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What you need to Know: BYU vs Texas Preview

After an embarrassing defeat last year, don't look for the Longhorns to roll over and give up again this year.

Alani Fua tackles Malcom Brown last year in Provo
Alani Fua tackles Malcom Brown last year in Provo
George Frey

The History

After the beat down by the Cougars last year in Provo, BYU now leads this series with three wins and only one loss.  The first win came in 1987 where the Cougars beat Texas on their home field.  The second took place the following year in Provo.  Texas would win in 2011 before BYU ended up with the win last year.

Provo, UT 1988 (2-0)

In 1988, the Longhorns came in ranked 19th and were looking for some payback.  In this case, the Cougars did not oblige.  The Cougars started off the scoring this time with an 89-yard touchdown pass from Sean Covey to Bryce Doman.  They quickly added an Earl Kauffman field goal to take a 10-0 lead.  Texas finished the scoring of the quarter by converting a field goal.  BYU came out strong in the second quarter as they scored 10 straight points off a 52-yard pass from Covey to Chuck Culter and a 51-yard field goal from Kauffman.  Texas hit another field goal to make the score 20-6 at the half.  The offenses fell stagnant in the 3rd quarter as the only scoring came when Rodney Rice grabbed an interception and ran it back 70 yards for a Cougar touchdown.  Fireworks then took place in the fourth quarter as the Cougars scored 21 straight points with a Fred Whittingham 20-yard rush, a 20-yard pass from Ty Detmer to Cutler, and then an Eric Mortensen 17-yard run.  With a missed extra point on the Mortensen score, the Cougars ended up winning 47-6.  Covey finished the game 14-38 with 2 touchdowns, an interception and 323 yards.

Austin, TX 2011 (2-1)

In 2011, BYU made another trip back to Texas in the first of the current three game series.  Texas was ranked 21st at the time.  The Cougars led early with two Justin Sorensen field goals, one from 30 yards and the other from 33-yards.  With 11:41 left in the second quarter, Ross Apo caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Jake Heaps to increase the lead to 13-0.  With less than two minutes to go before halftime the Longhorns drove down and kicked a 23-yard field goal to get on the board.  The Texas offense started to pick up in the second half and finished off their first drive with a 1-yard touchdown rush by Cody Johnson.  The Cougars managed another field goal later in the quarter, but that would finish their scoring.  With 8:46 left in the game, Johnson punched in the final score of the game on a 4-yard rush.  The Cougars had two more opportunities, but one ended in a punt and the other in an interception.  Jake Heaps ended with a QB efficiency of 98.49 and the Cougars could only muster 43 total yards on the ground.

Provo, UT 2013 (3-1)

With the 15th ranked Longhorns paying Provo a visit, nobody was prepared for what would happen next. The two hour deluge and lightning delay became a premonition of how the game would go for the Texas fans, many wishing they could have left soon after the first quarter. Many look at this game as the end of the Mack Brown era as it ultimately cost him his job after the season.  In fact, the Cougars offense did so much on that night that the Texas defensive coordinator was fired the next day.  Texas held the lead 7-3 with just under three minutes left, but Taysom Hill ran a text book read option and took the ball 68 yards for the lead.  Texas would respond with a touchdown of their own giving them a 14-10 lead early in the second quarter.  BYU would respond with three straight scoring drives to lead (Hill 20-yard rush, Paul Lasike 10-yard rush, 32-yard Sorenson field goal) 27-14 at the half.  Hill would score another touchdown on the Cougars first drive of the half as he rushed in from 26 yards out, followed by a Texas touchdown from David Ash to Mike Davis.  With two Cougar field goals to end the scoring, the 40-21 beating was over.  BYU ended with 679 yards total offense, 550 of them being rushing yards and a new BYU rushing record.  Hill led all rushers with his 259 yards and Jamaal Williams added 182. Want a further look at the game day experience? Look at the experience beyond the game.

The Outlook

After one week, we don't know much more than we did previously, but we at least have some educated guesses.  One thing we do know is that Hill is still a beast and has no intention of regressing in any way, shape, or form.  It is hard to say much more than that based on the competition that the Cougars faced.

The Positives

One of the key positives that came from the game against UConn is the fact that the BYU offense recorded zero false start penalties.  You read that right, zero...none...zilch. After a year filled with false start penalties, the Cougars have hopefully turned the page on that chapter.

The Cougars also showed a balanced attack against the Huskies.  Hill passed for 308 yards while going 28-36 and three touchdowns.  As a team the Cougars had 37 rushing attempts and 205 yards, 97 of them coming from Hill.  Not only did the Cougars balance the offense, they involved everyone.  Nine different players recorded a reception and six players recorded a carry.  The running scheme will change when Williams returns as he will receive the majority of carries.

The Negatives

The most glaring negative from the game last week is the penalties.  BYU ended up with 15 penalties for 150 yards, which is simply unacceptable.  A number of these penalties were of the personal foul or unsportsmanlike conduct variety and are correctable.  Some of these can be chalked up to opening game emotions while others are just penalties of aggression.  If these types of penalties can be cleaned up this week, without resulting in a lack of emotion, the offense will extend a few more drives.

Another area that needs to be cleaned up quickly is the special teams.  Short kickoffs, a missed field goal, and giving up yardage can't continue if the Cougars are going to beat the better teams.  Bronco Mendenhall mentioned that Andrew Mikkelsen will help cure the ailment of short kickoffs, but he did not mention when we will see him in action.  The missed field goal could be a concern, but we will have to wait to see if it becomes a pattern.  The positive in the kicking game was the 5/5 on PAT attempts, as ugly as some might have been.

The Match-ups

Taysom Hill vs. Entire Texas Defense

Last year the Texas defense was embarrassed and destroyed by Hill.  This year the Longhorns are looking to erase that memory from their minds and have had the game circled all year.  Based on the assessment of the North Texas game, they are well on their way to redeeming themselves.  Giving up 15 yards passing and 79 yards rushing is quite an accomplishment, regardless of the opponent.  Hill will be looking to exploit them once again but will need to do so against a group that has been reinvigorated under Coach Strong.  The defense will need to defend the pass and the run this game so it won't be an easy task, but it will be a fun one to watch.

Texas Offensive Line vs BYU Front Seven

Sophomore Tyrone Swoopes is taking over for junior quarterback David Ash, who will miss the game due to injury. As such the line will play a big part in trying to give Swoopes time to get comfortable and make his decisions.  This job became a bit more difficult when senior center Dominic Espinosa went down with an ankle injury. It was announced Sunday that it was a broken ankle so he will be out for the game, leaving the line with a new center for Saturday.  Along with the injury the school announced on Wednesday that two other offensive lineman were suspended for the BYU game.  If this is the case, the Longhorns will be forcing their offensive line to jump feet first into the fire as their most seasoned lineman will be Sedrick Flowers who has two starts under his belt, with one being last week.   BYU hopes to exploit any weaknesses the offensive line shows, and will do so with a front seven intent on disrupting opposing offenses.  With the probability of the Cougars starting secondary returning to full strength on Saturday, you might see the front seven take a few more chances in the blitzing game.

The Keys to Watch

When Texas has the ball:

Watch for the Longhorns to use their 1-2 punch at running back to set up the pass.  Behind senior running back Malcom Brown and junior running back Johnathan Gray, Texas hopes that they can draw the run defense in as they open up space for senior receiver John Harris. If Harris can create separation, Swoopes will have a target that can help replace Davis.  Swoopes has very little game experience, and appears to have a few accuracy issues.  He can run the ball, but there are some questions regarding his decision making, which is to be expected with a young quarterback.  Watch for BYU to test the Longhorns line forcing the running backs and tight ends to stay in and block more than Texas would like as they test the new center and the new quarterback.  If the Cougar defense can create pressure on Swoopes, forcing him into bad decisions and turnovers, the Longhorns may become one-dimensional in a game where they need to be firing on all cylinders.

When BYU has the ball:

Watch for the Cougars to once again balance out the offense.  With Williams back from suspension, the Cougars will draw more attention to the rush than last week.  Don't expect Hill to have anything close to his rushing performance last year, but look for him to pick his opportunities carefully.  Watch for the Cougars to target their big receivers early, forcing the linebackers into coverage and opening up holes for the BYU ball carriers.  Watch for Texas to come out of the gate trying to keep Hill in the pocket.  An impressive passing game against UConn shouldn't change their game plan in the early going, as they know what Hill can do with his legs.  They will look to force the Cougars to win through the air, but will be willing to make adjustments throughout the game.

Interesting Tidbit

The University of Texas is still one of the schools that use a live mascot for the football program.  Currently the Longhorns are on Bevo number 14.  Bevo was first introduced into the rivalry game in 1916 against Texas A&M on Thanksgiving day.  There are a number of stories about how they got the name but the most famous, and untrue, account can be found here.

Next Meeting

The Cougars and Longhorns have not scheduled any future meetings between the football programs as the current contract has been fulfilled.

Weather Forecast:

Temperature in the mid 90's with a 20% chance of rain.  Winds should be less than 10 mph.

The Broadcasting Details

Time: 5:30 pm MDT

Where: Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, TX.

TV: Fox Sports 1

Radio(BYU): KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYU Radio-Sirius XM 143

Listen Live via Internet(KSL): Click Here

Radio Links (Texas): Click Here