COMMENTARY — I cannot move on to this week’s BYU Homecoming game vs. Georgia Tech until I do a little recap of the Cougars’ 31-14 demolition of the Utah State Aggies last Saturday.
Although BYU did not fair so well against Utah earlier this season, the Cougars sure had their way with in-state rival Utah State on the Aggies’ home field. I believe that beating Utah State was a bigger accomplishment for BYU than if they would have beat Utah. First, Utah is a known doormat team in the Pac-12 and has very little national respect again this season. Utah State, on the other hand, was on everyone’s radar for being a potential Top 25 team throughout 2013. Either way you look at it, BYU at least split the in-state games. With Utah State still wanting to keep the in-state rivalry game a priority, the win means more moving forward as well.
BYU’s defense again came to work and showed Utah State why they struggled against the Cougars last year. Kyle Van Noy took pressure off the Cougars early as he in intercepted Chuckie Keeton on Utah State’s first pass attempt of the game for a defensive touchdown. Bronco Mendenhall’s defense unintentionally knocked Keeton out of the game late in the first quarter with a knee injury. This was very sad to see as Keeton is one of the most talented QB’s in the western US.
I believe the game would have been a little closer and would have been more fun to if Keeton hadn’t gotten hurt. In fact, if it was not for a Taysom Hill fumble on the 15-yard line (setting up a USU score), it would have been almost a complete shutout of the Aggies’ great offense for the second year in a row.
Utah State only put up 397 total yards in the game and that was not enough to stay with BYU. Players like Van Noy, Uani Unga, Daniel Sorenson, and Robertson Daniel led the defensive statistics. It was a great game plan and was followed through by the Cougars. BYU’s defense was complimented with a very solid performance by the well-rounded offense this week. I would sound like a broken record to go on and on about this solid BYU defense again, but suffice it to say they were outstanding.
The Cougars offense showed much better balance between pass and run last week and this was due to Hill answering any questions about his throwing mechanics. After the first September in a long time with no passing touchdowns at BYU, Hill finally started throwing for some TDs. When the passing game works, it enables offensive coordinator Robert Anae to spread the ball around and put opposing defenses in really tough spots.
Hill looked much improved and seems to be coming along very nicely in his passing game. He also showed much more coolness and patience and seems to be relaxing a bit in the pocket. This was a career-high day for Hill with 278 yards through the air and should be very exciting to all BYU fans. If he can continue to build on this last game, he will be a very dynamic QB with an arm to back up those wheels of his. All-totaled, the Cougars racked up 438 total yards of offense against USU.
The standout of the BYU receiving corps this week was sophomore Mitch Mathews, who racked up 112 yards and three touchdowns.
It was also nice to see Jamaal Williams back in action and at full recovery from his injury a couple of weeks ago during the Utah game. Early on vs. the Aggies, he busted the Cougars out of a sticky spot for a 44-yard run that set up a Hill TD pass to Mathews. The BYU ground game had solid performances from Williams (14 carries for 82 yards), Algernon Brown (16-47) and Paul Lasike (8-34).
As for this week, Georgia Tech is in Provo to try and get revenge for last year’s big Cougars win. In 2012, BYU absolutely beat up on Georgia Tech 41-17 on the Yellow Jackets’ home field. No doubt, GTU will be fired up for this one.
Georgia Tech lost last week to No. 13 Miami 45-30, but gave the Hurricanes a serious fight for much of the game. The Yellow Jackets are 3-2 with a couple of really close losses to Virginia Tech and Miami. This 2013 season, head coach Paul Johnson, in his 17th year, picked up his 150th career win. He would like nothing more than to get out of Provo with this one. BYU leads the series between these two historic teams 2-1.
Much of last year’s Yellow Jacket team is back, just like BYU. One of the standout players to watch for on Georgia Tech is running back David Simms, who is running very well again this season with a 4.9 yards per carry average and six TDs. The Yellow Jackets are ranked seventh nationally rushing the ball, while BYU is ranked 13th. QB Vad Lee throws just enough (about 15 pass attempts a game) to keep defenses honest. His favorite targets are DeAndre Smelter, who averages 16.8 yards per catch and Robert Godhigh, who averages 19.4 yards per catch, though he has just receptions this year. Lee is also an elusive QB like Hill and BYU’s defense will have to keep control of him.
But one thing that the Cougars will have to deal with is the old-fashioned wing-T option offense. The Yellow Jackets are one of just a handful of teams left in college football still running the option and that makes them tough to prepare for. The wing-T is somewhat antiquated in today’s spread-happy football nation. But the reason it never died is that when it’s run well, it’s still very difficult to stop.
Also, keep an eye on Jackets senior defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu, who is a beast on the outside and is among Georgia Tech’s all-time career sackers. BYU’s O-line needs to shut him down and keep him away from Hill. Using Attaochu’s tendency to rip up the field on the pass rush against him (think screens and draw plays) would be wise.
Both teams have Top 25-ranked defenses. GTU is currently ranked 20th and BYU’s D is ranked 24th nationally. I see BYU still having the edge, especially once you look at the level of competition each team has faced thus far in 2013.
Vegas oddsmakers have BYU as a 7-point favorite in this weekend’s match-up. I see Georgia Tech coming into Provo much more prepared than it was last season. The Cougar defense should be able to slow this Yellow Jacket offense down to a crawl. Also, I believe BYU’s offense is now hitting its stride, healthy, with much more balance between pass and run. This should make the game a display again to the nation that BYU can compete with anyone.
Saturday is Homecoming in Provo and there will be a lot of festivities and high emotions. Hopefully the Cougars can focus on football and get this big win. The game is Saturday at 5 p.m. and can be seen on ESPNU and heard on 890-KDXU AM.
Scott Young is a sports columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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