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FORT COLLINS, COLO. -- With a two straight wins, and wins in three of its last four games, BYU (4-5, 3-2 MWC) is marching to Fort Collins, Colo. this week to take on what can be considered their first test of the second half of the season.
Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall is excited to meet the challenge posed by the Colorado State Rams (3-7, 2-4 MWC) and feels that these next weeks will be a good measuring stick of how much his team has progressed this season.
"I'm holding judgment for the next three weeks. I do think the bye week helped, I think an increased focus helped, I do think there was improvement, but certainly our opponent did have something to do with that," Said Mendenhall. "So, again, until we see our next game at Colorado State and then New Mexico and then Utah, it's hard to say how much of a step we did take forward."
BYU, which has been playing shut down defense the past two weeks, will be in a battle against a strong CSU team playing at home.
CSU is fourth in the Mountain West Conference in offense, putting up a total of 2,168 yards this season. They have a balanced attack of running and passing the ball. So far this season Colorado State is averaging 162 yards rushing and 198 yards passing per game. It is an offense that BYU is working hard to prepare for.
"I think they're more conservative," said linebacker Austin Jorgenson. "They run a lot of the power I and have a more conventional offense. They'll run the ball and then try to play action it over the top, so that's what I'm expecting this game. I think that they're a tough team."
A key to winning on Saturday will be to stop that balanced attack and force CSU to throw the ball. BYU defense is looking to shut down the run and make Colorado State one dimensional.
"They have some running backs that will run really hard," continued Jorgenson. "From what I've seen they're a hard working team."
"We're over training it [stopping the run] in practice," stated linebacker Shane Hunter. "We have to stop the run and that's the basis. You stop the run, you make them one dimensional and then you can do more things that you would like to do."
Colorado State's offense is led by true freshman quarterback Pete Thomas. The young signal-caller has completed 209 of 316 passes this season for 2,273 yards and has thrown 10 interception as well as 10 touchdowns. Thomas will be looking to bounce back after a hard game against Colorado University where he threw three costly picks. BYU will try to exploit the young quarterback with a variety of defensive schemes.
"He'd prefer not to run it out of the pocket if he doesn't have to, but he has very good vision and a strong arm, and delivers the football downfield in a pass-first mentality." said Mendenhall. "I'd like the ability to pressure; I'd like the ability to play zone; I'd like the ability to play some max coverage and hopefully they don't know which one is coming and when."
Added Hunter, "He has a good arm; He's a smart kid that throws the ball with accuracy and makes good decisions. He's a good quarterback. He's almost played a whole year. It doesn't really matter he's a freshman. He's seen a lot of different looks; he's seen a lot of good defenses. At this point he's seen a lot."
Jorgenson is excited to show the strength of the BYU defense this week on the road, and feels that the game against Colorado State will be a good one. "Each week is a different challenge. We have to prepare as if you didn't win. We need to be able to win wherever we are. Home field advantage is really nice, but to be a complete team we have to be able to show that we can win wherever we are. But the defense is way excited every week and we have to keep working hard."
Kickoff is scheduled for noon from Fort Collins.