PROVO — Game week is finally here. BYU will travel to Lincoln, Nebraska to take on the Cornhuskers. In the meantime, here are five keys to securing a win for the Cougars.
Force the Cornhuskers to throw the ball
Incumbent starting quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. is a very athletic quarterback. Last season, he rushed for more than 700 yards and six touchdowns. Give him space, and he is a dangerous runner. In years past, the Cougars have struggled against mobile quarterbacks and will have to be on alert for Armstrong's ability with his legs.
While Armstrong is a dynamic runner, he is an inconsistent passer. In his first two seasons, Armstrong had completion percentages of 51.9 percent and 53.3 percent. While he threw 22 touchdown passes last year, he has yet to prove that he can consistently beat teams with his arm. The Cornhuskers will look to pound the ball against BYU, so the Cougars will have to be stiff against the run and force Armstrong to throw the ball.
Establish the run game
No doubt the loss of running back Jamaal Williams still hurts the team. The Cougars do not have another back with Williams' mix of vision, speed and power. Algernon Brown looks like he is the early candidate to take over for Williams, and in games last season that Brown was healthy and the featured back, he showed glimpses of big things to come.
Brown is a punishing runner that is not afraid of contact. The Cougars will look to use his aggressiveness to open up the passing game. Adam Hine and Nate Carter will also be called upon for their speed and the ability to change the pace of the game. BYU will need to establish the run game, preferably without Hill tucking it as often, if they want to have success against the Cornhuskers.
Get to the quarterback
Last season, BYU struggled mightily against the pass. Some of this can be attributed to poor secondary play. Personally, I felt that the bigger problem was BYU's inability to get to the quarterback. As a team, the Cougars only recorded 24 sacks in all of 2014.
With Bronco Mendenhall taking back the reigns of the defense, there is a high probability that the Cougars will return to an aggressive blitz package to rattle quarterbacks. It should also help that Bronson Kaufusi has been moved back to his more natural position as a pass rushing defensive end. The Cougars will need to get to the quarterback to take pressure off of their secondary and force the Cornhuskers into unmanageable situations.
Tally some big pass plays
BYU's offense is built around the big play. If the Cougars do not get some explosive plays, their offense is not firing on all cylinders. Fortunately for the Y., Taysom Hill is always a strong candidate for a breakout play. His ability to take over games with his legs makes him one of the most exciting college football players in the country. However, if the coaching staff is to be believed, the Cougars will try to corral Hill more and protect him from himself.
With that said, BYU needs to throw deep and establish the vertical game. If the Cougs can get a few plays over the top of the defense, it will be easier to open up the play book and keep the Cornhuskers on their heels.
Control the tempo of the game
In the first year of offensive coordinator Robert Anae's new "go fast, go hard" offense, BYU struggled against teams that played a slower style and looked to pound the ball. In particular, the offense was futile against Big Ten opponent Wisconsin and fellow independent Notre Dame. The Cornhuskers will huddle up and try to assert their dominance in the trenches. BYU does not want to get into a battle where the game is slowed down.
The "go fast, go hard" offense is predicated on speed and wearing out opponents because of sheer volume of plays. The Cougars need to speed the game up if they want to win. Dylan Cannon is a regular KSL.com contributor and can be reached at DylanCannon86@gmail.com or via Twitter @DylanCannon11.