BYU-San Diego State: QB Jake Heaps Faces Challenge in Aztecs' 3-3-5 Defense

Brett RichinsSenior Analyst IOctober 6, 2010

SAN DIEGO - OCTOBER 17: Harvey Unga #45 of BYU Cougars  gets tackled by Brandon Kohn #11 of San Diego State Aztecs at Qualcomm Stadium on October 17, 2009 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Jacob de Golish/Getty Images)
Jacob de Golish/Getty Images

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse for the BYU offense and true freshman Jake Heaps, along comes Rocky Long and his 3-3-5 defense.

Yep, the same Rocky Long that served as the head coach at New Mexico for 11 years and mentored current BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall in the nuances of the 3-3-5.

Long is now in his second year as defensive coordinator for the 3-1 San Diego State Aztecs, who venture into Provo for homecoming weekend. It has taken Long just a season-and-a-third to round the SDSU defense into shape.

The Aztecs are allowing just 13.8 points per game, ranking ninth in the country in scoring defense and 10th in pass efficiency defense.

Put those numbers up against a Cougar offense that is ranked 114th in scoring and 118th in pass efficiency, and you have a classic mismatch on paper.

Cougar fans may remember that Long’s version of the 3-3-5 defense is designed to befuddle all but the most experienced quarterbacks.

It gives opposing QBs little or nothing to read prior to the snap of the ball. The quarterback typically has no idea of what the defense is doing until after the snap, forcing the quarterback and other offensive players to make reads on the fly as the play develops.

Long’s reputation for bringing pressure from everywhere in an effort to confuse offenses is well established. The thing is, in San Diego he now has the ability to run that defense with better athletes than he had at UNM.

Such a matchup is certainly not the ideal situation for a 19-year-old true freshman quarterback making just his third career start. In fact, come to think of it, it’s a train wreck waiting to happen.

Under normal circumstances Heaps and the offensive staff could lean on head coach Bronco Mendenhall’s experience for help dealing with the 3-3-5.

The problem is that Mendenhall, BYU’s newly self-appointed defensive coordinator, has his hands full this week trying to reorganize and re-energize what is statistically one of the worst defenses in the FBS. On game day his attention will have to be focused on the BYU defense, not San Diego State's.

In San Diego there are whispers of the 3-1 Aztecs actually making it to a bowl this year. They haven’t sniffed the postseason in 12 years.

In reality the Aztecs' record isn’t overly impressive, seeing that the three victories have come over FCS school Nicholls State, New Mexico State, and Utah State.

Then again, the same Utah State team that managed just seven points against Long’s defense in a 41-7 blowout loss put up 31 points on their way to spanking BYU.

When you add it all up on paper and then take into consideration that SDSU has had two weeks to prepare for this game, it looks doesn’t look good for the Cougars. Luckily for BYU, they play the game on the field, not on paper.