Against Virginia, Cougar quarterback Taysom Hill threw for just 175 yards. That number dropped a bit against Texas the following week, with Hill passing for only 129 yards. However, Hill ran for 259 yards against Texas, nearly breaking Eldon Fortie’s record of 272 yards set in 1962. Hill now has a large rushing target on his back, and with that being the case, teams will be forced to stack the box.
"Yeah, for sure," said Hill. "I mentioned earlier when you stack the box, when you bring your safeties down, you play cover-one and man-to-man outside. Like we saw against Texas, if you make one guy miss it turns into a big play. Our guys are pretty good up front and they're playing pretty well."
The Cougar receivers need to become more involved in the passing game. In order for BYU's offense to become more balanced and formidable, BYU's offense has to get back to what it's known for: passing the ball. That aspect of a new offense is generally the last part to take shape, as it is a little more difficult to develop, but it has become an emphasis over the past two weeks.
"Utah will have to tackle well, and if they don't, we'll have some big plays," said Hill. "If our run game doesn't work, I like our one-on-ones with guys like Mitch [Mathews] and Cody [Hoffman] on the outside. So, we'll continue to get better in the passing game and more efficient, and I'm confident if it comes down to that we can be successful."
Utah plays a 4-3 defense. Three inside linebackers that have rotated throughout the season man the middle of Utah's defense. Starting will be 6-foot-1-inch, 230-pound Jared Norris, followed with a rotation of 5-foot-11-inch, 225-pound V.J. Fehoko and 6-foot, 250-pound L.T. Filiaga. The Ute linebacker corps hasn't been as stout as in recent years. The star of Utah's linebacking corps has been roving outside linebacker Trevor Reilly, who has often been used to blitz offenses from the outside.
"I think we will have an opportunity to expose them in the passing game because the running game has been so good," said Hill. "As you mentioned, we rushed for 550 yards against Texas, and, man, if you rush for that many yards you're not going to lose a football game. So, I think we're going to have options in the passing game because of that. Linebackers will be so worried about the run game that we should have matchups and windows that we can throw through to catch."
Against Utah, Utah State rushed for 173 yards and averaged 4.4 yards per carry. Meanwhile, Weber State rushed for only 122 yards on 43 attempts. Oregon State only managed 48 rushing yards, averaging 1.7 yards per carry. Utah stacked the box and forced Beaver quarterback Sean Manning to pass the ball, which he did very successfully. The same game plan more than likely will be put in place against Hill and the BYU offense.
"Well, one, I think their defense is good because they play really hard," said Hill. "They run to the ball. Schematically, they run a lot of cover-one on the outside, so their corners are out on an island like Virginia. They'll have one safety high that will be reading my eyes, helping those guys deep. Other than that I expect to see them play a lot of cover-one. We saw them playing cover-two against Oregon State. I expect to see cover-one and have somebody in the box for me as a QB spy. Their ends will crash and play hard, so that's kind of what I'm looking at."
Stacking the box
Against Oregon State, Utah played a mix of cover-one (man coverage) and cover-two with the safeties helping over the top. Utah switched to that coverage after having shut down the Beaver ground game. With BYU's ability to run the ball, Utah will more than likely play a cover-one or man coverage in order to stack the box to defend against BYU's ground game and force Hill to beat them with his arm.
"Yeah, it's incredible," Hill said when asked what the BYU offense will look like when the passing game matches its running capability. "And if you load the box, well cool, because like I mentioned we've got guys like Cody that can win on the outside. If we start and continue to do that, I don't know how you can stop it."
Beating cover one
Beating a man-to-man defense pits the offense’s receivers up against the defense’s cornerbacks. The two starting cornerbacks for Utah will be Davion Orphey, whom BYU recruited, and Keith McGill. Oregon State passed for 443 yards on 45 attempts against the Utah secondary.
"I like playing against cover-one for the reasons that I mentioned before," Hill said. "I trust Cody and I trust Skyler [Ridley] and I think those guys are really good and I think they can win. We saw against Texas if you make one guy miss it can turn into a big play. I like it for that reason, but it's something that I don't dwell on. I'm going to do everything I can and we'll do everything we can to win against this defense."
With teams now seeing BYU's running ability, there has been an emphasis the past few weeks on polishing up the passing game in preparation for Utah.
"I would say there has, and, again, we're not going to change anything that we done in the past unless they start to stop it," Hill said. "We're going to worry about being our best selves and executing before we start to change everything up."
Battle of brothers
Utah is coming off a 51-48 to 51 overtime loss to Oregon State last week. BYU middle linebacker Uani Unga was wearing his BYU gear at Rice Eccles Stadium to cheer on his former Beaver teammates. Also at the game was BYU safety Drew Reilly, who is the younger brother of Utah outside linebacker Trevor Reilly.
"It was funny because I was talking to Drew the other day," said Hill with a laugh. "He said he went to the Utah vs. Oregon State game last Saturday, and I asked him if he wore a Utah shirt to support his brother and he said no."
So what did Drew wear to the game?
"I don't know," Hill said with a smile. "Just as long as it wasn't a Utah shirt, I'm okay.
"Drew bleeds blue. So, he wants to win this game just as bad as I do and just as bad as everybody else."
Hill's three keys to victory
Hill’s three keys to a BYU victory this weekend are: “Controlling the line of scrimmage, no turnovers. I think controlling the line of scrimmage will allow us to run the ball effectively. And I think in this game I'll have to throw for 250 yards at least. I think they'll load the box and force us to do that, and I think we'll be able to do it."