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GAME WEEK: BYU vs. USU, Cougar edition

GAME WEEK: BYU vs. USU, Cougar edition



This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

PROVO - BYU will play Utah State for the 81st time in program history on Friday, Sept. 30, with kickoff set for 6:05 p.m. MT. The game will be broadcast live from LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on ESPN, WatchESPN.com and KSL Radio 1160 AM, 102.7 FM and ksl.com.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

BYU (2-2) vs. Utah State (1-2)
Game 5 Notes
  • BYU (2-2) vs. Utah State (1-2)
  • Date: Friday Sept. 30, 2011
  • Time: 6:05 p.m. MT
  • Site: LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, Utah (64,045/Grass)
  • TV: ESPN
  • Radio: KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM/1160 AM and ksl.com
  • Series Record: BYU leads the series 43-34-3
  • Last Meeting: 2010 (Utah State 31, BYU 16)
  • Kickoff Weather: Sunny, temps in the lower 80s

- BYU has won 15-straight games against Utah State at home, last losing to the Aggies in Provo in 1978. Since that time, BYU has outscored USU by an average of 39.8-15.7 at Edwards Stadium.

- Excepting three occasions, BYU has played Utah State on a Friday since 1987 in order to avoid conflict with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' General Conference held the first weekend of every October. BYU had two byes and played on a Thursday the other three Conference weekends.

- BYU kick returner Cody Hoffman was named the Independent Special Teams Player of the Week and the College Performance Awards Kick Returner of the Week for his efforts vs. UCF. The sophomore returned a kick 93 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter against the Knights, totaling 129 yards on two returns. Sophomore linebacker Kyle Van Noy was named Independent Defensive Player of the Week after a career-high eight tackles with a quarterback hurry and late-game heroics including a sack and a pass breakup which led to a BYU interception.

- The winner between BYU and Utah State is traditionally awarded the Old Wagon Wheel, a wheel from a pioneer covered wagon that has traveled between the two schools since 1948.

THE BYU-UTAH STATE SERIES

BYU and Utah State are meeting for the 81st time. The Cougars lead the series 43-34-3 and have played the Aggies almost every season since 1922, taking a break during WWII from 1943-1945 and from 2003-2005. In last year's matchup Utah State won its first game against BYU in over 16 years with a 31-16 victory at Romney Stadium in Logan. The Aggies rushed for 242 yards while taking advantage of three BYU turnovers and never trailing in the game. The win was the largest margin of victory over the Cougars for Utah State since 1978's 24-7 win.

TOUGH FLORIDA WINS

BYU's 24-17 win over UCF was just the program's second win over a team from the state of Florida in team history, improving the overall record against the state to 2-4. The only other win over a Florida team was 1990's contest against No. 1 Miami in Provo. Ty Detmer jumpstarted his Heisman campaign with three touchdowns and 406 passing yards in route to a 28-21 victory over the No. 1 ranked Hurricanes.

ABOVE AVERAGE

Coming into the last week's game, UCF was holding opponents to 72.3 ypg rushing, 93.7 ypg passing and 166.0 ypg total defense. BYU totaled 127 yards rushing, 133 yards passing and 260 yards of total offense, all season highs against the Knights.

BRING ON THE BCS

Since the start of the Bowl Championship Series in 1998, BYU has played at least two BCS-automatic qualifying teams every year. In 2011, the Cougars are playing four BCS schools this year in Ole Miss, Texas, Utah and Oregon State. Only two other seasons (2000 and 2003) has BYU played as many BCS teams. To start the 2011 season the Cougars play three of the four teams conecutively, opening with road games at Ole Miss and Texas before the home opener against Utah. Not since 1998 has BYU started a season against three BCS teams, when the Cougars lost to Alabama and Washington on the road and defeated Arizona State at home.

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

With BYU playing UCF on a Friday night, as well as Utah State and TCU, it is the most Friday night games the Cougars have played in the Bronco Mendenhall era. Under Coach Mendenhall, BYU is 3-1 on Friday night games, three coming against Utah State. This is also the first time under Mendenhall that the Cougars are playing back-to-back Friday night games, with UCF last week and Utah State this Friday night.

KARIYA MAKING AN APPEARANCE

Running back Bryan Kariya has been relatively quiet to start the season, with just 39 yards on 12 attempts on the year. That wasn't the case Friday night against UCF as Kariya led all ball carriers with 14 carries and 52 yards. The senior's night was highlighted by a series in the fourth quarter where he took three-straight handoffs on a short field, the last coming in the form of a six-yard touchdown. The six-yard scoring run proved to be the winning score of the game. Kariya also caught two passes for 11 yards.

DON'T HASSLE THE HOFF

Wide receiver Cody Hoffman has finally gotten involved offensively after catching just three passes for 20 yards in the first two games. Against UCF, Hoffman had his biggest play on special teams, returning a kickoff 93-yards to the house to tie the score late in the third quarter. Hoffman also caught three passes for 24 yards in the game as part of his 153 all-purpose yards. The week before against Utah, Hoffman grabbed 8 balls for 138 yards to lead the team. He set a career mark for receptions and yards in a quarter, catching five balls for 98 yards in the first fifteen minutes of play. Hoffman's catch total and yards for the game were also a career-high mark to add to a new career-high in kick returns as well with 8 returns and 139 yards, giving 277 all-purpose yards, the sixth-best mark in BYU history.

Hoffman is still looking for his first receiving touchdown of 2011 after getting seven in 2010. With 1,381 all-purpose yards in his career, Hoffman passes Chad Lewis for 70th all-time at BYU. Just a sophomore, Hoffman will continue to move up the list.

TURNOVER CITY

In four games so far this season the BYU defense has forced nine total turnovers. The Cougars are nearly halfway to their total of 23 turnovers in 2010, which took the team 13 games to accrue last season. The nine turnovers gained currently ranks 18th in the NCAA. Cincinnati is first in the nation with 16 turnovers gained.

BEND BUT DON'T BREAK

For the first time since an October 17, 2009 game against San Diego State, the BYU defense allowed 300 yards passing to an opponent. UCF quarterbacks combined for 318 total passing yards on Saturday but were limited to zero touchdowns and one red zone interception. The Cougar defense has not allowed a passing touchdown in three of the first four games, with the lone exception coming against Utah. BYU won the game against SDSU in 2009, making them 2-0 in the last two games when allowing 300+ yards passing.

FOR THE LONGEST TIME

Cody Hoffman's 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter was the first for a Cougar in more than 13 years, a streak that spanned 158 games. Mike Rigell was the last BYU returner to take a kickoff the distance with a 96-yard return in 1998 against Hawaii. Hoffman's kickoff return was the first touchdown by a BYU special teams unit since McKay Jacobson took a punt return for a touchdown as a freshman in 2006. For his performance, Hoffman was named Independent Special Teams Player of the Week and the College Football Performance Awards National Kickoff Returner of the Week.

PINNING THEM BACK

Junior punter Riley Stephenson twice pinned the UCF Knights inside the 20-yard line, giving him 35 career punts downed inside the 20. Stephenson had a clutch punt in the third quarter that put the Knights inside the five-yard line. Stephenson was awarded College Football Performance Award punter honorable mention for his efforts.

Coach Mendenhall Press Conference - Utah State

The following is a partial transcript from head coach Bronco Mendenhall's weekly press conference, including comments from linebacker Jameson Frazier and defensive back Joe Sampson.

Good morning. I was encouraged and pleased by some of the improvement I saw from our team against Central Florida. Especially special teams, I thought that was the critical improved area in the game, not only in the way we punted the ball but the way we returned the football, along with a fake punt and our coverage unit. I think that really helped us in a game that was closely contested. I thought the defense played well again and the offense made some improvements. We have a difficult test again. This will be a great game in terms of an in-state rivalry. I have a lot of respect for Coach Gary Andersen. I love the way he is coaching his team and I think they are making progress. I am looking forward to it.

After reviewing the game film, do you still feel that Jake Heaps was as accurate as you originally thought?

I like the way he played. There are still some things we can improve. We can certainly improve on third-downs and accuracy there. I thought he stepped forward and was managing the game and I like the way he threw it.

Did you get a chance to see how the Utah State game ended last week?

I just finished watching it and what a heartbreaker. I thought Utah State played really hard and controlled the game. A few turnovers lost them the football game. I thought they were the more physical team that night. They controlled the tempo most of the night and it was a tough loss.

How do you prepare for Utah State's running back Robert Turbin?

I think he is a great running back. In fact I was just telling our offensive staff I would love to coach him. He plays hard and runs physical, runs for power and doesn't back down. He is fun to watch; I really think he is a great player.

How much does last year's loss to Utah State carry over as motivation to this year's matchup?

It's hard to say. We have had so many changes and it was a pivotal point in the season where so many changes were made. It almost seems like five years ago so I'm not sure. The players might have a different perspective on that. I don't, it just seems like a long time ago.

Can you assess why the offensive line hasn't been as dominant as you would have expected?

I think they are doing a really nice job in pass protection, the only thing we aren't doing as well is knocking opposing fronts off the ball and running for power. The combination of running backs running for more power and the offensive line coming up and blocking to create more push is something that is really a focus. We simplified the run game last week, I think we saw signs of that improving and we are just going to have to keep doing that.

How do you view this rivalry with Utah State?

I like it. I am for the in-state trio of BYU, Utah and Utah State playing each other every year. I think the idea historically of the beehive boot is something of meaning and value. It's something I'd like to promote.

After re-watching the game, do you feel like the team is back on track?

I would say we are making progress. We certainly aren't playing to our potential yet, which is the goal. It is my goal as a coach. It's fun to see them win, see them smile and celebrate, and see them make the plays to accomplish that against what I and many other people thought is a good team against Central Florida.

What do you see from Utah State's quarterback?

He is really athletic. For being as young as he is, he is able to create, very similar to UCF's quarterback, just in a different body type. He is really tall, fast and throws it well. Dave Baldwin is a very good offensive coordinator so he uses him in a lot of diverse ways. They have a couple of really good running backs, a mobile quarterback in multiple formations that is fun to watch. I think they have recruited the type of athlete that allows them to be competitive which they are so far this year. They have lost a couple of really close games is all.

With a remarkable difference in special teams play last week, was there a lot of emphasis given to special teams in practice?

You work, you work, work, work and work. At some point the work accumulates to a point and it shows. That was the potential in that game.

Linebacker Jameson Frazier

How was your long weekend with no Saturday game?

Saturday morning was still devoted to football. We had a short lifting session and watched some film. The rest of the day I was able to hang out with my family and my wife. It was really nice to have that day that we don't usually get.

How painful was the loss last year at Utah State?

It was really tough because I couldn't even play. I had broken my thumb the week before. It was tough to see my guys battle through it knowing that I couldn't do anything about it.

Is there any extra motivation after what happened last year?

There is a lot of guys that weren't there last year playing. It's tough to say whether or not it will motivate them. I am sure for some guys it will motivate them.

Defensive back Joe Sampson

If Utah State can knock off BYU it's a big victory for them, how do you prepare for a team like that?

We prepare the same for them as any other team. We practice as hard as we can and the best way that we know of. We will just come out and play hard on Friday.

Utah State hasn't won since 1978 in Provo, is there a pride factor for BYU to protect that streak?

I don't really know, but we just have to go out and do our best. We know if we play our best we will be hard to beat.

Are you surprised by the success you have had individually, being able to step in and have a role immediately?

I believe that hard work pays off. I have been working a long time for this opportunity.

KSL.com

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