If Arizona can do it, the Utes can, too

By By Tom Quinn

By Tom Quinn

BYU fans like to think that the Cougars’ offense is unstoppable, and after watching their 55-7 shellacking of Wyoming, it’s easy to understand why.

The Cougars like to pile on the points, and the majority of the teams on their schedule have been more than willing to allow them to do just that. In reality, however, BYU’s offense can be beaten, and at least one team has provided a blueprint for keeping the Cougars out of the end zone.

Earlier this season, the lowly Arizona Wildcats defeated BYU, holding the mighty Cougars to a mere 13 points in the process. Arizona showed the rest of the NCAA how to beat the Cougars, and the Utes are one of the few teams with both the talent and scheme to follow in their footsteps.

First and foremost, the Utes will need to stop the run. The Cougars’ backs found little room to run against Arizona’s defense; the Wildcats ultimately held them to a paltry 24 yards on 24 carries. Curtis Brown is BYU’s most dangerous weapon, and Arizona showed the world that taking him away cripples the Cougar offense.

Utah, in spite of its consistency issues, has been stalwart against the run all season long. The Utes’ rush defense made a statement last Saturday by holding Air Force to 118 yards on the ground, less than half of the Falcons’ season average. Also, Utah has not allowed an opposing back to top the century mark all season long.

With BYU’s rushing attack stuck in neutral, Arizona’s defense was free to target John Beck on virtually every snap. Although the Wildcats only sacked him twice, Beck was rarely able to set his feet before throwing. And everyone knows that Beck is only effective when he has at least three seconds to set up.

If the Utes succeed in stopping the run, there is every reason to believe that Utah’s defensive line will be able to keep pressure on Beck all afternoon. Defensive tackle Kelly Talavou has both the size and speed to make himself a presence in the backfield, and defensive end Martail Burnett leads the conference in sacks with 5.5.

Last, but certainly not least, the presence of a good corner in the defensive backfield goes a long way toward neutralizing the Cougars’ vaunted passing attack. Much like Kryptonite’s effect on Superman, a good DB leaves BYU powerless and near death.

The Wildcats’ defense boasts one of the country’s top cover men in Antoine Cason, and back in September, he was the most important cog in a defense that broke up five passes and allowed only one touchdown.

For those who don’t know, the Utes also have a pretty good cornerback on the roster, a gentleman by the name of Eric Weddle. Weddle, who held All-America receiver Calvin Johnson to two catches for 19 yards in last year’s Emerald Bowl, has a knack for shutting down opposing offenses.

Although Weddle certainly has the talent to mimic Cason’s performance against the Cougars, some fans are understandably concerned about his ability maintain airtight coverage on opposing receivers while simultaneously playing quarterback, lining up at running back, returning punts and leading the marching band.

Regardless of what Cougar fans think, Utah’s defense matches up well with BYU’s offense. Assuming the Utes come to play on Saturday afternoon, they are capable of keeping the Cougars out of the end zone–or certainly as capable as the Arizona Wildcats.