There is something about Brigham Young Cougars starting quarterback Riley Nelson that makes me think of Ryan Hancock every time I see him. Hancock was the BYU quarterback in 1992—the same year BYU made its first visit to Notre Dame. Almost 20 years later, to the day, BYU will be back in South Bend. Although two decades have passed, the Cougars and the Fighting Irish share similarities with the 1992 counterparts. Does my unexplainable association of Nelson and Hancock mean the 2012 game will resemble the 1992 clash?
BYU enters the game this Saturday with a 4-3 record, which is identical to its won-loss record going into its 1992 game against Notre Dame. Currently, the Fighting Irish are 6-0 and ranked number five in the nation. That’s not too far off from the 4-1-1 record and no. 10 national ranking that Notre Dame brought into the 1992 game (Notre Dame would finish the season 10-1-1 and ranked no. 5).
Pessimistic BYU fans would be pleased to have tomorrow’s game be similar to 20 years ago. The Irish’s incredible defense has many worried that BYU will be shutout. Notre Dame has not allowed an offensive touchdown for 16 straight quarters. BYU scored 16 points in 1992 and had 352 yards of total offense.
Optimistic fans are expecting BYU to play a more competitive game today than the 42-16 loss in 1992. The Cougar D is far superior to 20 years ago. Quarterback Everett Golson is not a Heisman Trophy candidate like Rick Mirer was. There is no Jerome Bettis in the backfield for this Notre Dame team.
After being humbled last week, the BYU defense should perform much better. The big, literally, concern for BYU’s defense will be 6-foot-6 tight end Tyler Eifert. He has 15 receptions for 246 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also has a four inch height advantage on strong safety Daniel Sorensen.
On offense, Riley Nelson needs to know where number 5 Manti Te’o is at all times. Losing track of Te’o could mean losing the rest of the season. One blind side hit could send Nelson back to the injured list for good. Nelson and the rest of the offense need to play as a team. One man won’t be able to do it all on his own. The best strategy is to get the ball in many different players’ hands and get the Notre Dame defense guessing.
The key to the game for BYU is executing. The offense has shown it can move the ball against good defense and score points as long as they execute. This BYU defense is extremely good when everyone is playing assignment sound football. With 22 guys doing their jobs every play, BYU can come out on top.
All-time series: Notre Dame leads 4-2
Last: Notre Dame won 49-23 (2005)
Streak: Notre Dame won 1
KICKOFF: 1:30 (Mountain Time)
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