This is the second of three straight weeks where the Brigham Young Cougars will be in the national spotlight of a weeknight game on ESPN. The exposure is good, and hopefully it will also be positive. To get that positive exposure, the offense needs to start pulling its weight. In this week’s Five Things to Watch For, I am mostly concerned, as I think all Cougar fans are, with the offense. The first four questions tie into each other pretty well, as each is dependent on the others. The last is about a player I'm particularly excited to watch on defense.
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1. Riley Nelson or Taysom Hill?
There is still no official word as to who Friday night’s starting quarterback will be. Brandon Doman said the team would likely make a decision by today, but would not announce that decision until game time.
After seeing the lack of throwing attempts and passing yards, a lot of people questioned why James Lark didn’t get put into last week’s game against Boise State, and why he isn’t in the discussion to start this week’s game.
Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall answered some of these questions following Monday’s practice. “The reason that Taysom is getting the majority of the snaps is it allows us to train, because he and Riley are similar in style, so it allows us to keep the game plan alive for Riley,” he said. “And if he can’t, it’s not that big of jump to get to Taysom. By style, that’s how it’s working.”
So it looks like the Cougars will be sticking to a more versatile style quarterback either way, which leads me to my next question.
2. Whoever plays at QB, will they throw the ball?
Between the two quarterbacks last week, the Cougars completed only eight passes for 61 yards. They only had 19 passing attempts the entire game, making them very one dimensional.
The running game was also bad last week, but a lot of it was because the defense knew what was coming. For the overall offense to start looking better, the passing needs to improve. Which, once again, leads me to my next question.
3. Will the offensive line show up?
Two weeks ago, the offensive line let the Utah defense into the backfield over and over again. To make matters worse, they kept jumping the snap count. Last week, while they fixed the problem of false starts, they still let the opposing defense into the backfield. For the quarterbacks to have success and to throw the ball effectively, which will lead to running backs getting positive yards, the offensive line needs to show up. If they do, BYU could have its best offensive showing of the season.
4. How many points can the offense score against a weak Hawaii defense?
BYU’s past two games have been against pretty solid defenses. Boise State held Michigan State to only 17 points and Utah’s defense is anchored by a projected No. 1 NFL draft pick. Now, the Cougars have the opportunity to play against a defense that isn’t so strong, and should be able to flex their muscles a little bit. If not, there might be more worries on offense than we thought.
Hawaii gave up 49 points to USC and 69 to Nevada, showing that its defense is subpar. Don’t let the Warriors’ 54-2 victory over Lamar fool you; Lamar is only a mediocre FCS team. This is a great opportunity for BYU to fix the things they have been struggling with, maybe experiment a little bit, and get the offense back on track.
5. Mendenhall announced that Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah is the injured Eathyn Manumaleuna’s replacement. What will he do with the opportunity?
By now, most people are familiar with Ansah’s story. He didn’t know how to play football before he came to BYU, and now a few Boise State running backs and linemen, who are nursing bumps and bruises, are wishing he never would have learned how.
The man is an animal of an athlete. Now that he is getting the game down, is he a potential star on the football field? It will be interesting to watch his development the rest of the season. He could provide a very nice 1-2 punch with Kyle Van Noy.
I fully expect the Cougars to win this game on Friday. What I am worried about is how they use this game to fix their problems. If they don’t, their next four games (Utah State, Oregon State, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech) could be ugly.