October 9, 2017 3:33:42 PM
To help you get acquainted with the visiting Cougars, I reached out to BYU beat writer Jared Lloyd with The Daily Herald (Provo) for some insight and he was nice enough to offer his time. Here are his answers to five questions about the team.
1. Even before the recent quarterback injury issues, the BYU offense was one of the worst in the nation. The question I'm sure you're tired of trying to answer, so I apologize in advance: What's wrong with the BYU offense?
The Cougars have not been able to develop any sort of consistency at all. They want to run the ball but haven't opened up holes against good defenses and didn't hold onto the football in the one game they were running effectively. That has put all of the pressure on the quarterbacks and between injuries and ineffectiveness that hasn't worked either. BYU has some pieces but only make a play or two or one drive before mistakes have shut them down.
2. Defensively, BYU is one of the best in the nation at preventing explosive plays. Is playing several teams that don't base their offenses on explosiveness - LSU, Boise State and Wisconsin, for instance - or do the Cougar defense and guys like linebacker Fred Warner deserve a good bit of credit here?
BYU's defense hasn't been horrendous but they've been susceptible to steady drives. They are somewhat undersized in the front seven and so teams have exploited that and held the ball. The Cougar secondary has made some nice plays but have been beat with inside routes.
3. I expected freshman tight end Matt Bushman to get some use in the offense this year, but I didn't expect this much (23 catches for 246 yards, leading the team in both categories). What has BYU done to get him open?
Bushman is athletic and reliable, so he has been one of the few places that the Cougar offense has felt like they could get a mismatch. That has worked to a point, but opponents have quickly started keying in on him and BYU has thrown interceptions because of that. He will keep going across the middle and being willing to mix it up, but he needs a lot more help.
4. Two special teams questions sandwiched into one: Is there a standout reason for why BYU's return units have been so bad this year? And, this is a serious question, is it possible punter Jonny Linehan has been one of BYU's most effective players this year?
As in many other phases of the game, the Cougars simply haven't been able to get everyone on the same page on their returns. There often have been missed blocks and when they do manage to find some space, inevitably there is a penalty that brings things back. As far as Linehan goes, the senior has generally done a decent job (although he had 22-yarder against Boise State that set up a TD). His rugby style often limits opposing returns and he's done well at placing it inside the 20-yard line. He's a weapon in the field position game but it hasn't made much difference this season.
5) One question just for fun: How can a mere mortal learn to pronounce all those impossibly difficult names on BYU's roster?
My recommendation is to spend some time with Polynesians. Many of the most challenging names are individuals with ties to Tonga and Samoa and Hawaii. My general rule of thumb is pronounce every letter and you are at least going to be in the ballpark. I know I rarely get the accent right but the names are fun to say.