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Friday, October 7, 2011

Game Preview: BYU Trying For A Homecoming Spectacular

The Brigham Young Cougars take on the San Jose State Spartans in the Cougars’ annual Homecoming game. BYU is coming off its second double-digit, fourth quarter comeback win of the season. San Jose State is coming off its second consecutive win.

With its second win of the season last week, San Jose State has doubled its win total from a year ago. Those wins haven’t come against overly impressive opponents (New Mexico State and Colorado State), but the combined win-loss record of these two opponents is much better than they have been the last few years (5-5).

Offensively, the Spartans have a solid quarterback. Matt Faulkner has completed 60% of his passes for 864 yards and a pass efficiency rating of 127.9. Running back Brandon Rutley has been the catalyst to the Spartans wins. He had 209 yards rushing against New Mexico State, and 131 yards against Colorado State. For the season, he has 519 yards rushing and a 5.7 yard per carry average.

Rutley is a constant threat to break a long one. He had a 65- yard run against UCLA, and a 66-yard run against New Mexico State. However, he hurt his ankle against Colorado State and is questionable for the game Saturday. Should he play, his explosiveness will be greatly diminished.

Defensively, San Jose State returns all 11 starters from a year ago. That one year of experience doesn’t seem to have helped. The Spartan defense is yielding 408.8 yards per game. No opponent has had less than 373 yards. Opponents are scoring 31.2 point per game (24.75 if you take out Stanford’s 57).

BYU’s normal preparations were modified a little this week. The coaches shifted some attention from preparing for the opponent to deciding who should start at quarterback. It sounds like the quarterback reps have been split 50/50 between Jake Heaps and Riley Nelson. Under normal circumstances, that might be a concern, but some people would say the offense can’t get much worse at this point.

Often, the games against the tough teams are used to measure where the team is at. San Jose State is not a tough team, but it is still a good measuring stick game. A spectacular win will ease some concerns about how severe the early season struggles and inconsistencies were. Another tough battle and the question marks will remain.

Things to watch for:
  1. Will the quarterback situation be settled? Whether Bronco Mendenhall is being genuine or just tactful, he is giving no signs that the quarterback situation is stable. As we all saw last year, that is not healthy for a team.
  2. Can the Cougar defense revive itself? The first two games of the year, the BYU defense allowed 497 yards of total offense (208 at Ole Miss, 289 at Texas). The last three weeks the defense has given up 481 yards to Utah, 399 yards to UCF, and 406 yards to Utah State (428.7 average yards per game). It would be nice to see the defense return to allowing less than 300 yards.
  3. Will Matt Putnam contribute? BYU received good news this week that defensive end Matt Putnam is eligible again. He has been conditioning with the team the last few weeks. In 2010, Putnam recorded 29 tackles, 4 tackles-for-a-loss, 2 sacks, 7 pass breakups, and 2 quarterback hurries. Having not played the first five games, he could prove very valuable at the end of the year with fresher legs and a less beat up body than everyone else.
  4. Does BYU get a break? The first five games of the season was a very hard way to start the season. Will this game finally be a break for BYU? Or, will SJSU be really psyched up because they are playing the team with the big ESPN contract, the team that was getting all the Big XII attention, and the team that has been vulnerable? Will the BYU offense continue to be out of sync?
All-time series: San Jose State leads 9-5
Last: BYU won 46-43 (1998)
Streak: BYU won 2

KICKOFF: 8:15 PM (MDT)
TV: ESPNU
RADIO: KSL 1160 AM, 102.7 FM, http://www.ksl.com/

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

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