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BYU is currently ranked fourth in the nation in defense but their offense is in question now, with starting quarterback Riley Nelson not being the hands-down starter for BYU in Friday night's game. Head coach Gray Andersen, though, doesn't necessarily buy into an idea that BYU isn't a complete team. Friday night, Utah State will travel to Provo to take on the Cougars in an in-state battle to try to better its season record of 5-1.
- Utah State (4-1, 0-0) at BYU (3-2)
- Date/Time: Friday, Oct. 5, 2012 8:15 p.m. MT
- Site: LaVell Edwards Stadium
- TV: ESPN
- Radio: KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM 1160 AM
- Series Record: BYU leads 44-34-3
- Last Meeting: BYU won 27-24, 9/30/11
- Kickoff Weather: Breezy, temps in the mid-50s
With USU (4-1) finally finding its stride this season and BYU (3-2) still searching for some type of offensive consistency, this game will prove to be the turning point for one of the teams. USU can improve to 5-1, matching its six-game start record from over 30 years ago. BYU can improve to 4-2 and get the momentum the team needs for next week to face No. 14 and surprise the team of the season, Oregon State.
USU will face BYU away from home Friday, Oct. 5, in Provo at Lavell Edwards Stadium. Kickoff will be at 10:15 p.m. ET (8:15 p.m. MT), and the game will be nationally televised on ESPN.
Andersen and his team have been preparing for BYU since Sunday night and will continue to practice through Thursday evening to get ready for one of its biggest matchups of the season. Here is what Andersen said about the Cougars:
On BYU game:
"I've watched a lot of film on them. The first thing is, we are going back there for the second time in a row. Hopefully, this is the last time we have to go back there two times in a row. It's a very difficult place to play. I think we go every year to very difficult venues, but from what I hear ,none of them match BYU's stadium or Utah's Stadium. I know it goes the same way about our place because they don't want to come here and play us anymore, obviously.
"I think that is a good spot for us to be in the future and we will see how it goes. It's down there this year. They are a tremendous team. They are very physical on defense. They are very well coached on defense. They run to the ball and they make plays. Their numbers are backed up with their performance on the field.
"So, it will be a tremendous challenge for our offense and it will be a good challenge from A-to-Z on the offensive side of the football. Not a lot of weaknesses in that defensive system.
"On the offensive side of the football, they found some success last week. They did some good things, ran the ball effectively, threw the ball effectively and scored 47 points, I believe it was. They kind of caught some mojo, if you will, on the offensive side of the ball. The offense to me doesn't drastically change with Riley (Nelson) not being there.
Both quarterbacks are good quarterbacks. We will prepare the same way for both quarterbacks. There is a little bit more option face possibly now, if Riley does not play because he's a healthy quarterback who can run very well. I guess he's been back from a mission for a year, so it's not like he is an 18-year-old kid running around out there.
"Our kids will be excited about the opportunity to go and play. I think we've played the last couple of years to put this game into a rivalry game. It's not just an in-state game anymore and our kids are excited about the opportunity. I am sure BYU is excited about the opportunity.
"They'll expect to win, we'll expect to win, and that's what you got. It's college football, from what I think are two pretty good teams playing each other and excited about that opportunity to get out and play."
Both these teams have had success on defense in the red zone, what similarities do they share?
"I think they are well coached in the red zone. I think the kids communicate well in the red zone. It's a big challenge for defenses to be able to be on the same page. I think their physical presence shows up even more in the red zone, for both defenses, than it does sometimes because the field is condensed. There is more opportunity for kids to make plays in a little bit more of a physical manner, especially in the back end because the field is so condensed. The safeties are more involved and the defensive backs are more involved. Good football players, number one. The field condenses, it's harder to score and they are well coached."
On the BYU linebacking core:
"They have experienced, good players who play the way you like them to play. I think past the linebackers and all of the kids that are in this game, I think our kids have great respect for BYU, and I think BYU's kids have great respect for our football team. I feel that way about Utah and Utah State also. You watch the game, watch how the kids play on film. They are going to play hard and they are going to do what they have to do, but there are good players on both sides. Their linebackers are very skilled and talented young men. It will be a big challenge to block them."
On BYU having a new running back for this game:
"Yeah, (Michael Alisa) is a good player. It is an unfortunate injury. I heard the young man broke his arm. That is a tough one. He is a good football player and seems to be a great kid, from what I know of him. They ran the ball effectively the last game. So they will be fine, they've got some good players."
Do you have a pretty good knowledge of some of their players from the recruiting process?
"Yeah, there are a lot of similarities. It's much like Utah: We kind of have the same plan, and we want to recruit in-state. I don't know how many in-state kids BYU has, but I know it's a priority. Obviously, they have an extensive missionary program and a lot of Polynesians on their team, so we cross paths quite a bit when it comes to that. So, we know a bunch of their kids and a bunch of their families. That is what makes it great. That and the fact that it's become a competitive football game make it even better. I always look forward to, a lot of people think I am crazy, but I look forward to going to the Cougar stadium. I've had some great days in there and I've had some really bad days in there, but I always look forward to the game. Hopefully we can keep our best players on the field this year and not have issues with a late hit, I guess you could call it."
Alex Rivera is the assistant sports editor of the UVU Review. You can contact him at email@example.com or through his Twitter account @A_River_Uh.