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Experienced Cougars not intimidated by Nebraska history

Laura Seitz/Deseret News

Experienced Cougars not intimidated by Nebraska history

By David Boyle, Contributor | Posted - Sep. 1, 2015 at 4:01 p.m.

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PROVO — When the BYU Cougars take the field at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, they will be stepping out to play one of the most storied college programs ever.

Nebraska has won every season opener for 29 years, dating back to 1986. Historic programs, however, don't scare BYU's starting quarterback, Taysom Hill.

"We've experience this before, we've been on the road to big stadiums, we've played (against) big teams and we've won on the road," Hill said. "We're going to go into the stadium and do it again."

Hill and quarterback coach Jason Beck attribute the confidence to the return of offensive starters from last year.

"Last year, especially after Taysom went down, there was a void, and the next few weeks a lot of players stepped up," Beck said. "Because of that, we're playing at a little higher level."

Tejan Koroma, last year's starting center, was among those praised by Beck for stepping up early last year.

"(The atmosphere) if anything is going to make us play better, it sounds like fun," Koroma said.

Everybody knows with No. 4 in there, we have a great opportunity to win the game.

–BYU quarterbacks coach Jason Beck

Koroma and the Cougars' offensive line will face a tough early challenge from Nebraska's defensive tackles. Returning starters Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine each had 45 tackles last season.

"Their defensive tackles are probably the strength of the (Nebraska) defense, maybe even the whole team," Koroma said. "It really is up to us to take this game over and be the ones to help out (the) team."

Another reason BYU is confident going into Saturday is the senior leadership of Hill.

"We know we just got to do our part, and he'll take care of the rest," Koroma said about Hill. "He's just a football player, he's a winner."

Hill's leadership has merit, with a win/loss record of 14-5 as a starter.

"He doesn't get rattled, he goes in first play, he's sharp, the nerves don't get to him. He starts fast and plays well," Beck said.

"If the leaders see something going wrong and they are acting sour, then it's really easy for that vibe to trickle through the team," Hill said of himself and fellow team leaders. "When things do go bad, we never change our demeanor and we're on to the next play."

Preparation for Saturday's game in Lincoln has been a little different for BYU than normal.

Mike Riley and Mark Banker are in their first years as head coach and defensive coordinator, respectively, at Nebraska. Both Riley and Banker come from the same coaching roles at Oregon State.

The Cougars can expect a Cornhusker emphasis on rush defense. Banker's 2007 OSU squad led the nation in rush defense. BYU had just 81 rushing yards in their last matchup against a Banker-led defense, a 42-24 loss to Oregon State.

BYU expects to get the job done behind the running of Algernon Brown and Adam Hine.

Beck said that will be somewhat supplemented by the explosive running game of Hill.

"We've emphasized (to Taysom) getting out of bounds (while running) ... but he'll still run and make big plays," he said.

If the Cougar's run game is slow Saturday, Beck and Hill feel confident in off-season improvements in regards to passing.

Both Beck and Hill said the focus has been on improving Hill's decision-making and timing. Beck said of Taysom, "Everybody knows with No. 4 in there, we have a great opportunity to win the game." David Boyle is a student at Brigham Young University studying journalism. He is from Monticello, Utah, and is thrilled to be covering BYU football and basketball in fall 2015.

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