BYU comes into Corvallis this weekend with a 4-2 record. The Cougars have not looked very good so far this season, with losses to Texas and Utah and one possession victories over Mississippi, UCF, and Utah State. BYU's main problem has been their one-dimensional offense.
They have not had any success whatsoever with their ground game and that has led to opposing defenses keying in on the pass. JJ Di Luigi, Joshua Quezada, and Michael Alisa have all split time at running back for the Cougars, but no one seems to have broken through. BYU is averaging 116 total rushing yards per game so far this season.
The main reason for the low yardage amounts are due to play calling. BYU's amount of passes has dropped in the past few games with the emergence of mobile quarterback Riley Nelson, but the Cougars were slinging the ball around much more with Jake Heaps under center. They almost pulled a Sean Mannion in their game against Utah in which they threw 56 times.
While Riley Nelson (Who took over for Jake Heaps in the second half of the Utah State game) is definitely a threat to run, expect him to air it out early and test Jordan Poyer and Michael Doctor. Another thing that Nelson and his receivers will try are the quick short-range passes. It doesn't matter if it's Riley Nelson, Jake Heaps, or Max Hall under center, quarterbacks at BYU excel at picking on linebackers with those short throws that always seem to kill the Beavers. Cameron Collins and Reuben Robinson better be ready to defend these or Beaver Nation will see a lot of third-and-medium conversions that absolutely kill momentum.
Earlier this season, Arizona State tried these same sorts of passes against the Beaver defense. They learned their lesson though after Jordan Poyer jumped one of them and only threw the same kind of pattern a few more times. Oregon State needs to do the same thing that they did in Tempe: Fly around the field making plays. If they do that then they should win this game.
These short-range passes that I have been talking about are BYU's substitution for a run game. They are able to burn a lot of clock throwing these and they also easily move the chains. This will be BYU's main game-plan coming in, hold the ball for long drives and keep the Beaver offense off the field. So if you are Mark Banker, one of your keys to a win has to be capitalizing on third downs. If the Cougars convert them time after time like they did in their big win against San Jose State, it will be a long day for the Beavers.
Going over to the defensive side of the ball, a lot has been made of the 3-4 defense that the Cougars bring to the table. In reality though, it is far from a "pure" 3-4 formation. The Cougars have a number of different looks as they try to narrow the field and bring pressure without leaving their sub-par secondary exposed. It is a great idea unless you run into a
great, average, solid, terrible, worst QB in the Pac-12 (Please choose whatever description you'd like) quarterback like Jordan Wynn. Wynn and his receivers schooled the Cougar seconday all night with simple one-on-one match ups.
Making the Oregon State connection, the Beavers definitely have the wideouts in Jordan Bishop, Markus Wheaton, and James Rodgers to get past the athletically challenged DB's, but it will be imperitave for Sean Mannion not to overthrow any balls like he did twice against Arizona.
Danny Langsdorf will take advantage of the pressure that the Cougars bring by spreading out the offense and running some fly sweeps and reverses to Wheaton, and hopefully, Brandin Cooks as well. This should get BYU to drop back a little and open up the running lanes for Jovan Stevenson and Ryan McCants.
To recap, here are the two keys to a Beaver victory on Saturday:
1. Fly around and jump the routes on their little five-yard pass plays
This one is an absolute must. The goal of football is to control the game, and BYU will definitely do that if Poyer and company don't turn around and get in front of these receivers.
2. Good throws by Sean Mannion
Our receivers will be open all day, and as long as Mannion is somewhat-accurate and doesn't stare them down while they run their routes, the Beaver offense will have a field day.