After a difficult opening schedule, the Cougars ought to be looking forward to facing a “less than elite” WAC team this week. But what should have been a ho-hum game has a certain degree of intrigue for Cougar fans and players alike, because of what happened against Utah State last week.
San Jose State went 1-11 last season, 0-8 in the WAC. Let me repeat. 0-8 in THE WAC. Their lone win came in a close game against Southern Utah. On thing is certain regarding this team, they are getting better. After losing the first two games of the season to Pac 12 Stanford and UCLA, the Spartans improved in game three by being competitive with Nevada. The game still resulted in a loss, but the Spartans rebounded with wins against New Mexico State and Colorado State. They’ve already doubled their win total from last year, and they will be bringing their A-game for what appears to be a weakened BYU team.
I don’t think anyone was feeling very good about the Cougars around halftime of the Utah State game, but those feelings were driven away when Riley Nelson engineered four drives late in the second half, two of which ended in touchdown passes. The last of those gave the Cougars the lead and the win with only 11 seconds remaining. This team is a hard-hitting, grind-it-out team. It is unknown who the starting quarterback will be next week, but the signs seem to be pointing to Riley Nelson. After a rough September, the Cougars will be happy to take on a less daunting October schedule, starting with SJSU.
Keys to the game
Doman. He stayed up in the box for the second game in a row, and it was also the second consecutive win for the team. I’m guessing that Doman will remain in the box for the rest of the season. From the box, he was able to read his quarterback enough to know that a change was needed, and made the call to put Riley in. Hopefully we can see the playbook open up against the Spartans.
Nelson (or Heaps). Riley entered the last game in the third quarter to relieve Jake Heaps. This was at a time when Jake had led the team to only 3 total points from the previous five drives. Riley came in and led the Cougars on four potential scoring drives. One resulted in a fumble (DiLuigi), one a missed FG, and two were for touchdown passes. Not all of his passes were pretty, but they were caught, and Riley proved that you can run up the middle in a two minute drill. It was amazing to watch, especially the final 96 yard game-winning drive. It will be interesting to see who starts, and how short of a leash they have. If either QB struggles, expect to see the other quickly.
Receivers. In the last game, eight different players recorded catches, and were led by Cody Hoffman, with 4 receptions for 68 yards and 1 TD from Nelson. I would love to see even more TE work, and some deep passes to the WRs. Hoffman and Apo should have an easier time of getting open, as this is the weakest defense they’ve seen so far.
The Rush Attack. Each of BYU’s three RBs had at least 40 yards in the game, and with Nelson, BYU rushed for 200 total yards in the game. SJSU opponents are averaging 186 rushing yards per game, so this should be a great team for the Cougar rushers to pile up the yards. At least one of them ought to rush for more than 100 yards this game.
Special Teams. Justin Sorensen missed what could have been a crucial field goal in game against Utah State – he went 2/3 overall. The miss was a 29 yarder. I know the guy’s got leg, but these short ones ought to be money in the bank. Cody Hoffman returned a kickoff for a touchdown against UCF, and if he gets a couple of opportunities for returns in this game, watch out, there just may be some fireworks.
Bronco D. By biggest complaint with the defense from last week? The 80 yard touchdown run they gave up on Utah State’s first play of the game. The San Jose State offense is simply overmatched here. The Spartans average 205 yards passing and 146 yards rushing. The BYU defense will, as usual, take away that running game, and force the Spartans to beat them through the air, and that will likely not get them very far. Prediction: The Cougar defense will cause 2 fumbles, get an interception, and injure at least one Spartan (clean hit).
San Jose State is a team that’s improving, (and I hope BYU is too), but they are not on level to compete with BYU. The Cougars will run away with this game (first time this season!), and the final score will be 34-10. That would mean the highest offensive output, and the fewest points allowed in the whole season.