BYU Football: How the Cougars Will Stop Nevada

Brett RichinsSenior Analyst ISeptember 24, 2010

PROVO, UT - SEPTEMBER 1:  Large signs hang outside Lavell Edwards Stadium where it was announced that BYU football will become independent in 2011 separating from the Mountain West Conference, September 1, 2010 in Provo, Utah. The remaining BYU sports will become affiliated with the West Coast Conference in 2011. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
George Frey/Getty Images
Notre Dame defeated Nevada 35-0 in 2009

Notre Dame defeated Nevada 35-0 in 2009

We visited Nevada’s pistol formation yesterday and some of the problems it creates for defenses.

Today we take a look at how the BYU Cougars may attempt to defend and defeat the Wolf Pack’s high octane attack.

We will use for our example the effort of Notre Dame in their contest with Nevada last year.

The Irish completely shut down and shut out the Wolf Pack 35-0. I have included virtually every snap of the game below for those that are interested in reviewing it.

It’s 33 minutes long so you may want to take a look at it tonight or Saturday before the game.

First and foremost Notre Dame approached this game with the attitude that the best defense is a good offense.

The Irish offense with Jimmy Clausen at the controls took the opening kick off and drove right down the field and put the ball in the endzone. They struck early and often, using big plays in the passing game.

By getting up 21-0 early in the game, Notre Dame began to force Nevada out of their normal game plan and had them looking to go the air more as a first option. When forced to throw the ball they are much less effective than letting it develop off their potent running attack.

One of the keys for BYU will be to get right after the Nevada defense. The temptation for the Cougars will be to try to protect Jake Heaps, but BYU should allow Jake to take the wraps of that arm of his and air it out to stretch the field vertically and horizontally, thereby opening up some things for the run game and JJ Di Luigi in the process.

Don’t be surprised to see the tight ends get more involved in the offense on Saturday either. Richard Wilson had three catches in the Washington game, and I am expecting that the coaching staff will make a point of getting him and Muehlmann the ball as BYU gets back to playing Cougar football.

Also, even with the loss of O’Neill Chambers, expect to see a big improvement from the wide receivers in this game. Their opportunity to get into more of a rhythm with Jake this week should be a significant factor.

The true freshman is likely to throw a couple of picks if allowed to open it up, but that’s OK. The key will be to stay aggressive against the Wolf Pack D and good things will happen.

This Nevada defense is improved over years past, but it is still the Achilles Heel of the program. Even in their blowout win over Cal, the Pack defense gave up over 500 yards of offense to the Golden Bears.

Defensively they do possess speed and will try to bring some pressure on Heaps. The Cougars will definitely have to account for defensive end Dontay Moch (#55) who is one of the fastest players in the country and will be playing on Sundays after his career in Reno is over.

The other thing that stands out in this video is how hard and often the Fighting Irish came with defensive pressure on Colin Kaepernick.

As we demonstrated yesterday, the Wolf Pack offense likes to leave one man unblocked and then make him look silly via Kaepernick’s decision making with the ball. The Irish however had two or more men unblocked at the line of scrimmage and it caused havoc for the pistol. The Notre Dame defenders came from everywhere — they blitzed linebackers, safeties, corners and every combination thereof.

They blitzed so often that NBC announcers Tom Hammond and Pat Haden began to have real fun with it, and Kaepernick and company were completely stymied.

The key for the Cougars defensively will be do to something that tends to go against the grain of their usual philosophy. They need to bring the house early and often against this offense. They cannot afford to sit back and allow Nevada to get into a groove, or you could see the football version of the keystone cops.

This could be the game where Bronco and Hill unleash some of that younger talent on defense and let them utilize their athletic ability. The key to defending this pistol offense is different than that of the Air Force triple option, where defenders have particular assignments on particular players.

The way Notre Dame shut down Nevada was to create confusion for the offensive line and bring more men than they could block with every kind of blitz from every direction.

In essence, what they accomplished is what BYU did to Washington, make the quarterback beat you with his arm rather than his feet. Even though Kaepernick is more accurate this season, that accuracy comes off the flow of their success in the run game.

Like most, I didn’t give BYU much of a chance in this game at the beginning of the week. However, as I have had an opportunity to take a closer look and break things down, I am much more optimistic about the Cougars’ chances. I also have the sneaking suspicion that Bronco has been very involved in getting the defense prepared this week and expect him to have a few things up his sleeve for Nevada on Saturday.

I’m taking the Cougars in this game by a score of 30 – 24. Let us know your thoughts and predictions for Saturday…