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Friday, September 7, 2012

Game Preview: BYU Needs to Focus on Health and Improvement Against Weber State

The Brigham Young Cougars (1-0) go from playing a WSU in game one to playing another WSU in game two. As a Football Championship Subdivision team, the Weber State Wildcats (0-1) aren’t expected to put up more of a fight than the Washington State Cougars did.

Weber State is coming off a 37-10 loss to Fresno State. For a FBS vs. FCS match up, that score doesn’t sound so bad. However, in that game, the Wildcats’ pass defense was terrible. The Fresno State starting quarterback completed 20 of 25 passes (80%) for 298 yards. Weber State also gave up 217 yards rushing.

Not much is expected of Weber State this season. The Wildcats were 5-6 last year, and return experienced players at several key positions, but two coaching changes during the offseason left the program in disarray. Ron McBride retired at the end of 2011. He was replaced by John L. Smith. Between spring and fall, Smith was whisked away by Arkansas following the Bobby Petrino motorcycle accident scandal. Jody Sears, a Washington State graduate, finally ended up as Weber State’s head coach for 2012.

On offense, passing is Weber State’s strength, at this point. Quarterback Mike Hoke was able to pass for 202 yards on 25 of 32 passes against Fresno State. He passed for over 2,000 yards last year. Hoke was also the team’s leading rusher in game one with 34 yards on 12 carries, including a 21-yard run. As a team, Weber State had just 67 yards on 29 carries.

It looks like the BYU defense will hold one more opponent to less than 100 yards rushing. If it happens, it would be the 40th time since Bronco Mendenhall became head coach in 2005. BYU’s record when holding opponents to less than 100 yards rushing is 35-4 (89.7%).

BYU may not be expecting a challenge, but they come into this game with several goals in mind. Following the Washington State game, quarterback Riley Nelson said the team was still hungry. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall had a laundry list of improvement he wants to see from his team.

"Team wise we can clean up some special teams a little bit," Mendnehall said. "We had a long kick return against us. We need to fit our lanes a little bit better. Our punt protection on one particular punt could have been shored up. PAT and field goal protection, even though none were blocked, I thought that could have been improved. Blue zone scoring offensively, in terms of scoring touchdowns rather than field goals could be improved. We missed a field goal and then a couple of times defensively our guys didn’t plaster or didn’t stay on their receivers well enough as the quarterback had extra time to scrambling around and gave up a couple of longer throws that way. Those are just some random things that came to mind."

Then again, Weber State will probably play their best game of the season. There are 29 players from the state of Utah and nine from Hawaii. Many of them probably grew up dreaming of playing for BYU. Others were teammates in high school with BYU players, like Hoke and BYU tight end Kaneakua Friel. In this respect, playing Weber State won’t be the same as playing Idaho State last year. The Wildcats will be spirited.

Weber State may put up a fight for a quarter, but there is no reason to expect this to be close. There is a reason these players did not end up with the same offer from BYU as their former teammates. There is a reason the Polynesians from Hawaii didn’t end up at any number of Pac-12 schools.

BYU will prevail. The keys for this game aren’t so much about what it will take to win, but what needs to happen to make the rest of 2012 the best it can be: stay healthy, make improvements.

All-time Series: BYU leads 2-0
Last: BYU won 48-3 (1979)
Streak: BYU won 2

KICKOFF: 1 PM (Mountain Time)
TV: BYU TV
RADIO: KSL 1160 AM, 102.7 FM, Sirius XM 143, www.ksl.com

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

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