Welcome to the all new segment “This Week the Trend” Where I will be breaking down our teams focuses and trends they will need to be successful in the upcoming match up. This week as everyone knows, we got the BYU Cougars.
Last season BYU had a 10 win season going 10-3. This was at first a really intimidating fact until I looked at their schedule. With that said they did beat some teams we could not, pretty handily in fact. I believe this year is completely different for both squads so we wont be focusing on years past, we are going to look at the spring and fall camps and draw up some keys to victory for Washington State.
What BYU brings:
BYU has a much more explosive running game than Wazzu. This is mainly attributed to their experienced and solid offensive line. They pick up blitzes, they run block well and these big boys can get down the field in a hurry. Any running back that lines up behind these guys will have a fair amount of success.
Another thing the Blue Cougars bring is leadership and experience, starting with their senior QB, Riley Nelson. The last 11 senior starting signal callers for BYU have put together a 117-23-2 record since 1977, a winning percentage of .831. That’s an average of almost 11 wins per season.
Last, I would like to mention how efficient BYU has been during their recent season openers. With Bronco Mendenhall at the helm, the Cougars have won five straight season openers and are looking for a sixth. All but one of those season-opening victories have been over a BCS program, including the last three over BCS teams. BYU has been one of the most prepared teams in the nation when it comes down to week one.
Basics and Execution.
Of course, there will be hiccups in anyone’s season opener but this year we have no room for Washington State to lose sight of basics. As Coach Leach and staff have been stressing we have to focus on the Cougars in crimson over the ones wearing blue this week. Undoubtedly the biggest challenge will be stopping BYU’s running game. Fortunately the way to stop the run is by focusing on basics, wrapping up on tackles, sticking to assignments and getting off blocks. This is what the Wazzu defense has been focusing on all fall camp. The biggest concern to me is the linebacker core which has lost a lot from last year, the positive here is our defense has nowhere to go but up, also there has been significant promise with the new linebackers picking up the slack. Like I said, focus on basics and being in position and we have a good chance to slow down their offense.
Our offense will take care of itself, the new air raid will be exciting to watch and hopefully will be picked up well by our team. Basics, run the play, read the defense, move the ball and get into the end zone, don’t get stuck in the red zone settling for field goals and turnovers.
Last but not least, we need to win the field position game. Special teams. The kickoff team needs to contain the big returns, same with punts and we have to avoid penalties on kickoff returns. We need to avoid mental mistakes on punts to have a shot at this one, this means no trying to catch a punt with 5 people around on the 10 yard line, win field position, keep all possessions that they give to us.
These two teams match up really well, in fact they both have over 12 different preseason watchlists that both teams have players on. So whoever executes better in this game should come out with a narrow victory. This is a game where coaching could be the difference between a win and loss. How appropriate for a year themed around a legendary coach in his first year. Good luck to Leach and staff and Go Cougs!