PROVO — The Cougars will take on the Idaho State Bengals this Saturday at LaVell Edwards stadium. It will be BYU’s first matchup against an FCS school this year, as they’ll attempt to win their fifth straight game on the year after starting out 1-2.
If you’re thinking that this won’t be a competitive game, you’re probably right. Most matchups between a Division I-A team and a Division I-AA program is assumed to be lopsided. But considering what the Bengals have done so far this year, their matchup against BYU would appear to be even more so.
Idaho State comes in with a 2-5 record and fresh off of a 39-12 loss against Weber State. Their two victories of the year came against Northern Colorado and Division 2 Western State.
Summarily, the matchups don’t look competitive on either side of the football heading into Saturday’s game.
BYU rushing attack vs. Idaho State
The Cougar rushing attack has taken off since Riley Nelson took the reigns as the Cougar starting quarterback. The first five games of the year saw them run the ball 154 times for 472 yards, while in just the last two games they’ve run it 92 times for 506 yards.
A lot of this has been due to coaches simplifying the run-blocking schemes along with giving Michael Alisa the primary ball-carrying responsibilities. Alisa has run the ball 36 times for 175 yards over the last two weeks.
“We’re definitely doing better in our run-blocking,” said offensive lineman Houston Reynolds. “The coaches made some good changes and with Riley (Nelson) in there, and with the help he gives us in motivating the team and with what he can do running the ball himself — you’ve seen a lot of improvement.”
The Bengals gives up 246 yards per game and not against what many would consider strong rushing attacks. They gave up 308 yards on the ground last week against Weber State.
They’ll operate out of a 3-4 base defense that features three senior starting linebackers.
BYU should run a lot and run well against a very suspect Idaho State front. Riley Nelson and the Cougar offense will likely do what they want on the ground to the tune of well over 300 yards gained on the ground come Saturday and probably surpassing 400 yards.
BYU passing attack vs. Idaho State
As the running game has improved, so has the Cougar passing attack. With a productive running game, the offense has forced defense to play closer to the line, leading to more play-action opportunities for big yardage.
Cody Hoffman in particular has seen a resurgence with his former roomate running the show at QB. He’s coming off of an Austin Collie-like performance a week ago and should be raring to go against the Bengals.
Idaho State gives up 192 yards per game through the air, but that’s largely a comment on teams being able to run on them for their yardage more than anything.
Don’t look for the Cougars to throw a lot in this game. Nelson even attempting more than 20 passes would seem like too much, considering that they should be able to romp over the Bengals on the ground.
This game should see the return of Jake Heaps under center some time during the second half of play.
How he’ll look will certainly be worth noting as he tries to regain his perch as the BYU starting quarterback while earning the trust and respect of his teammates. Building that case against the likes of Idaho State is a tough prospect, however, as there is little to prove against what looks to be a vastly inferior opponent.
BYU rush defense vs. Idaho State
The Cougar rush defense has been decent all year, but have allowed some big-gainers on the edge. Last week against Oregon State they were very good, allowing only 59 yards on a 2 yards-per-carry average.
The status of defensive linemen Romney Fuga and Hebron Fangupo aren’t certain, but it shouldn’t matter all that much against a Bengal offense that averages just 22 yards rushing per game.
It’s an offense that spreads the field and operates out of the shotgun. From what head coach Bronco Mendenhall has seen on film, they throw the ball at least 90 percent of the time during games, throwing in the occasionally run in an attempt to keep opposing defenses honest.
With Idaho State looking to play catchup for most of the game, they may be running it even less than normal. The question will likely be if they can muster positive net yardage come Saturday.
BYU pass defense vs. Idaho State
The Cougars have been susceptible to the long ball recently and will look to clean that up on Saturday. They gave up 306 yards and 7 yards per pass last Saturday against the Beavers and will certainly look to improve upon those numbers.
They’ll have ample opportunity to work on their pass defense against the Bengals. As mentioned, they throw the ball around 90 percent of the time and have averaged 338 yards per game through the air.
They’ll start junior Kevin Yost, 6-1, 190, and he’ll be looking to throw primarily to wideout junior Roderick Rumble, 6-2, 201, who has 75 catches already this season for 996 yards and eight touchdowns.
It’s a team that takes a lot of sack,s which is a direct result of attempting 50 passes per game as much as anything else. Yost has taken 41 sacks so far this year, but will go up against a BYU team that has struggled to pressure the opposing quarterback during most games this season.
Idaho State will throw for under 300 yards, as the Cougar pass defense will step up in this game. The Cougars will also be able to pressure the quarterback and account for at least six sacks come Saturday.
Prediction: BYU 52 Idaho State 7
This is a no-brainer prediction as Idaho State doesn’t look to present anything that will keep this game close. BYU will do almost all of its scoring in the first half and will shut it down for most of the second half, cruising to a blowout win.