The BYU-TCU Breakdown

Aaron Wagner

No Cougar fan can forget BYU's game against TCU last season. There was the blowout that wasn't, the drive to force overtime, the quick strike in OT, the botched extra point, and, of course, the fumble at the goal line. This Thursday, the Cougar team and fans alike can exorcise those demons with a win over 15th ranked Horned Frogs.

The Cougars have their hands full in their conference opener with TCU. For starters, the Horned Frog offense is tied for 1st in the nation in fourth down and red zone conversion (both 100%) and has a passing efficiency of 142.8, which ranks TCU 3rd in the conference and 29th nationally. TCU also averages 31.2 yards per kick returns, which ranks 1st in the MWC and 3rd in the nation. The Cougars will need the same kind of kick coverage performance they had against Boston College, who is also among the best in the country in kickoff returns.

However in some more important categories that favor BYU the Horned Frogs don't look as impressive. The Horned frog offense is ranked 6th in the MWC in 3rd down conversions, 7th in the conference and 82nd in the nation in passing yardage (174.4 yards per game), and 9th MWC in the penalty category with an average of 85.3 yards of infractions per game.

"Right now they're a solid team, having the longest winning streak in the nation," said senior insider linebacker Aaron Wagner. "Right now as a team we've broken down that they're probably the weakest up front. They have a bunch of new guys on their O-line and they're probably the weakest link. On the other hand, they have probably the best skilled guys we've played against so far, so they're still going to be a tough match up for us, but we have a lot of confidence in ourselves.

"They're a fast offense with number 23 [running back Aaron Brown] running around. When he gets outside he's pretty dangerous. Their quarterback [Jeff Ballard] may not be a phenomenal athlete but he's a winner. He just knows how to win games, and from what I've seen he really takes care of the football really well. Whenever he gets a lot of pressure on him, he's able to scramble or get rid of the ball well when he needs to instead of just trying to force something or take a sack for a loss. He's a smart kid, and that's why he's winning games."

On defense, TCU has held opponents to 37 yards rushing per game, ranking them 1st in the MWC and 3rd in the nation. The defense is also ranked first in the MWC in scoring defense.

"They fly around and are hard hitters," said tight end Dan Coats. "Every time you see a play, it's a big hit by somebody, so we know they tackle well. They are an aggressive defense much like our defense is."

TCU's D-line with defensive ends Chase Ortiz (9.5 career sacks), Tommy Blake (14 career sacks) and Jamison Newby (5.5 career sacks) will pose a real challenge for BYU, especially on passing downs. BYU has been preparing well for the Horned Frog attack in regards to their pass rush.

"Up front they have a strong pass rush," said quarterback John Beck. "One thing they do well is they get their hands up if they can't get a good rush on the quarterback. I've seen them have a lot of batted balls and we had a couple happen to us when we played them last year. It's just kind of something where a defensive lineman can't make a play and drops back, settles and jumps for the ball. This is something our O-linemen have been working on."

During the short week, BYU is placing a lot of emphasis on preparing the O-line for the TCU D-line's stunts and twists.

"Another thing they also do a lot of is twists which can sometimes be tricky if you're not prepared for them," said Beck. "Coach Grimes spends countless hours with our O-linemen preparing them for that, and it's amazing to see our linemen come out week after week being able to block different kinds of rushing schemes. I know our coaches have been working a lot with them on stunts and twists."

The Horned Frogs run a similar defense to that of Tulsa, and also run a similar zone blitz to that of Boston College.

"They have two middle linebackers coming back who I think are good run support guys," said Beck. "Their secondary guys have two freshman guys out there, but I don't think they would be out there if they weren't talented. However, the experience isn't there. They have two of their free safeties back but the new one did have playing time last year. They do have guys that were here last year that made a lot of plays. I think they're very fast in their secondary and their experienced with their safeties, but they lack some experience with their cornerbacks. Of their front six they have four returning guys."

Like Tulsa, against whom BYU racked up 467 yards of total offense, TCU also plays man coverage on the outside.

"We definitely like man coverage on the outside," Beck said. "We have some very skilled guys on the outside in our offense that I feel comfortable throwing to. We have guys that can make plays, and if they want to man up in single coverage against our guys, I'm confident our guys will win."

"Yeah, they do a lot of man coverage on the outside," smiled Coats. "This definitely favors us because if you man up on our guys, it's probably not what you should do."

Against two defenses that play man coverage on receivers like TCU, the Cougars passed for 596 yards and rushed for 342 more. BYU passed for 356 yards and rushed for 115 against 23rd ranked Boston College's defense. The Cougars also passed for 240 yards and rushed for 227 yards against the Tulsa defense.

TCU runs a 4-2-5 defense that is similar to the 4-3-4 run by Boston College. The defense is fairly simple and the Cougars have seen it before. They hope that familiarity breeds success.

"There are some similarities with Tulsa," Beck said. "It really depends on the down and distance. They might bring in an extra linebacker or a nickel guy. They do some things that's kind of their own. The good thing is that we played them last year and have some good game film that was prepared for us.

The Horned Frogs beat an average Baylor team 17-7. Baylor had more first downs (24 to TCU's 16), passed for more yards (286 to TCU's 233), but rushed for fewer yards than TCU (47 to TCU's 98). Baylor's offense is similar to BYU's, although the Bears do not have BYU's power running attack. Against the Horned Frog defense, Texas Tech rushed for 38 yards on 15 attempts and passed for 204 yards to the Horned Frog's 102.

"Over the last three games, they've played Texas Tech which is a similar offense to our offense, and they've also played Baylor which has a similar offense to our offense as well," said Beck. "It's going to be a good game because they've seen our offense for a couple of weeks and we've seen their defense against our offense for a couple of weeks. It's going to be a matter of execution."

For a look at how the Cougars stack up against the Horned Frogs, click the following link TotalBlueSports.com's depth chart for the game:

http://byu.scout.com/3/depthchart2006.html

Last year's overtime loss to TCU is still fresh on the Cougars' minds. BYU also believes that they should be 4-0. The team wants to make two statements on Thursday: first, that they are the team to beat in the MWC, and second, that they have the ability to beat a top ranked team.

"Last year was a let down for us," Coats said. "We want to go in there and make up for that. Even though we put a lot of points up in that game last year, there were some left on the field. Everybody sees this as a possible upset, but we see this as a game that we should be able to win. Whether you're ranked or unranked, it doesn't matter to us. It's almost like playing in your own neighborhood, everybody knows you. We've seen what they've done and they've seen what we've done and it's going to be a battle no matter what, but we feel we should be the team to beat rather than it being the other way around.

"Everybody on the team is thinking no more losses. We had expectations to run the table from the get go, but we've fallen short of that. Even though we didn't do that, we can still accomplish our goals and win the conference championship. If we win from here on out and go to a bowl game, no one will remember the wins we should have had and everyone's happy. Everybody knows TCU is 15th in the nation and Mountain West Conference champions, but this is a chance for us to step out onto the stage and show everyone that we're right up there with them.

"Right now we're just a couple of plays from being 4-0 and everybody thinking we're the greatest thing around," said Wagner. "If that was the case, everybody would be saying this was BYU's year and we're right there. This is BYU's year and we just had some tough breaks, but we're confident, and we know we're a better team. We just have to go in make it count. This is a chance for us to make a statement that we are the Mountain West Conference contenders and all that and run the table. From here on out, we don't have any lesser expectations than that.

Wide Receiver McKay Jacobson is heading back to his home state of Texas where he grew up not to far from the TCU. A few of his former teammates from Southlake Carroll High School are currently Horned Frogs. Click on the following link to hear Jacobson's comments about returning home to face TCU.

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