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PROVO — After some extra days of rest, following their 33-25 win last Thursday over the Houston Cougars, BYU is preparing for ACC opponent Virginia in what has become a potential turning-point type game for both teams’ seasons.
Last year, BYU fell in the season opener to Virginia 19-16 in a wet and wild game the Cougars, and their fans, would love to forget. Virginia was certainly a lesser opponent last year, finishing the season 2-10, and BYU left feeling as if it had let a win slip away.
Though redemption will certainly be a motivating factor heading into this year’s contest, the Cougars have a much tougher task ahead of them due to a much improved Virginia team.
In week one, Virginia nearly knocked off No. 12-ranked UCLA. Last week, the Cavaliers finally pulled off a big win, beating No. 21-ranked Louisville at home to move to a 2-1 record. The win over Louisville, along with BYU’s 3-0 record, has turned this game into an even bigger matchup for both teams than many experts predicted before the start of the season.
“It allows us to realize that they are a good team just like anybody else in the nation and we need to treat them like that,” said BYU safety Dallin Leavitt.
Meeting with members of the media on Tuesday, the defensive players were quick to point out Virginia’s abilities on offense.
“They have some good athletes. We’re going to need to stay assignment sound and we’re going to have to stop the run,” said senior linebacker Zach Stout.
Newcomer Harvey Jackson, who transferred from Nebraska to join the Cougars this season, recognizes Virginia’s big play potential on offense.
“You can’t just not count somebody, because they’ve got explosive players everywhere,” said Jackson.
Virginia brings a balanced offense to Provo, being statistically ranked 97th in passing and 96th in rushing yardage this season; the Cougars know stopping both will be key to picking up a win.
“We need to come out of the gate right away and have our guns blazing and come out and try to dominate from the get-go,” said Leavitt.
In 33 of the 51 games as the Virginia head coach, Mike London has had at least two quarterbacks attempt one or more passes in a game, and this season is no exception. The Cavaliers have used two quarterbacks at different times with Greyson Lambert and Matt Johns combining for 604 yards and five touchdowns through the air.
“I think within the scheme their quarterbacks are pretty similar to one another,” said Leavitt. They’re big guys and they throw the ball well and they’re Division I quarterbacks. They can make throws and make checks and do things, so we need to come out and stop them.”
The Virginia offense also has a committee of running backs led by senior tailback Kevin Parks, who is leading the team with 173 yards on 52 carries.
“It’s (Virginia) a program that’s improving. Their coach there is doing a really good job, and I just see a lot more weapons on the field this year than they had last year,” said senior safety Skye PoVey.