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Opponent Offense Preview: BYU Cougars

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A tricky QB and veteran OL lead the way for the Cougars.

NCAA Football: Brigham Young at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

BYU’s offense isn’t elite but they play with a ton of heart. You hear the word gutsy thrown around a lot when referencing the Cougars - they just make the plays in critical moments in the game to win. When trying to grasp BYU offensively in 2019, you have to look beyond the numbers. So, naturally, we start by looking at the numbers:

Key Stats

Points per game: 24.3

1st downs by penalty: 1

Average plays per game: 65

3rd down conversion: 44%

Passing touchdowns: 2

Offensive Philosophy

A few years ago BYU was in the offensive garbage pit with Ty Detmer (a former BYU legend at QB) as offensive coordinator. They parted ways with Detmer and hired Jeff Grimes from LSU, who has spent a long career mostly as an offensive line coach and/or run game coordinator. They’ve bounced back nicely from the mess they were and field a totally competent offense in 2019. Grimes runs a spread system with a lot of true zone read looks with QB Zach Wilson always a threat with his legs. They run a number of plays out of the shotgun including designed QB runs. There’s a bit of misdirection and “eye candy” similar to Auburn, where defenses have to stay disciplined. They aren’t afraid to mix it up either with reverses, double reverses, and double reverse passes. You can expect a trick play or two on Saturday, especially at home. They have a very experienced OL and they want hang their hat on being physical and establishing the run, but this offense is all about putting Zach Wilson in position to make explosive plays. They make the plays when it counts to win the games, but this offense hasn’t broken 30 points this year even with two of their games going to overtime.

Players to Watch

Thank you Chris Fetters for the depth chart:

QB Zach Wilson

The one they call the Mormon Manziel. Or for those Solid Verbal fans among us - he might have a little Baker Mayfield to him. Put it simply, Zach Wilson is a play making QB. He spins out of tackles and passes or runs for first downs, all while showing great polish for a second year player. Most importantly, he’s been making the key plays down the stretch to gut out wins, namely against USC and Tennessee. So far he’s completing over 60% of his passes for 720 yards, though he has just 2 TDs with 2 INTs. He sometimes doesn’t put it all together for an entire game, but he is a difference maker. Time after time he leaves defenders grasping at air as he spins out of the pocket and hits a wide open receiver in the middle of the field.

Ty’Son Williams

The South Carolina grad transfer has been everything BYU needed to bolster their running game. He’s a very powerful and elusive runner who’s got some nifty moves in the open field and always falls forward. He’s not the most explosive - his longest run is 26 yards this year - but is efficient. He’s been getting more usage as the season wears on after getting just 7 carries against Utah. The 220 pounder is averaging 5.5 yards per carry and has 3 TDs this season.

Matt Bushman

Matt Bushman is one of the better TEs in America most people haven’t heard of. The 6-5 junior is an explosive receiving threat for a TE and has 9 catches already this season, averaging over 13 yards per. He can make some really spectacular catches over DBs look easy.

X-Factor

The UW linebackers against Zach Wilson. His ability to run and throw is going to put a lot of stress on the LB unit who will be forced to make quick decisions or be able to blow up plays before they begin. The threat of Wilson running can freeze the middle of the defense, allowing him to make the right throw or scamper for a first down. I think of Trace McSorely at Penn State evading UW rushers and converting third down after third down, and I have nightmares. For all of Wilson’s running around, he has been sacked 8 times through three games, something Washington will have to take advantage of if they want to stymie this offense.

Conclusion

BYU will not be an easy out, especially at home. Washington really struggles with mobile QBs and right now doesn’t have the defense built to stop that type of player, namely at linebacker and in the pass rush. Perhaps Laiatu Latu is that player, or Levi Onwuzurike finally has his 2019 breakout game, but even with their contributions it will be a challenge. BYU really spreads the ball out among their receivers and tight ends who are very precise route runners and true technicians out there, starting with Gunner Romney and Micah Simon. Neither have a TD but are targeted almost every time Wilson drops back. The Washington DBs will need to play disciplined and not get grabby, leading to PI penalties. BYU is the type of team that will take advantage of opportunities when they are gifted field position. Simply, Washington has to keep Zach Wilson in the pocket, and unfortunately that is not something the Huskies have done a great job of this year with opposing QBs.

Poll

How many points will BYU score on Saturday?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    0-7
    (12 votes)
  • 6%
    8-14
    (66 votes)
  • 28%
    15-21
    (289 votes)
  • 42%
    22-28
    (432 votes)
  • 14%
    29-35
    (147 votes)
  • 6%
    35+
    (61 votes)
1007 votes total Vote Now