341.7 yards per game and 33 touchdowns. Compare that to the Cougars 97th ranked passing defense, allowing 255.2 yards per game and 17 touchdowns and it could get ugly quickly. It isn't much better the other way around as the BYU passing offense is ranked 42nd in the country with 24 touchdowns and 257.4 yards per game and the Cal defense is ranked 125th as they have given up 37 touchdowns and 361.2 yards per game. Both defenses will have their hands full and it could look like a BYU game from the old days in the WAC.
The Keys to Watch
When the Bears have the ball:
Watch for Jared Goff to air it out early. With the Cougars questionable secondary and a strong passing game, the Bears will look to win the game through the air. Goff is completing almost 62% of his passes and has 31 touchdowns compared to six interceptions. When the ball is in the air, look for it to be headed towards a handful of receivers that are play makers. Stephen Anderson leads the team with 631 yards and five touchdowns, but Bryce Treggs leads the team in receptions with 46 and six touchdowns. Four receivers have at least 40 receptions and five receivers have a touchdown of at least 60 yards. Watch for a sprinkle of the run to be involved as Daniel Lasco has almost half the teams carries with 184 and 985 yards rushing.
Watch for the Cougars to experiment with the balance between pressure on Goff and letting the secondary play without extra help. With the concerns in the secondary watch for the Cougars to take a few chances early but if they don't pay off then to drop more guys into coverage and trust the lineman to put pressure without the help of the linebackers. Watch for the Cougars to continue stopping the run in order to allow the secondary to receive a bit of help from the rest of the defense.
When the Cougars have the ball:
Watch for the Cougars to mix in a little Paul Lasike and Algernon Brown into a heavy dose of Christian Stewart passing. The Cougars average 198 yards per game on the ground but will look to win the game through the air. Watch for Stewart to get the ball to Mitch Mathews and Jordan Leslie early and often. The Cougars average just over 257 passing yards per game but look for them to shoot for 350+. Watch for Mathews to get behind the defense a time or two while Leslie uses the short and mid-range passes to pick apart the defense.
Watch for the Bears to bump the Cougar receivers at the line as they try to disrupt the Cougars timing routes, causing Stewart to either throw to a spot the receiver hasn't reached, or adjust mid play and hold the ball longer. Watch for the defensive pass rush to be less effective than desired as the Bears average just over one sack per game, so expect the linebackers to fall back into coverage early in the game.
For BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe the game in Berkeley will be something of a homecoming. The former Cougars safety spent six years on campus coaching the Bears. He spent 1996 as the Defensive Coordinator and then was named head coach for the 1997 season. He spent five years as the head coach before coming back to BYU as the Associate Athletic Director. He coached his Bears in their first two games against the Cougars and finishing 0-2 against is Alma Mater.
The next scheduled meeting between the schools will take place in Provo sometime in 2018.
The Broadcasting Details
Time: 2:30 pm MDT
Where: California Memorial Stadium-Berkeley, CA
TV: PAC-12 Network
Radio(BYU): KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYU Radio-Sirius XM 143
Listen Live via Internet(KSL): Click Here
Radio Links (Cal): Click Here