By Danny Holmgren
As Taysom Hill took a knee for BYU to end the 6-3 battle with Utah State on Friday night, many fans from both sides (including Ute fans who apparently are all closet Aggie fans) began to complain about their disappointment with the game. Boring. Slow. Offensive ineptness. Sloppy. Whatever the description, fans didn’t realize that they had just witnessed a display of dominating defenses. At its very core, the objective of the game of football is to allow your opponent to score fewer points than you score. USU and BYU are both led by head coaches who believe that the defense will win them more games than their offense, and that was on display at LES stadium Friday night.
BYU’s dominating defense has caught no one by surprise. Led by linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Brandon Ogletree, the defense has been lights out so far this season and have now gone 13 consecutive quarters (that’s 3 1/4 games for you non-mathletes) without allowing a touchdown. While BYU has had a strong linebacking core and D-line for several years now, the achilles heel of the defense has been an incomplete secondary. That is not the case this year, with solid play coming from Daniel Sorensen, Preston Hadley, Jordan Johnson, Mike Hague, and Spencer Hadley. While it is not a secondary that has produced a lot of turnovers (just four total interceptions in six games) they have been dominant in keeping opponent’s aerial attacks at bay. Through six games BYU’s opponents are averaging 169.8 yards per game through the air with just two passing touchdowns.
Of course the secondary has had an easier time defending the pass with the dominant pass rush by our front seven and perhaps no one has contributed to that more than Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah. In his first game of the season against Washington State, Ansah looked often out of place and sometimes confused, but it was obvious that his speed, size, and strength would create serious matchup problems once he got more comfortable with the game. Well halfway through the season, I’d say Ziggy is looking pretty comfortable. His size and strength make him near impossible to block and his speed has shown that evasive quarterbacks, shifty running backs, and even wide receivers cannot escape his grasp. With each passing game, Ziggy is improving his potential to play at the next level.
The defensive battle we saw last night wasn’t boring football. While both sides struggled to put points on the board (and let’s not talk about the kicking game), BYU hardly struggled offensively. Taysom Hill had a decent outing in his second start, going 24-36 with 235 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. It wasn’t a display of sputtering, inept offenses (remember that BYU hung 47 on Hawai’i last week?), but a display of incredible talent on defense in keeping the opponents out of the endzone. Last Saturday’s West Virginia-Baylor game was a display of defensive ineptness. While the 70-63 victory by WVU, in which the two teams accounted for a video game like 1507 yards of total offense, was certainly fun to watch, it wasn’t good football. Great offensive performance? Yes. Best offensive performance I can ever remember seeing by two teams? Absolutely. But I contend that the score of 70-63 may have still occurred if neither team had decided to field a defense. BYU and USU both demonstrated incredible defenses Friday night and in a game that could have gone either way. BYU’s offense managed to do just enough to win.