GAME PREVIEW: (22) BYU vs Air Force

GAME PREVIEW: (22) BYU vs Air Force

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PROVO -- Coming off a 52-0 thrashing of the Wyoming Cowboys, the No. 22 BYU Cougars (8-2, 5-1 MWC) were expected to roll over the winless New Mexico Lobos heading into two key match-ups against the Air Force Academy and the University of Utah.

Instead of dominating the Lobos, the Cougars benefited from two missed field goals and a missed extra point in an uninspired five-point win.

The Cougars now go home where they've struggled against decent competition (both loses to Florida State and TCU were in Provo) to host an Air Force squad seeking a marquee win in 2009.

BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall calls this game, "one of the highlights of the year" because "of the uniqueness of schemes that Air Force plays with" and "just who they play with."

The Falcons (7-4, 5-2) have a good enough offense with their triple-option attack and a fantastic defense ranked #1 in pass defense to beat anyone on any given day on any field.

BYU will have its hands full and must remain disciplined both offensively and defensively to head into the "Holy War" with a win over Air Force.

KSL takes a look back and a look ahead as we prep for game day.

What did we learn about BYU versus New Mexico?

  • Even the good teams need to "gut one out" at some point during the season
  • BYU is "money" in close games; 10 consecutive wins in games decided by seven points or fewer
  • BYU needs balance to be successful (only 41 rush yards at New Mexico)
  • There is no Eddie Wide-type replacement behind a banged-up Harvey Unga

What questions do we still have about BYU?

  • Will there be carry-over from the sluggish effort at New Mexico?
  • How effective will Unga be versus Air Force and Utah?
  • Can the Cougars continue their string of dominance over the Falcons (five consecutive wins; average score 41-22)
  • Can the Cougars re-establish their home-field advantage?

What can BYU expect from Air Force?

  • A disciplined option-based run game, balanced by an increasingly effective pass attack.
  • A top-ten pass defense testing Max Hall and company.
  • Falcon ball security, an opportunistic offense and ball-hawking defenders; Air Force is 3rd nationally in turnover margin
  • A determined effort in the Cadet's last chance to beat one of the MWC's "Big Three"

What can Air Force expect from BYU?

  • A concerted effort to get out of blocks and on the scoreboard quickly
  • A record-setting day from Unga (21 rush yards away from BYU's all-time rushing record)
  • A defense that knows how to handle the option (BYU has held AFA to below its rush average in 23 of 27 conference meetings)
  • A game plan aimed at forcing the Falcons into third-and-longs and passing situations


  • If the BYU Football team wins out (beating Air Force and Utah), it will equal the most successful four-year span (in terms of wins) in BYU Football history. 43-9 (83% win rate) would equal the four-year span from 1983-86.
  • If BYU reaches 10 wins this season, it will be the first time in BYU Football history that the program has recorded four consecutive 10-plus win seasons.
  • Mendenhall has the highest win percentage of any coach in BYU Football history, at 75.4% (46-15 in his fifth season). He is one of only seven active FBS coaches with a win percentage of 75% or higher.
  • Lavell Edwards is second all-time at BYU win a win percentage of 71.6% (257-101-3). Mendenhall and Edwards are two of only five BYU coaches to win more than half their games.
  • Max Hall is one of only two quarterbacks nationally (Case Keenum, Houston) in the top ten in all four of the following categories:
    • Passing Yards/Game: 9th
    • Passing Efficiency: 2nd
    • Total Offense: 9th
    • Points Responsible For: 10th
  • CB Brian Logan is third nationally in total passes defended (15)
  • BYU is 12th nationally in passing offense, scoring offense and total offense
  • Air Force is fifth in 3rd down defense (BYU is first in offensive 3rd down efficiency)
  • The Falcons are second in turnovers lost; 11th in turnovers gained; third in turnover margin (BYU is 69th, 75th and 78th in the same categories, respectively)
  • BYU is 56th nationally in rushing offense. The Falcons are ranked 56th nationally in rush defense


After a less-than stellar effort in Albuquerque, expect the Cougars to be sharper as they tune up for the Utah finale with a team that tends to bring out the best in BYU. Wintry weather could introduce an element that tests Air Force's impressive ball security, while BYU needs to tighten up its own turnover margin numbers. With a win, Max Hall becomes BYU's all-time winningest starting quarterback; the Cougars are on pace to equal the most successful four-year span in Cougar Football history by winning out (an 11-2 season would make BYU 43-9 from the 2006 through 2009 seasons).

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