Friday, September 11, 2009

What to Watch for Against Tulane

On the heels of a season-defining performance over Oklahoma, BYU football has been showered with positive national press this week. However, that performance could become much less significant should the team not build on it by continuing to improve as the season progresses. That will be the key to the season—continuous improvement. Remember, it was about this time last year that BYU beat UCLA 59-0 in an incredible performance by players and coaches; however, that was the high point of the season as far as execution goes, and the team seemed to decline each week. Had they continued to improve, the season would have ended very differently. With that in mind, prior to each game, I will outline a number of areas that can be improved and a couple of things to watch for as you try to gauge the team’s improvement each week.

One Game at a Time Mentality—Has the team been focused on Tulane? Have they been looking ahead to Florida State? Have they been caught up in the same national projections that fans are indulging in? Have they believed the hype? Watch for them to come out with focus and fire; if they don’t it will be a much closer game than it should have been (as was seen several times last year).

Running Game Improvement—It will be hard to not see improvement here, after going up against perhaps the best defensive line in the country with a first time starter. Harvey Unga (hamstring) will be a game time decision, and should he play, will add to the running game significantly, but essentially sitting out for the last several weeks, has got to have taken a toll on his conditioning. Manase Tonga appeared a bit slow last week—watch for him to pick up more positive yards. In Unga’s absence, watch to see if Brian Kariya can maintain last week’s form now that he is on film and if J.J. DiLuigi gets more carries (only one last week) in a confidence building performance.

O Line Protection—The offensive line performed well last week considering that four of them were starting for the first time, the other had a cast on his hand, and that they were going up against an NFL caliber onslaught. But, the reality is that Hall was sacked several times, hit more times again than is sustainable, and was under pressure almost the entire night. Watch for the line to provide more time and comfort to the General in the pocket.

Ball Distribution—Max Hall put the ball in seven different receiver’s hands last week, but two of those were tight ends and three were running backs (Kariya, DiLuigi, Tonga). Only Chambers and Jacobson got the ball on the outside (8 of 26 catches, 31%). Watch to see if more passes go to the outside against a potentially less talented secondary and if some of those go to the next receivers in the rotation—Luke Ashworth, Spencer Hafoka, or even freshman Brett Thompson.

Punt Return Improvement—OU punted 7 times last week, and we had 2 returns for 3 yards and a critical fumble. Watch for significant improvement in the return game this week.

Quarterback Pressure—Last year BYU brought the heat on UCLA and the defense looked All-American. But that was it. After the “game planning” for that game, they went back to an “out-execute-them” strategy for the rest of the season, and faced a steady decline. The D line and linebackers played an excellent game against Oklahoma, but now that the blitzed and alignments are on film, it will be interesting to see if they can maintain the pressure and keep Tulane’s QB on the run.

Points—After giving up only 13 points to the number three team in the land, expectations are high for the scoring defense. Watch to see if it can maintain mojo by keeping Tulane to two touchdowns or less. Anything more, and it will not look good scrolling across the bottom of screens across the country.

Field Goals—BYU has now missed four field goals in a row going back to the Las Vegas Bowl against Arizona. I am sure that they hope they don’t have to attempt any three pointers this week, but if they do, watch for consistency to emerge here soon, or expect it to be the difference in a game at some point.

Penalties—the team had 10 penalties for 87 yards last week, and if it hadn’t been for OU giving that penalty yardage right back, likely would have cost them the game. Watch to see if this improves and if last week can be chalked up to first game jitters or if it was more fundamental.

Turnovers—four turnovers (and several other close calls), and a negative two turnover margin last week leaves a lot of room for improvement. When BYU seemed unstoppable in 2006 it ranked fourth in the country in turnover margin (13 total turnovers and 27 takeaways) with a plus 1.08 per game.

1 comment:

  1. I read on here just about every day. I know that you are busy and probably not getting paid for this, but posting more would be appreciated!!