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Friday, April 20, 2018

Football

High-profile game brings Cougars a prime opponent


The offensive and defensive line prepare for the challenge BYU presents to each unit.  |  Justin Tijerina/The Daily Cougar

The offensive and defensive line prepare for the challenge BYU presents to each unit. | Justin Tijerina/The Daily Cougar

University of Texas coaches probably still have nightmares about the team’s trip to Provo, Utah for a contest against Brigham Young University — UH’s next opponent.

BYU tallied 550 rushing yards en route to a 40-21 victory against Texas on Sept. 7. Sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill used the zone-read option to gain positive chunks seemingly each time he touched the ball, with 259 rushing yards.

Through six games, Hill has 644 rushing yards. He is followed closely by sophomore running back Jamaal Williams, who has 543 yards for a team that has already churned out 1,577 net rushing yards and 4.9 yards per carry.

On Saturday, UH’s much-improved defense gets its chance to keep BYU’s offense from rushing rampant at Reliant Stadium on Saturday. Through five games, the Cougars are only allowing 19 points per game and 126.6 rushing yards per contest.

“We’ve got to keep them off balanced. We’ve got to tackle well. They are a big, physical team — even at quarterback,” head coach Tony Levine said. “It’ll be a great challenge for us. We’ve got to continue to create turnovers defensively.”

Though Hill is known for his feet, the Cougars are also concerned with the threat of his arm.

“He’s not a one-dimensional running quarterback,” Levine said. “He throws the ball as well. He’s got five touchdown passes.”

To stop Hill, who leads BYU in rushing and passing, the defense will need to play in a disciplined manner and continue to force turnovers, defensive coordinator David Gibbs said. The biggest threat that the read option poses to defenses is the pass game, because all of the plays give the defense a similar look before and after the ball is snapped.

“It’s impossible (to stop) a guy who can run like he can run and throw it like he throws it. He’s got great weapons around him,” Gibbs said. “He’s such a big physical running quarterback that can throw that you obviously have to take the running game away without giving up the big pass plays.”

On offense, UH will face a BYU defense that includes All-American senior linebacker Kyle Van Noy. Levine said the offense will know where Van Noy lines up each play because he is the type of player that can disrupt an offensive game plan. He is especially adept at getting to the quarterback — Van Noy has 10 quarterback hurries and four sacks this season.

“Kyle Van Noy is as good as an outside linebacker, rush-type guy as I’ve ever seen,” Levine said.

But for UH, it’s also an opportunity to improve its national profile. Though UH has an undefeated record, BYU is the team’s highest-profile competitor so far this season. BYU has already taken down talented teams Texas and Georgia Tech.

UH is receiving votes in the Associated Press college football poll. A victory against BYU could mean a top 25 ranking.

“It’s going to be a great challenge for us. Any time you play a team that has respect around the country, it’s a good thing. I know we’re all excited to have a chance to play a real quality opponent, and a team that beat Texas is always a bonus too,” junior offensive lineman Bryce Redman said.

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