By any standard, the BYU football team had every reason to be proud of its defensive performance at Navy in the season-opener on Sept. 6.
The Cougars only allowed the Midshipman to gain 149 total yards, many of which came after the outcome was decided. BYU is currently leading the nation in passing yards allowed, since Navy only gained 30 yards through the air.
That number is a little bit misleading, however, since the Midshipmen run a rush-heavy triple-option attack. Navy only officially attempted eight passes, completing four.
The next Cougar opponent might make that many attempts on its first possession.
BYU players and coaches are well aware that when the Troy offense is in the game on Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium, the Trojans are going to want to spread things out and sling the ball all over the field.
And the Cougar defenders are looking forward to the challenge.
“They have a super-powerful offense,” BYU senior defensive back Zayne Anderson said earlier this week. “They do a really good job at throwing the ball down the field and have some really capable guys at receiver and a good quarterback. It’s going to be a good test for us in the secondary. We were talking about how we are looking forward to this game because we finally get to be tested. It will be a good challenge and we need to be ready for it.”
Cougar defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki knows that his defense can’t allow Troy to be comfortable and do what it wants to do, but he also said that BYU can’t be too aggressive either.
“They don’t hold on to the ball very long,” Tuiaki said. “So you look at if you want to bring four or five guys every time if the majority of the time they aren’t going to get home or do you dedicate more guys to coverage. There is a back-and-forth there. There is a time to speed things up as far as what the quarterback sees and there is a time to have the quarterback hold the ball and try to scramble. These guys know what they are doing and they are smart. We’re going to try to find times where they are going to hold onto the ball and they are going to try to find times when we are going to blitz so they can get rid of the ball.”
He said that in breaking down Troy’s offense, BYU has seen that the Trojans actually have a higher percentage of success against blitzes and struggle more against teams that do more coverage.
“We want to challenge our defensive line, when we commit to only bring two or three guys, to work hard for five or six seconds to get there,” Tuiaki said. “If we can get the quarterback throwing off-balance, then we can get tipped balls, incomplete passes and even some interceptions.”
Cougar junior defensive lineman Lorenzo Fauatea said the BYU players up front understand what they are being asked to do as far as disrupting the Troy offensive schemes.
“There is more of a risk when we are being more aggressive,” Fauatea said. “It’s about making sure everyone is in their gap and doing their assignment. As players when we are playing and feel the flow of the offense, we voice our opinions about when we should take an aggressive approach. It can catch offenses off guard.”
It’s always a chess match between an offense and a defense but the bottom line is that the players have to get the job done on the field.
“I think we have a great opportunity,” BYU junior linebacker Pepe Tanuvasa said. “We have a lot of talent and the utmost confidence in our coaches to put us in the right scheme, to give up opportunities to make plays. I think it is going to be an all-around team effort, just like Navy was, to stop their run game and their pass game as well.”
The Cougars know that Troy has made a name for itself with some big upsets in the past, so the Trojans won’t be intimidated playing against BYU.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for this program,” Cougar offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes said. “I was at LSU when they came to Baton Rouge and beat us there. They beat Nebraska not too long ago and then a few years ago played Clemson really close when Clemson was ranked high. They are a program that has a lot of pride and I understand what they are capable of. Hopefully our players do too.”
Tanuvasa said the BYU players know they have to play well if they want to keep the Trojans from notching another high-profile win.
“They are a fantastic team, so we have taken extra measures to not take them lightly,” Tanuvasa said. “Everyone has been ultra-focused on bringing our A game on Saturday because we know we are going to need it.”
That means BYU has to be solid with their fundamentals, particularly when the Trojans take to the air.
“We need to make sure we are disciplined with our eyes and our technique,” Anderson said. “We need to be ready.”
The Cougars feel like this is another chance to show they deserve their ranking by playing well in front of a national audience.
“We’re really looking forward to solidifying how the public sees us,” Tanuvasa said. “We still feel we have a lot to prove and it’s going to show up on Saturday.”