There are several components to a football game. One is physical. Another is psychological. Another is situational. I wonder how we are positioned on all three. First, the physical aspects of this game are not good. We have lost key players in the first five games, and, while their replacements are not without considerable attributes, none were the team's first choice. Add to that the effects of playing at altitude against an up tempo offense. Having just returned from hiking in the Rockies, I can attest to the reality of "altitude " on one's physical capability.
As for the psychological components, we are coming off two consecutive losses to teams we could have (should have?) beaten. Where once resided the euphoria of confidence, now lives the weight of doubt. Were we really as good as the 3-0 record felt? How did ECU score 55 points on Carolina the week after we struggled to get 28? What happened to our lead in Miami? These are the things that create hesitation for us and opportunity for BYU.
Lastly, the situation is awful. We are coming off a road game in Miami on a tropical afternoon at sea level. We will be playing in Provo after a four hour flight. While it's an afternoon game, the kickoff will be at night in the Eastern time zone. It takes a couple days to adjust to the time change. Will our players still have their legs late in this game? What will be the pre-game regimen?
I bet CPJ and the staff have considered every one of these issues. They are not the the ones we should worry about. I worry whether we will be able to run the ball better this year than last. Is Vad Lee enough better a passer than Tevin Washington to make BYU respect our ability to, and willingness to, throw the ball down field. Do we deserve that respect? Will our offensive line be able to open gaps for our backs to gain 3-5 yards instead of 1 or 2? Will we be able to convert third downs consistently? Can we avoid the mistakes that hurt us in the last two games?
On defense, will we be able to slow down BYU's run oriented attack that recently seems able to throw the ball? Will our defense be able to pressure their QB enough to make them look for short passes we can cover?
These are the questions. How about some answers. Taysom Hill is hitting less than 50% of his passes this year. Most recently, he had a good games against Middle Tennessee State and Utah State, both victories, but neither team is as good defensively as I hope we are. That said, he is perhaps a better ball carrier than passer. We cannot allow him to have lots of time to find receivers, nor can we fail to contain him. His last two games he has 450 yards passing and he ran for 165 yards against Middle Tennessee. We have to be aware that BYU can move the ball on the ground as well as passing. They have gradually shifted their focus from a run first offense to a more balanced, but pass oriented, offense in recent games. And, we have to respect Jamaal Williams. They run the option out of a pistol formation at times that can be difficult to defend. Fortunately, our defense has seen this a lot in practice.
On offense, we will be facing a defensive line that is not as good as the 2013 team which kept us off the field. That said, we need to execute better than we did for three quarters in Miami and for the entire game against VPI. I am concerned that the B-Back dive is not gaining the yards we need and this is the play BYU stopped so successfully last year. If Vad has any chance to be effective passing, this play has to be a legitimate threat. And he has to answer the question many of us are beginning to ask: Is he really better than Tevin?
So, my summary is this. BYU has not played anyone as good as Georgia Tech. I know, you will remind me they beat Texas. Isn't it possible the Longhorns are better than us? Maybe not. BYU also lost to Virginia, and we know the Cavs are in the midst of a very down year. I certainly hope we are better than Virginia. But, on the other hand, who have we beaten? We swept the state of North Carolina, then lost to VPI in a game where we really did not compete very well. Last week we we probably could have won had we made one or two plays and kicked an extra point. And, both of the games we lost were to teams much better than BYU. Aren't they both in the Top 25? OK, I agree, UNC is terrible. But we beat them. Right?
For us to win in Provo, we need to contain Hill and not let him run free on pass plays, plus we have to defend their option attack. On offense we have to hit the dive consistently for more than four yards. We have to catch the ball when thrown and convert in the red zone. And we have to do these things for four quarters. BYU is not a better team, but they could beat us by simply playing a better game. Hopefully our guys are prepared to prevent that. If not, we could be wishing for the basketball season far earlier than we want.