The Brigham Young Cougars play the Idaho Vandals Saturday night in Provo. Whether you are watching the game bundled up in the stands or on television in the comfort of your own home, here are 5 things to watch for, even if the score gets out of hand.
1. Craig Bills and the Cougar defense.
With the news that broke late yesterday that free safety Joe Sampson is no longer with the team, the burden of making the calls on defense falls on Craig Bills. The BYU defense has been phenomenal this year, but that may change with Sampson out. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall has said several times that the most important position in his defense is the free safety. He makes the calls and ensures everyone is in the right position.
If the BYU defense is going to finish the year as one of the best in school history, then Bills must play well. The defense also has to keep focused. They can’t let the loss of Sampson and linebacker Zac Stout distract them.
Bills has considerable playing experience. As a freshman in 2009, Bills played in every game. He made 23 tackles and intercepted two passes. He returned from a two-year church mission this year, and has seen action in every game. Thus far, Bills has 22 tackles and one pass breakup. He wears number 20.
2. The 1,000 yards club.
Wide receiver Cody Hoffman and running back Jamaal Williams have the potential to finish this season with 1,000 yards receiving and rushing. Hoffman needs to average 78 yards receiving in each of the final four games to get to 1,000. Williams needs to average 121 yards rushing. Hoffman could afford a “bad” game, but Williams can’t. If he doesn’t get close to the 121 mark against Idaho, then any chance of a 1,000 yard season is probably out the window.
Last year, Hoffman had 6 receptions for 114 yards against Idaho. He has had over 78 yards receiving in five games this season.
BYU punter Riley Stephenson is having a fantastic season. He is no. 4 in the nation in punting average (46.9). Poor weather conditions are expected for the game. That could hurt Stephenson’s punting average. BYU shouldn’t have to punt a lot, but just one or two short punts, and his lofty national ranking could drop significantly.
4. The Class of 2010.
Stout was one of the biggest names in the ballyhooed 2010 recruiting class. In fact, Stout was at Iggy’s Sports Bar for the press conference orchestrated by Jake Heaps to announce that he, Stout, and wide receiver Ross Apo were going to play for BYU. Now Stout and Heaps are gone. Many others of the class of 2010 have already been busts.
How will the others respond to this news? Apo is the biggest name. He has struggled this season. Will he rise to the occasion and have a breakout game? Jordan Johnson (starting cornerback), Bronson Kaufusi (backup defensive lineman), and Alani Fua (backup linebacker) are all members of the class of 2010 who have seen regular playing time this season.
5. The Seniors.
It is Senior Night for BYU. This is the final home game for the seniors. Will any of them have standout games? Last year against New Mexico State, Matt Marshall and Matthew Edwards scored their first career touchdowns in their final home games. Several other seniors made big plays.
Here is a list of the seniors playing their final home game:
Note: Mike Hague and Eathyn Manumaleuna were injured earlier this season and are seeking medical redshirts.