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 Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information.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 — With the season nearly over, the Cougars look forward to a huge road test at historic Notre Dame Stadium with the Fighting Irish Saturday. Both teams enter the contest with identical 7-3 records and with aspirations of ten win seasons.
Taysom Hill didn't get to play in last year's game and he is looking forward to the opportunity this year. "I'm looking forward to the challenge, it's a really good program, a fun atmosphere, and a tough place to play. I'm excited to showcase what we can do."
The Cougars have played four games on the road this season and feel that execution will be the key to putting everything together and coming out of South Bend with a key win. "We have a really good opportunity to make some noise on the national stage, and I think it's really good for our program. We've put ourselves in a good situation to make ourselves known and I feel like we can compete with anybody in the country. It's going to be nothing new for us. We've been on the road before, we've been in hostile environments, and we've played really good teams on the road. We just need to learn how to execute at a high level and get a win against a really good, quality team and hopefully we can put all those things together and get a win there."
Jamaal Williams talked about one of his goals going into the Notre Dame game. "One of my goals is to score on Touchdown Jesus side." Having played in last year's game, he acknowledged that, "It's a new season and a new game that we're going into. It's just us going up there and doing our best and making sure we execute."
Coach Tujague realizes that the offensive line will play a key role in the game this week. "The last couple of weeks, the games have been getting bigger and bigger and it's a tremendous opportunity for the offensive line to step up and show that they can compete at this level and there's no bigger stage."
The Cougars will be facing a big, nasty defensive line and Tujague feels they are a combination of some teams BYU has faced this season.
"They're physical," Tujague said. "I feel like it's a combination between the athletic ability of the Wisconsin's D line and they have the nastiness of Utah."
Ryker Mathews is expected back for this Saturday's game after missing the last two games against Wisconsin and Idaho State. The coach is excited to have one of his key guys back because of what he brings to the line. "It's huge. I mean talk about a guy who brings experience and a little bit of nastiness to the offensive line. It'll be really good to have him back." He also discussed the up-tempo offense and how he sees it affecting Notre Dame. "The faster we go, the easier it gets for us. We've got to sustain drives and be able to move the ball."
Notre Dame is tied for fourth in the FBS in fewest sacks allowed (seven). No team in the nation has allowed fewer sacks and attempted more passes (320) than the Irish.
Coach Kaufusi feels that the Cougars front seven can bring some pressure and shared some keys to stopping the run. "We've just got to make sure that our run fits are where they need to be and that we tackle well. That's something that we struggled with at Wisconsin and even last year, with the long run they had. We just need to make sure that we have gap integrity."
Coach Kaufusi broke down the Wisconsin game and said, "Wisconsin didn't push us around. We just missed tackles and missed our run gaps."
Coach Poppinga compared Wisconsin to Notre Dame. "They're pretty similar to Wisconsin. Big tight ends, big backs, big offensive line, physical run game. Their offensive line is a little more athletic and maybe a little more physical than Wisconsin. It's going to be a big challenge for us up front."
Having played Wisconsin just two weeks ago, the Cougars like their chances facing a similar type of team so soon. "We have a good idea of what we want to do, some things we want to fix, so I think the Wisconsin game was a good warm up for this game and a good game to see where we are at against this type of opponent. We need to do our scheme, align right, do our assignments and play with edge. Our defense needs to play with confidence and have fun. That's what we did last year for the first half, and in the second half they came out and did some things to get some yards on us. We have to play a whole game this time."
One of the plays that stands out most to Poppinga from last year's game was, "The one we had him (Riddick) wrapped up on 3rd down, he broke it, and ran for like 60 yards. The good thing is we held them to a field goal on that play. We realize what type of effort it's going to take against these guys because we had him wrapped up at the line of scrimmage, and then he broke some tackles and ran for a big gain. If we can tackle those guys in space and get those guys down, we'll be in good shape."
The Fighting Irish feature a senior quarterback in Tommy Rees. While he wasn't the starter last year, he filled in for Everett Golson against BYU last year and he has been the Irish starter this season. "He's a veteran guy with a lot of experience under center. He knows the scheme, he knows the offense, he knows defenses, he throws the ball well in the pocket, and does a good job of hitting his receivers. His experience is his advantage."
While there are only two games left in the season, the team recognized that there are still many areas to improve on as a team and personally. Safety Rob Daniel feels, "I can do better. I just feel like I'm doing average. From the Wisconsin game, I can definitely tackle better, be better in coverage and be better with my eyes." In all, the Cougars are looking forward to this week's game and are ready to play the game. Coach Poppinga summed up the team's mindset going into the weekend.
"They're talented, big, experienced, and really good up front, but nothing we haven't seen or can't handle. I like our chances if we come out, play hard, and execute."
Tune into KSL Newsradio for coverage of the game Saturday with pregame starting at 11:30 a.m. MST and game coverage beginning at 1:30 p.m. MST on 102.7 FM/1160 AM.
You can listen to post-practice audio from Taysom Hill, Jamaal Williams, Garett Tujague, Steve Kaufusi, Rob Daniel and Kelly Poppinga by clicking on the links in "Cougar Cuts," above left.
Reggie Lewis is a KSL Newsradio BYU intern.