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What you need to know: BYU vs Virginia Preview

With revenge on the Cougars' minds, it will be a daunting task for the Virginia Cavaliers to come in to Provo and not be Cougar Bait!

VIrginia visits LES on Saturday for the conclusion of the series.
VIrginia visits LES on Saturday for the conclusion of the series.
Rafael Suanes-USA TODAY Sports

The History

Virginia leads the series 3-1 with wins in 1987 (22-16 in All American bowl), 1999 (45-40 @ #17 BYU), and 2013 (19-16). BYU won in 2000 (38-35 @ Virginia)

Provo, UT 1999

In Virginia's first visit to Provo, #17 BYU lost a shootout by the final score of 45-40. Kevin Feterik went 28-47 for 303 yards but offset his 3 touchdowns with 3 interceptions. The first two interceptions helped put the Cougars into a 21-0 hole in the first quarter. With better play in the in the second quarter, BYU pulled within 28-19 at the half after a Brian Gray pick 6. Less than a minute into the second half, a controversial fumble gave Virginia another touchdown. The controversy involved a pass that was ruled a backwards lateral that was missed and then picked up by Virginia and returned for a touchdown.

The game went down to the final 2 minutes where the Cougars reached the 8 yard line before being called for holding and ending up at the 16. The drive ended in the end zone with the third Feterik interception.

Charlottesville, VA 2000

BYU visited the home of the Cavaliers for the first time in 2000. It took a field goal in overtime for the Cougars to leave with their first and only win against Virginia. For the second straight year, the Cougars fell behind early by a score of 21-0. This time, the Cougars were shut out for the first half and did all their damage in the second. In the process of earning player of the game honors, Bret Engemann completed 34 of 41 passes and racked up 447 yards (318 in the second half) and 2 touchdowns.

Virginia had a chance to win in regulation but missed a 48 yard field goal with 10 seconds left in the game. BYU stepped up in overtime with Tyson Smith picking off a pass and setting the stage for Owen Pochman to hit the 26 yard field goal to win the game. This win also marked the first BYU win against George Welsh who was previously 3-0, including a win while coaching for Navy.

Charlottesville, VA 2013

BYU started the season with high expectations and a trip to a struggling Virginia. The game had a bit of everything --except exciting offense. It was a defensive battle that led to a scoreless first quarter, and many began to question the Go Fast Go Hard offense for BYU. Before the second quarter started, a lightning delay pulled much of the excitement from the game as fans were forced to leave their seats for over two hours. The second quarter finally provided some scoring as BYU took a 7-0 lead on a four yard pass from Taysom Hill to JD Falslev. Virginia would put their only points of the half on the board as time expired with a 53 yard field goal.

The Cavaliers took their first lead of the game after a blocked BYU punt and an 11 yard touchdown pass. Shortly after this, the Cougars botched a snap that Hill recovered in the endzone to give Virginia a 12-7 lead.  BYU would come back in the fourth quarter and go on a 92 yard drive that ended with a one yard touchdown rush for Hill. Justin Sorensen would add a 36 yard field goal to give BYU a 16-12 lead with just over five minutes in the game.  With just over two and a half minutes left in the game the Cavaliers would intercept a tipped pass and run it back to the 13 yard line. One play later, Virginia had the lead and ultimately the game.

The Outlook

BYU fans experienced highs and lows in the home opener for the Cougars and it left them with questions that weren't present previously. Fans again felt that BYU was invincible after the first quarter, but after only 10 points for the rest of the game fans questioned almost everything. BYU did lack a sustained pass rush and the offensive line had some problem with pass protection. The lack of a turnover was disappointing and the defense gave up some unfortunate plays. Facing a much improved Virginia team will require better play all around in order keep the team in the win column.

The Positives

Even with the disappointment in the offense, the Cougars still scored 33 points and had 523 offensive yards. The Cougars once again rushed from more yards than passing as they accumulated 323 yards on the ground. Hill continued to impress with 160 yards on the ground while Jamaal Williams added 139. BYU will need to continue to use the run with the pass so that teams can't focus on one aspect of the offense.

Special teams played quite well for the Cougars as Trevor Samson went 1/1 on field goals and 4/4 on extra points.  Scott Arellano continued to impress as he boomed another punt of 54 yards and dropped one inside the five yard line that led to the Houston safety. BYU continues to miss the end zone on kickoffs but the coverage team has kept the opponents starting field possession right around the 22 yard line, which is better than the 25 a touchback earns.

The Negatives

Penalties again popped up as a troubling trend, as the Cougars finished with 11 for 98 yards. The loss of 98 yards doesn't really tell the story as much more was lost when you factor in the result of the nullified plays. The most obvious example was the five yard penalty for illegal formation that nullified a 32 yard touchdown pass to Devon Blackmon.

Losing the turnover battle usually results in a loss, but the Cougars were able to overcome this as they gave up the ball three times while not forcing a turnover. The first interception looked to not only be low but to be telegraphed. The Houston lineman dropped back to get in the lane instead of continuing to rush, batted the ball up and a teammate intercepted it.

The fumble before the half was a turnover out of aggression. Mitchell Juergens caught the ball down field and was trying to make something happen at the end of the half when he had the ball stripped before going down. In this scenario, logic would have been to step out of bounds to stop the clock. The last interception was a bit high but it appeared that Juergens didn't go up for the ball and the Houston defender went over him and took the ball away. The play may have been different with an aggressive receiver.

The Match-ups

BYU Defensive seven vs Virginia Offensive Line

BYU struggled to get a good pass rush on Houston, and this gave O'Korn plenty of time to find the receivers and scramble around. Granted, the play may have been different if Bronson Kaufusi was available, as he is a strong part of the front seven. Virginia needs to stay in their assignments and not let Greyson Lambert be flushed out into the open. Lambert has not had success under pressure as he has been sacked three times, tossed three interceptions, and has a total of -3 rushing yards. BYU will be trying to get pressure and attempt to rattle the Cavalier offense.

BYU Ball Carriers vs Virginia Defensive line

Both teams played defense quite well in their last game but ended up giving a few plays away. Virginia will need to be on their best game as their defensive line will need to keep pressure on Hill and force him into Happy Feet mode. Hill struggled a bit with the pass last week -- he did complete about 62% of his passes but lost some opportunities when he got moving before the play broke down. Williams and Hill will need to take advantage of any weakness they find in the line and break through to the next level. It would be surprising to see the defense stop the Cougars run game, so that should open it up for the big receivers.

The Keys To Watch

Both teams have played a few games and are looking to keep their success going. BYU will have the advantage of the crowd and the altitude, but Virginia has momentum from knocking off a ranked team. The Cavs would love to do that two weeks in a row.

When BYU has the ball:

When the Cougars have the ball, watch for the Cougars to test the secondary early as they try to widen the gap for the ball carriers. With the size and speed of the receivers, Hill believes that his receivers can match up better than the secondary of Virginia. The initial passes may be shorter as they dink and dunk the ball to build confidence, while throwing in some read runs that should keep the defense honest.

Watch the defense to start with pressure on Hill and seeing how he reacts. Not only will they put pressure on Hill, but they will work to close any holes and gaps that would allow a ball carrier to slip through. In a nutshell, they will need to keep to their assignments with perfection.

When Virginia has the ball:

Watch for the Cavaliers to continue their balanced attack but lean on the pass. They are only averaging 203 passing yards and 130 rushing yards per game. Greyson Lambert is the starting QB but he has struggled, averaging about 125 passing yards a game. Combine that with their top running back Kevin Parks averaging about 57 yards a game and you have a slow offense. They will look to take the throws that are given to them and see if they can mimic Houston in the passing game.

Watch for BYU to do much better on the defensive side as Bronson Kaufusi should be back in the lineup and will cause major disruptions in the passing lanes and in the backfield.  The secondary hasn't lost any confidence and will continue to punish players that come into their areas. Watch for them to be chasing Lambert all day and not giving him significant time to pass.

Interesting tidbit

In 2003, Mike London (fifth-year Virginia head coach) donated bone marrow to his daughter Ticynn who was diagnosed with Fanconi Anemia, a blood disorder that can lead to leukemia. The odds that a parent can be a donor to their own child are 10,000:1. For the full story click here.

Next Meeting

The two schools have another home-and-home series scheduled for 2019 (Charlottesville) and 2020 (Provo).

Weather Forecast:

Game time weather should be in the high 70's with 0% chance of rain.  The wind should be around 6 mph heading NNW.

Broadcast Details:

Time: 1:30 pm MDT

Where: Lavell Edwards Stadium, Provo Utah


Internet: WatchESPN

Radio (BYU): KSL News Radio 102.7 FM & 1160 AM

Internet Listen Live: Click Here

Radio Links (Virginia): Click Here