Cougars face tough Spartan passing offense

Preston Hadley

The Cougars will hit the road this week and head to the warmer weather of California to take on the Spartans of San Jose State. The Spartan offense has solidified its identity under third-year coach Mike MacIntyre, who has led the fourth-best turnaround record-wise in Spartan history.

San Jose State offense is a heavy pass-oriented scheme. When an offense looks to pass a lot, there is a need for speed to attack defensive secondaries, and that's exactly what the Spartans have on the offensive side of the ball.

"We've got to match them. We've got to match their level of intensity and their level of emotion and anything they bring to the game," BYU cornerback Preston Hadley said.

The Cougar secondary will have to match up against three players with more than 1,000 career receiving yards. One is 5-foot-11-inch, 175-pound junior receiver Noel Grigsby, who back in 2010 was selected as a second-team freshman All-American by Phil Steele.

"[Grigsby is] number 23 and he's a good receiver that's coming back, and he moves around a bit," Hadley said. "I remember going up against him last year. So, I just have to prepare."

The next player with more than 1,000 career receiving yards is 6-foot-6-inch, 245-pound senior tight end Ryan Otten. Otten is listed on the John Mackey Award midseason watch list for the second season in a row and is a Spartan team captain.

"You know, it was a year ago [since we last faced SJSU] and so we have to touch up on some things," Hadley said. "I know they have a new quarterback but they have the same tight end, who is a good tight end. They have a really good receiver too who's coming back."

The third player with more than 1,000 career receiving yards is 5-foot-11-inch, 174-pound junior receiver Chandler Jones, who was second on the team last year in receiving with 61 catches for 566 yards.

"They've got a good offense. I mean, they've got some good players that can play," said Hadley. "They really like to throw the ball and I think they're ranked eighth or ninth in passing [nationally], so as a DB your eyes really light up and you're licking your chops, you know. We're up to the challenge as always."

For the first time since 1991, San Jose State's offense has racked up four games with more than 500 yards of total offense. The Spartans racked up 571 yards against Texas State, 568 yards against Colorado State, 505 yards against New Mexico State and 503 against U.C. Davis.

"I think first we have to, as in any game, stop the run," Hadley said. "Then after we do that we have to get after the quarterback and force them into some third-and-long situations and start to dictate what they're doing. We have to win our one-on-one battles and execute."

Last week the Cougar secondary replaced both Jordan Johnson and Joe Sampson for the Idaho game. But while Sampson is no longer with the team, Johnson is back from his one-game suspension.

"It stinks that we couldn't have those guys out there and it definitely was a different feel, but the show's got to go on," Hadley said. "I think the guys that filled in for them stepped up. Robbie [Buckner] had one [interception], probably could have had two.

"But, yeah I think guys really stepped up. You know, Craig [Bills], he played a lot of plays and we're running pretty thin at safety, so I thought Craig really stepped up and made some plays when he was out there."

The Cougar secondary is looking forward to facing a more potent spread passing scheme.

"They like to spread you out with a lot of two-by-two formations," Hadley said. "They like to throw it and are very similar to what Idaho was last week. They have a lot of combination routes and will do some quick throws to the boundary. It's nothing that we haven't seen. They'll spread you out and then they'll run a lot of 12 and 21 personnel."

Twelve personnel refers to when the offense lines up one tight end and two running backs, whereas 21 personnel refers to two tight ends and one running back.

"They like to use the tight end and then gash you with the run," said Hadley. "Then they'll try and set you up with the play action, but mainly they like to go with the spread offense. Like I said, it's a lot like the offense of Idaho."

Playing a similar type of offense as the week before should help the Cougar defense.

"It definitely helps," Hadley said. "You know, playing Idaho last week, I think we're definitely further ahead right now by playing last week against Idaho. I think San Jose State is going to be better than Idaho. The speed will be a little bit different and they've got faster guys, so we'll have to adjust to those things."

The Spartans are currently bowl eligible with a record of 8-2, suffering a 20-17 loss to a ranked Stanford team on the road and a 49-27 loss to Utah State. Hadley gave caution to anyone who might write the Spartans off as a real threat.

"I don't think any fans have seen them on film, so I think we'll be the ones to decide how good they are," he said. "It's a big game and I know [San Jose State is] pretty fired up."

How would Hadley know the emotional state of San Jose State's team heading into the contest with BYU? Well, he played with a few of the Spartans' players.

"It will be fun, you know," Hadley said. "They've got some guys over there that I played with up at Snow, so I'm looking forward to playing against a couple Utah County guys."

The guys Hadley spoke of are 6-foot-5-inch, 260-pound defensive end David Tuitupou and his 6-foot-4-inch, 246-pound tight end brother Peter. Both Tuitupou brothers played football at Orem High School, followed by a stop at Snow College. While David played at BYU before transferring to SJSU, Peter transferred to SJSU from the University of Utah.

"Man, they're goofballs," said Hadley with a laugh in his voice. "They're big boys and they're big and athletic. You know, Dave was here early in his career, so he's going to be trying to bring his best game. It will be fun and I've been looking forward to this for a long time. We've been talking. It's going to be a reunion. It will be fun."

Hadley's three keys to victory

"Well, the three keys to victory are like what Coach Mendenhall says. First, we have to stop the run to make them one-dimensional. We expect San Jose State to throw the ball a lot, but we have to make sure we don't give them an extra dimension to work with. We have to dictate to them.

"The second thing is we have to take care of the ball both on offense and defense. We can't turn the ball over on offense and we have to make sure we hold them in check in the passing game on defense.

"The last thing is we have to play hard and play with a lot of emotion. We have to match their intensity with our intensity. We have to match their emotion with our emotion and execute our game plan. If we do those things, we'll be fine I think."

Coach Howell

BYU secondary coach Nick Howell talks about the challenges his secondary will face on the field against the passing attack of San Jose State. He also addresses other questions concerning special teams.

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