Cougars face a sacking defense

Ryker Mathews

This Saturday, the Cougar offense will face a Spartan defense that is tied for seventh nationally in sacks with an amazing total of 34. The BYU offensive line will face a very active and fast Spartan defensive line that has caused a lot of problems for opponents this past season.

The Cougars aren't expecting the 8-2 San Jose State Spartans to roll over come game time on Saturday.

"They're well coached and their defensive coordinator's good. I think they'll play extra hard," said Coach Doman. "They have good players and they've recruited well. They don't do a lot of different stuff up front, so I think their guys know exactly what to do. I always say that players play fast when they know what to do, and I think their guys know what to do and they're coached well and sound. That makes a big difference for a defense."

"They're a good defensive line and they have good defensive ends that are really good athletes," said Ryker Mathews. "They have around 34 total stacks on the season and one of their players has 11 of them."

That specific player is 6-foot-3-inch, 245-pound defensive end Travis Johnson, the heart and soul of the Spartan defense. He has garnered a lot of national attention as one of eight semifinalists for the 2012 Lott IMPACT trophy.

"He's a really good player and they'll move him from side to side depending on where they are on the field and what their defensive package is," Mathews said. "I mean, they have a good defensive line and they're 8-2 and are really solid. One loss came to Stanford, so it's going to be tough."

SJSU's other loss came against Utah State.

As for Johnson, he is tied for fourth nationally with 11 sacks. He has 17 total tackles for a loss.

"He does a good job and he makes his opponent work and he's big and does a good job," said Coach Doman. "He plays big and does what he needs to do to get the job done, and that's evident by the kind of season he's had."

"I can't say enough about what a phenomenal young man he is," said Spartan head coach Mike MacIntyre about Johnson in a San Jose State press release. "He's the heart and soul of our defense."

But the success of the Spartan defense doesn't hinge upon the performance of a single player. Defensive coordinator Kent Baer is a creative coach who likes to switch up the defensive looks based on the situation.

"As far as their defensive scheme, they like to mix it up a bunch," Mathews said. "They'll run some 3-4 and some 4-3 and will do some zone blitzing and man blitzing, so they'll mix it up quite a bit up front to try and do different things."

"They don't do a lot of stunting and blitzing, but they do those things depending on the situation," said Coach Doman. "They do a combination of the two and do it by just being sound. By what they've been able to do this season, they've been very effective."

The play of San Jose State's defensive line has caught the attention of Cougar quarterback Riley Nelson.

"They're not super big dudes, so they're quick and athletic," said Nelson. "As I looked at it, and the game plan that I watched, I watched their third-down situations, their red zones, and I watched what Utah State did."

The starting Cougar offensive line that played in the Idaho game last week will be the one that faces San Jose State. The line will be counted on to give Nelson enough time by blocking the stunts, accounting for the various blitzes and making sure that Johnson is locked up.

"We feel really good actually," Mathews said. "We're building a lot of momentum and we're getting better as a whole and as individual players as well. We're finally being able to lock down and trust that each other will be there and know exactly what each other are doing on plays. It sounds like a little thing, but it's huge out on the field."

"I hope to do what Utah State did, and that's get the ball out of my hands quickly and not allow them to get into their pass rush moves," said Nelson. "I don't want them to kind of get into a groove where they're feeling the pass rush. And then they bring a lot man blitzes schematically, so it's kind of designed for that, but hopefully I can get the ball out of my hands quick and to our guys out on the edge and in space and they can go make plays."

The Cougars are expecting San Jose State to be fired up for Saturday's game.

"I think it's a big game for them," said Coach Doman. "I do think there will be fans in the stands, and I think they'll be extra motivated to play in this game, and I think our players are extra motivated."

"We're expecting their fan base to help them out," said Mathews. "We do expect their fan base to turn out, but we do expect our fans to show up as well. It will be loud, but I expect the fan base to be pretty even."

Ryker Mathews

Left tackle Ryker Mathews gives his thoughts on the progress of BYU's offensive line. He talks about the trust factor that's improved as the season has worn on, and the advancements in execution in both the run and passing schemes.

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