Key matchups: BYU defense vs. Nevada offense

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PROVO — Coming into the final week of the season, BYU has had a season that has exemplified its football program during the Bronco Mendenhall era.

In short, the Cougars won games they weren’t expected to win (Texas); lost games they probably shouldn’t have lost (Virginia and Utah), and pummeled teams that didn’t even deserve to be on the same field as BYU (Idaho State and Middle Tennessee).

BYU’s strength of schedule improved in its third year of football independence but is still far from where it needs to be for the Cougars to avoid derision for the move to independence. Still, BYU has scheduled games that make a great deal of sense for its institutional mission, and it will always be a team that opposing schools know will bring an impressive fan base to the table.

This week’s game against Nevada isn’t as much a testament to BYU’s improving schedule, but instead it is a chance for BYU fans to celebrate the greatness that has been Reno native Kyle Van Noy. Van Noy, who won a state championship at Reno’s McQueen High School under Nevada high school legend Ken Dalton, will play his final regular season game for the Cougars in his hometown and will undoubtedly get a loud ovation from both fan bases.


It is fitting that Van Noy’s defensive unit will play a critical part in the game, as the battle on the field to watch will be between the BYU defense and the Nevada offense.

Why this matchup?

Frankly, Nevada’s defense is one of the nation’s worst, giving up 35 points a game, ranking them at 106th in the country. So BYU’s offense doesn’t need to be great to score points against the Wolf Pack. Instead, the Cougars’ defense will need to play a solid game to stop a Nevada offense that has put up some numbers over the course of the season.

The Wolf Pack have scored more than 40 points twice this season, and scored 38 points last week in a win over San Jose State. Also, Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo has thrown for 2,409 yards and 12 touchdowns. Fajardo is also a true dual-threat quarterback, having rushed for 602 yards and seven touchdowns. Plus, you have to give the Wolf Pack offense a slight bump since they are playing at home.

The key to beating an offense like Nevada’s is for a player like Van Noy to be a signaler on how Fajardo will play. If Fajardo drops back to pass, it’s important for BYU to drop Van Noy into coverage and let the defensive line collapse the pocket. If Fajardo runs, it’s important for Van Noy and his fellow linebackers to fill the gaps with Cougar blue.

Who wins this matchup?

Nevada is playing at home, but so is Van Noy. In fact, this will be the first time Van Noy has been in Reno’s Mackay Stadium since his McQueen team beat Palo Verde (Las Vegas) in the Nevada 4A title game in 2008.

Frankly, Nevada was beaten at home by UNLV, and while the Rebels are improved, they are no BYU. Van Noy will be able to contain Fajardo, and the Cougars will pick up a regular-season-ending win in Reno.

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Jon Oglesby


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