In the one loss to -a crappy- FSU team BYU allowed 313 yards rushing and made their QB look like the second coming of Nebraska’s Scott Frost. Since that game -and before that game also- the Cougars have been able to limit their opponents ground gains, forcing teams to use alternative methods in moving the ball. By alternative methods, I mean throwing the ball, which some teams have done successfully and others have done poorly.
For me it’s all about managing risk. If your team can stop the run the defensive coaching staff can better predict what types of passing routes a defense will encounter. This in turn lowers the likelihood that your defense will be abused in the passing game and allows a defensive coordinator freedom in using pressures, blitzes and coverage in defending the pass. It basically reduces the number of plays an offense has in their arsenal that can or could be successful.
Lets also not overlook the Cougar offenses’ contribution to stopping the run. Yeah, the offense helps! when the offense is effectively moving the ball and scoring points it puts an added pressure on the opponents offense to “keep up” or risk being blown out. This means the offensive coordinator needs to either run the ball more effectively and for larger chunks of yardage or start throwing the ball down the field. (This will hopefully give a little insight into why our corners are so far off the ball… giving up a large cushion. In part this is because they are managing their risks. Some defensive calls are putting them in a more vulnerable position. So to easy their tension, they back up and give up a short to intermediate route. This doesn’t explain it entirely, but BYU’s defense is based on the principle of “five yards and a headache.” meaning you give up five yards and you knock the crap out of the guy when he gets the ball. I understand I didn’t give a complete answer, but this is how I see it.)
Stopping the run will be an important element if the Cougars are going to reclaim the MWC title. Both TCU and Utah have capable ground attacks. Let’s also not forget that BYU has to chase those cadets all over the field in a few weeks. As BYU’s run defense goes so will the win column…well more accurately put: As BYU’s offense and BYU’s run defense go, so goes the Win column.
Go Cougars. (But don’t overlook SDSU -they seem horrible, but they will be prepared.)