The Brigham Young Cougars will open the 2012 football season against Washington State. The Cougars from Provo have played the Cougars from Pullman on three other occasions. Never has either team scored less than 36 points, or accumulated less than 350 yards of total offense.
So what does this have to do with BYU’s Armed Forces Bowl game against Tulsa?
Shortly before BYU played Tulsa to close out the 2011 season, the Voice of the Cougars Greg Wrubell detailed the explosive scoring and offensive history of the BYU-Tulsa series between 1984 and 2007. The two teams then proceeded to have their lowest scoring and lowest offensive output against each other since 1971. The game finished a 24-21 decision with just 616 combined yards of total offense (BYU 344, Tulsa 272).
BYU and Washington State first met in the 1981 Holiday Bowl. BYU won 38-36, and the teams combined for 781 yards of total offense (BYU-437, WSU-351). Eight years later, the two cougars met again. This time it was a 46-41 shootout won by Washington State. BYU out gained Washington State, however, 608 to 428, for a combined 1,036 yards of total offense. The third and final meeting came a year later, 1990. BYU staged a furious second half rally to overcome a 29-7 halftime deficit and win 50-36. Although the point total was one less than the 87 scored the year before, the two teams bested the total offense output by 69 yards for 1,105 (BYU-581, WSU-524).
In 2011, the BYU offense averaged 405.7 yards per game and 30.1 points. The Washington State offense averaged 422.5 yards and 29.8 points, and this was without passing wizard Mike Leach as head coach, whose offenses at Texas Tech were very potent.
It looks like the new scoreboards at LaVell Edwards Stadium will be put to the test in their debut. Or will they?
Just as Mr. Wrubell added a caveat, which turned out to be the case, for the 2011 bowl game, this BYU-Washington State showdown offers a caveat of its own. It is the season opener. Despite a 5-2 record, BYU hasn’t scored many points in the seven previous season opening games under head coach Bronco Mendenhall. BYU has averaged just 18.8 points per game. If you remove the 41 points scored against FCS foe Northern Iowa, the only time BYU has scored more than 23 points, that average drops to 14.5 points per game.
The BYU total offense follows the same pattern. For all seven season openers, BYU averages 383 yards per game. Take out the 563 yards in the 2008 opener against Northern Iowa, and that figure sinks to 354.
BYU has limited its opponents to a mere 14.7 points per game, or 14.3 minus Northern Iowa, in the past seven season openers. This will be the first game for Washington State with Leach’s new offense. Introducing a new system against what should be a stingy blue Cougar defense doesn’t bode well for offensive production.
While BYU and Washington State may, otherwise, be prolific offenses this season, don’t be surprised if the game on Thursday is a defensive battle.
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