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Report Card vs. UCLA

It was a game that had BYU fan Web sites cougarfan.com and cougarboard.com giddy with excitement before halftime. With 6:33 still remaining in the third quarter Saturday against UCLA, Brendan Gaskins took over at quarterback for the Cougars. BYU was leading by seven touchdowns, 49-0.

Gaskins and several BYU reserves, including running backs Wayne Latu and J.J. DiLuigi, ended up acquiring some quality playing time against the Bruins’ first-team defense during the final 21 minutes of the game. They also tacked on another 10 points while the Cougars’ defensive reserves held their own and maintained the shutout, handing UCLA its worst loss since 1929.

Max Hall ended up tying the BYU individual game record of seven TD passes and the Cougar rushing attack — bottled up the last two times these teams played in the past year — logged 196 yards.

As the TV announcers proclaimed, “It was a good old-fashioned butt-kicking.”

Here are the grades for the game:

BYU Offense: A-plus

The offensive line played a near-perfect game, never allowing a sack; in fact, Hall only experienced pressure in the pocket twice in the entire game. They also dominated UCLA defenders in the ground game, with the Cougars totaling 196 rushing yards: Harvey Unga picked up 76 yards on 17 handoffs; Fui Vakapuna added 42 yards on nine attempts; J.J. DiLuigi chipped in 34 yards on seven rushes; and Wayne Latu notched 24 yards and the Cougars’ only rushing TD on five carries.

Thanks to the protection from the O-line and success running the ball, Hall was spectacular. Aside from one ill-advised pass that resulted in an interception, Hall went 27-of-35 (77.1 percent) for 258 yards and, as mentioned before, seven scores. Hall spread the ball around well and the receiving corps held onto the ball this week: Austin Collie had 10 receptions for 103 yards and two TDs; Michael Reed added five grabs for 92 yards and a TD; Dennis Pitta amassed five catches, 39 yards and two scores; and Unga racked up five receptions, 42 yards and two TDs.

BYU Defense: A-plus

To be fair, UCLA’s offense has been maligned by injuries this season. Kevin Craft is a third-string quarterback. The Bruins are using reserves at the running back and tight end positions, and they lost their starting center against the Cougars.

Still, this is a team that beat Tennessee two weeks ago in its season opener, and there shouldn’t be much of a drop-off in the quality of its reserves against a supposedly less athletic Mountain West Conference team. UCLA consistently ranks in the top 15 recruiting classes in the nation every year.

Despite the disclaimers, BYU’s defense was shockingly good against UCLA, holding the Bruins scoreless for the first time in seven years. UCLA was limited to 11 yards rushing on 16 attempts and 226 yards passing by Craft — who hit on 23-of-39 attempts for no TDs and a pick.

The thrashing really took off at the beginning of the second quarter with BYU leading 14-0. Defensive end Jan Jorgensen blindsided Craft, forcing a fumble the Cougars recovered at the UCLA 37-yard line. Hall connected with Collie on the next play for a touchdown and a 21-0 BYU lead. The defense forced three more Bruin turnovers and the offense converted each of them into touchdowns.

Perhaps the most impressive turnover generated by the Cougars on the day was Matt Putnam’s perfect read and interception of a UCLA screen pass with a minute left in the third quarter.

Special Teams: A-minus

Matt Payne was perfect on eight extra point attempts and one field goal try, good for 11 of BYU’s 59 points. Conversely, the Cougars blocked one of UCLA’s field goal attempts, which likely affected Bruin kicker Kai Forbath when he missed another try — a 26-yarder in the fourth.

CJ Santiago punted only twice in the game and averaged 50.5 yards on his kicks.

Freshman O’Neil Chambers returned the second-half kickoff 31 yards and a punt for 14 yards. Reed White totaled 20 yards on two punt returns. The lone weak point of the special teams play came on kickoff coverage, where UCLA totaled 148 yards on five returns (29.6-yard average).


BYU’s annihilation of UCLA in Provo, Utah, may very well represent the most complete game the Cougars have registered over any opponent in the program’s history. The only games that I recall the Cougars coming even close to dominating a BCS team so thoroughly would be the 31-3 win over Washington in 1985, the 31-6 victory against Oklahoma in the 1994 Copper Bowl, and the 38-8 thrashing of Oregon in the 2006 Las Vegas Bowl.

Keys to Game vs. UCLA Bruins

Every Cougar fan knows this weekend’s matchup marks the third time BYU has played UCLA in the past year. The Bruins prevailed at home last September, 27-17, and the Cougs won the Las Vegas Bowl trophy in a 17-16 thriller, thanks to Eathyn Manumaleuna’s blocked field goal on the last play of the game.

Both games provide startling contrasts and perhaps a few key takeaways that might be applied to this weekend’s contest. In the matchup last fall, BYU dominated the game offensively, gaining 199 more total yards than the Bruins. However, several possessions and lengthy drives were negated by 84 yards in penalties, two fumbles, an interception and four QB sacks.

In the Las Vegas Bowl, the Cougars had a commanding 17-6 lead with less than two minutes remaining in the first half. Rather than take a knee to run out the clock, BYU opted to put the ball in play on the ground from its 3-yard line. UCLA forced a fumble and recovered. Two plays later, the Bruins were on the board with a touchdown and the momentum heading into the locker room at halftime. UCLA stifled BYU’s offense in the second half and the game’s outcome was decided on the last play.

Key takeaways from the previous two encounters: UCLA limited the Cougars to 44 yards rushing in the first contest and 34 in the Las Vegas Bowl. Conversely, the Bruins gained 110 yards on the ground in the first game and 162 yards in the December rematch. UCLA also won the turnover battle in both games. And, in both games, UCLA managed to finish strong and move the ball at will in its final possessions against the Cougar defense. The final drive of last September’s game clinched the win for the Bruins, and their final drive in the Las Vegas Bowl set them up for the winning field goal attempt.

Saturday’s game will be a virtual chess match on the field with UCLA offensive coordinator Norm Chow matching wits with Jaime Hill and Bronco Mendenhall and Bruin defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker pitting his forces against Robert Anae’s plans.

Make no doubt about it, Chow is a huge factor with his ability to adjust the Bruin game plan in the heat of battle, as well as his ability to guide quarterback Kevin Craft through any turbulence he encounters.

Keys to defeating the Bruins

1. Establish and sustain a rushing attack. It’s pretty obvious from the previous two games that if BYU had managed to move the ball on the ground effectively, UCLA would have been toast both times. BYU cannot afford to do battle with a one-dimensional offense. The Bruins will play man-to-man pass coverage and bring the rest of the house down on Max Hall. It worked in Vegas last year. UCLA sacked Hall three times, intercepted him once, forced several incorrect reads and held the passing game to an average of 11 yards per completion — down from 13.3 in the first game, and well under his season average of 12.9 yards. A sustained rushing attack will keep the Bruin defense on the field longer and wear the group down, creating vulnerabilities for the passing game to attack.

2. Win the turnover battle. As the Cougars proved to themselves last year in Pasadena, it doesn’t matter how many yards you roll up on your opponent; if you can’t protect the ball and finish off your drives, you simply cannot win. Turnovers are huge momentum shifters and momentum and emotion are extremely powerful intangibles in any sport — even more so in college football. They affect the opposing team’s collective psyche and destroy confidence. The Cougars need to limit their own mistakes and capitalize on any Bruin turnovers they can force.

3. Limit the Bruin ground attack to fewer than 100 yards. If the Cougars fail to achieve this objective, you can be sure UCLA will either have the lead or be knocking on the door in the fourth quarter. BYU has never held the Bruins to fewer than 110 yards rushing in a game and that was last September. It was a good enough defensive performance to defeat UCLA if the Cougars would have eliminated even half of the penalties and turnovers they committed.

4. Finish them off early. Far easier said than done, but delivering on the first three keys to the game will make this possible. If you take the previous two contests as an example, including UCLA’s upset win over Tennessee two weeks ago, the Bruins have a knack for finishing strong. New head coach Rick Neuheisel makes no bones about it, either; he said they wanted to be within striking distance in the fourth quarter against the Volunteers and if they were, they felt like they could pull out the win. He’s said the same thing about playing in Provo, Utah, this weekend. He just wants the Bruins to be hanging around with a chance to win in the fourth quarter against the Cougars. BYU’s best chance at winning this game is to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Prediction: BYU has defeated UCLA only twice in nine previous contests, with the Cougars’ largest margin of victory being two points 25 years ago with Steve Young at the helm. I don’t see how this game is going to be any different despite the fact that everyone in Cougarville would love to see a whipping put on the Bruins like Utah managed to do last year. I expect the home crowd and a veteran offense that has plenty of weapons to supply just enough juice for BYU to pull this game out of the hat, 28-24.

Fourth and inches …

The best two matchups this week are on the West Coast with Big Ten powerhouses taking on a couple of California-based schools … it should be the best six hours of college football on the tube this weekend … No. 5 Ohio State faces No. 1 USC in the Los Angeles Coliseum at 8 p.m. (ET) followed by No. 10 Wisconsin battling No. 21 Fresno State at 10:30 p.m. (ET).

Why does ESPN care so much about one penalty flag in a game (BYU at Washington) it didn’t even cover? Do you think ESPN would have made such a big deal out of the official’s call if the tables were turned and the penalty had been called on Max Hall and BYU? Absolutely not. It sure seems like a blatant type of retaliation, considering ESPN doesn’t own the TV rights to any BYU or Mountain West Conference games anymore.

It really makes you wonder why ESPN analysts, including Kirk Herbstreit, Lou Holtz, Chris Fowler and Mark May, spent so much airtime on the official’s “excessive celebration” flag on Husky QB Jake Locker. Yes, it’s a dumb rule, but the official called it by the book. Washington’s kicker should have still nailed a PAT from 35 yards out and he has gone on record in the Seattle Times saying it was an easy kick for him and he would have made it if the Husky offensive line had protected him. Head coach Ty Willingham also said he wouldn’t have gone for a two-point attempt on the PAT, so chuck that argument, ESPN.

BCS-buster watch: East Carolina stunned West Virginia Tech, 24-3, and jumped to the head of the BCS-buster class … BYU nipped Washington, 28-27, in Seattle, thereby incurring the aforementioned wrath of ESPN … Utah downed UNLV, 42-21, and Fresno State rested.

Quick Snap … presented by the 84th Annual East West Shrine Game, Jan. 17, 2009, in Houston, on ESPN2:

How many times have USC and Ohio State met outside of the Rose Bowl Game and what were the final scores?

Be quick and be correct. Send your answer to quicksnap@realfootball365.com. The first email received with the correct answer wins you a limited edition 2-card set of 2008 Rose Bowl Game trading cards.

Last week’s question wasHow many losing seasons has Notre Dame football suffered in the history of its program?

The correct answer wasTwelve losing seasons (in 118 years of the program).

Top games this weekend and why:

No. 13 Kansas at No. 19 South Florida (Friday night). The losing team falls out of national championship contention. That’s all.
Nevada at No. 6 Missouri. The Wolfpack held Texas Tech gunslinger Graham Harrell to 297 yards passing last week in Reno. Can they duplicate the feat on the road against Chase Daniel?
UCLA at No. 18 BYU. The third time these programs have played each other since last September, and they split the first two. Third time’s a charm — for which team? Except this time the Bruins get to bring Norm Chow along with them.
Michigan at Notre Dame. When was the last time these two teams met without either one of them ranked in one of the polls? When was the last time you saw them both look this pathetic in the same season?
Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech. Battle of the Techs. My Tech’s better than your Tech.
No. 2 Georgia at South Carolina. The first contest of what will be the toughest four-game stretch for any D-1 program.
No. 3 Oklahoma at Washington. Willingham’s got plenty of talent in Seattle. You’ve just gotta figure he’s gonna win one of these, right? Nah.
No. 5 Ohio State at No. 1 USC. Wait a minute … Is it New Year’s Day already? Wanna know what’s unfair? If the Buckeyes lose, they don’t have a chance at playing for the national title, but if the Trojans lose, they do.
No. 10 Wisconsin at No. 21 Fresno State. Bulldogs, Badgers, both teams in shades of red. It’s gonna be a bloodbath in Fresno. Grrr …

Upset Specials: (Last week 0-4, 1-6 for the season). Remember now, these are supposed to be “walking the plank” type of way-out-there picks … that’s why I’m 1-6 so far this year … Washington over Oklahoma, South Carolina over Georgia, Purdue over Oregon, Tulane over East Carolina.

Report Card vs. Washington

If you happen to drink the same Kool-Aid as ESPN’s Mark May, Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler, among others, then you would believe that Washington manhandled BYU this past weekend and the Pac-10 officials screwed one of their own teams out of a sure win.

You would believe this despite the fact the Cougars compiled 135 more total yards on offense than Washington, and twice penetrated the blue zone on impressive drives (one of them 97 yards in length) only to turn the ball over to the Huskies on an interception and fumble.

Winning isn’t easy in Seattle. EA Sports research lists Husky Stadium the sixth-toughest college venue to play at for visiting teams (the top five are Florida, Tennessee, Ohio State, LSU and Oregon). EA’s ranking is primarily based on how rabid the fans are and the noise they can generate to confuse the visiting team.

BYU Offense

1. Max Hall was nearly perfect against the Huskies. He made one bad pass — underthrowing Dennis Pitta at the Washington 15-yard line late in the second quarter — resulting in a pick. Interception aside, he finished 30-of-41 for 338 yards and three TDs.
2. Usually sure-handed Austin Collie dropped five well-thrown balls in the game while catching five for 74 yards and one touchdown.
3. Harvey Unga was a beast unleashed; he rushed for 136 yards on 23 attempts (5.9 yards per carry) and added five receptions for 39 yards. The big negative: He fumbled the ball at the goal line after a 97-yard drive at the close of the third quarter.
4. Tight end Dennis Pitta continued to rack up huge numbers, catching nearly everything thrown his way (10 receptions, 148 yards, two TDs).
5. Michael Reed had seven receptions for 55 yards, with two clutch grabs on key third-down situations.
6. The offensive line didn’t give up a sack and opened up some huge holes for the running game.

The two turnovers and Collie’s drops reduce an otherwise ‘A’ grade.

Grade: B-plus

BYU Defense

1. The front three did an outstanding job against the run and constantly pressured Jake Locker, picking up four sacks and causing a fumble that Washington recovered. Locker’s long gainers came from the linebackers missing gaps and from his remarkable scrambling ability.
2. The secondary gave up 203 yards passing to Locker and if he had been more accurate, Cougar defenders would have easily allowed 300 yards. Clearly, the secondary is the weak link in the defense. Props to Scottie Johnson for closing in quickly and making a couple of amazing open-field tackles on Locker.
3. The key to beating Washington was containing Locker and the defense struggled mightily with that assignment. Not including the sack yardage applied to his rushing stats, Locker had 95 yards on the ground for the day and came close to engineering a Husky upset of the Cougars.

Grade: C-plus

BYU Special Teams

1. CJ Santiago had two punts that averaged 27.5 yards. Enough said.
2. O’Neil Chambers totaled 94 return yards on four attempts with a longest runback of 32 yards. Austin Collie returned one punt for 2 yards.
3. Mitch Payne was 4-of-4 on extra points. Justin Sorensen lost a bit of the boom he showed last week in his kickoffs and Washington ended up averaging 20.8 yards per return (83 yards on four returns). The kickoff team did a fine job of covering each of the kicks.
4. The blocked PAT that won the game raises the final grade from a C-plus.

Grade: B-plus

ESPN Zone Chicago: College Football Nirvana

What do you do if you find yourself in Chicago on business travel on college football game day and you don’t want to miss your team’s game? If you’re like Derrick and Patty Malone of Xenia, Ohio, you head straight to 43 East Ohio Street–home of Chicago’s ESPNZone, a place where more than 110 high-definition TV screens in a variety of configurations offer up to 16 games simultaneously.

That’s the same dilemma I found myself in this weekend and arrived at the same conclusion. Hence this live blog from a table at the third level of the 13-screen room on the second floor of ESPNZone …

12:37 p.m. (Chicago Time)

We arrived early and waited to be seated at a table in the large screening room that I had reserved using my ESPNZone MVP Club membership privileges. My son Zack, who just graduated from basic training at the U.S. Navy base at Great Lakes, Ill., and college student-athlete daughter Whitney accompanied me. They rushed off to the Zone’s game area to take each other on in an all-important brother vs. sister mini-basketball shooting contest.

12:55 p.m.

It didn’t take me long to figure out whom Derrick and Patty were rooting for. They were in mortal agony as their beloved Buckeyes were losing to the Mid American Conference’s Ohio University.

1:12 p.m.

Antoine, one of ESPNZone’s production techs, just figured out a solution for getting me an extension cord plug-in for my laptop. This will allow me to keep my same table for the next few hours while I cover the BYU-Washington game on a Fox Sports Net feed. Sweet.

1:36 p.m.

Following appetizers, Zack enjoys his order of pesto pizza and Whit is overwhelmed by the size of her chicken tender salad. Our server Carrie brings silver covers for their plates while they head off to explore NikeTown and some of the other attractions in the area.

1:55 p.m.

Ohio State had a huge fourth quarter and came back to defeat the Bobcats, so Derrick and Patty are happy campers as they leave the Zone.

2:10 p.m.

The Boston College-Georgia Tech game ran over schedule, so by the time the BYU- Washington game comes on screen “feed #6,” the Cougars are already winning 7-0.

2:58 p.m.

Jake Locker has thrown for a touchdown and scored on a run, while BYU’s Max Hall has tossed two TDs. The score is deadlocked at 14-14 halfway through the second quarter. I think I’m the only person watching this game in the room; everyone else seems preoccupied with the Notre Dame – San Diego State game that has come on the big screen. Server Carrie swings by to make sure my lemonade is refilled.

3:22 p.m.

BYU and Washington are even at 14 at the midway point of their game. A few quick observations: Aside from hauling in a 38-yard TD pass on BYU’s first drive, Austin Collie has dropped at least four throws. Very uncharacteristic of him. Harvey Unga is running over everyone and everything in his path. Unless the Cougars can find a way to contain Jake Locker, they are not going to win this game.

3:56 p.m.

The second half is underway and Washington launched a long touchdown drive to take the lead 21-14. It’s pretty obvious the Husky O-line is holding on nearly every pass play. Wonder what the officials are seeing?

4:08 p.m.

BYU counters with a long drive of its own, capped off by a bruising 11-yard touchdown run by fullback Fui Vakapuna. The game’s tied 21-21. I finally decided to order my entree and take Carrie’s suggestion of the Cajun Chicken sandwich. Notre Dame fans in the room are vocally expressing their displeasure at the inability of the Irish to score on the Aztec defense. SDSU leads 7-0 with less than 2 minutes remaining in the first half.

4:15 p.m.

BYU finally holds Locker & Co. It’s still 21-21 with under a minute remaining in the third quarter. I predicted a close game earlier this week, with BYU winning by four points. This will be an interesting fourth quarter coming up with a Husky punt now pinning the Cougars on their own 3-yard line.

4:21 p.m.

Irish fans are whooping it up as the golden domers just scored to tie the game up at 7. The fourth quarter is now underway and Max Hall just connected with tight end Dennis Pitta on a 29-yard completion to get the Cougars out of a hole on their 3-yard line. Another Husky is hurt and down on the field; by my count, that’s the fifth Washington player helped off the field today.

4:26 p.m.

Harvey Unga just rambled for another 8 or 9 yards and he’s over 100 for the day. Hall connects with Pitta again for another 20 yards. Another Washington player is down on the field. BYU has driven to just outside the Washington 20-yard line on this drive.

4:31 p.m.

The Husky player must be hurt really bad. They are taking him off the field on a stretcher. Jake Locker is leading his kneeling teammates in a prayer on the Washington sideline. OK, I have to mention two minor drawbacks to covering a game here; one, the wireless connection is really slow. Also, if there is any way to get audio on a game other than the big screen, I haven’t figured it out yet; there must be a way, because some Connecticut fans were sitting in the booth next to us not too long ago and the play-by-play announcer for their game against Temple was clearly audible. I checked with Leslie LeSage, operations manager, and she was very helpful and said she’d look into it.

4:32 p.m.

My main order just arrived. Wow, Carrie was right about this Cajun Chicken sandwich. It is delicious.

4:37 p.m.

Harvey Unga just fumbled the ball at the goal line and the play is under review by Pac-10 officials. That’s not a position you want to put yourselves in as a visiting team, but it was pretty clear that he fumbled before breaking the plane of the goal line. Washington has the touchback and the ball on its own 20 with 11:33 left in the game. What a punch to BYU’s gut after a 97-yard drive would have put the Cougars up by 7. That’s the second BYU drive deep into Husky territory that has ended in a turnover this game. They are shooting themselves in the foot.

4:45 p.m.

BYU holds on the Huskies and forces the punt. There’s 8:19 remaining on the clock. I just noticed that a house salad accompanied by sandwich. Kudos to ESPNZone chef for using a baby green mix instead of iceberg lettuce in the salad.

4:49 p.m.

BYU is driving again. Max Hall is 25-of-36 for 282 yards. Hold on; he just hit Pitta for another 25 yards or so. BYU is down near the Husky 30-yard line with 5:20 left on the clock.

4:53 p.m.

Notre Dame fans just went silent as SDSU intercepted Jimmy Clausen in the end zone. Back to the BYU game. Hall just hit Pitta for a 15-yard score. BYU 28, Washington 21 with 3:31 remaining in the game. Can the BYU defense hold Jake Locker on this next drive to seal the game? Unga already has 133 yards on 23 carries in this game.

4:57 p.m.

The Cougar defense forces a third-and-3, but Jake Locker drills a pass into one of his receivers for the first down — 2:15 remaining.

A quick note to my readers here. ESPNZone did not comp any food or services today. I do appreciate their hospitality and service rendered today.

5:03 p.m.

Locker just ran for a first down on fourth-and-8 to keep the Huskies alive in this game. A play later, he got creamed but completed another pass for another first down. There is 54 seconds left and Washington has the ball on BYU’s 29-yard line. Both teams have two timeouts left.

5:16 p.m.

After Locker was flagged for intentional downing the ball, he completed a long pass for another first down on the Cougar 18-yard line. Thirty-six seconds left.

Incomplete pass on first down. Thirty-one ticks left. Locker just tucked the ball and ran it to the BYU 3-yard line. Twenty-three seconds left. Another first down. Locker tosses one into the corner and BYU defender Scottie Johnson breaks it up. Second down. Locker overthrows a receiver in the end zone. Eight seconds left. Third down. Locker runs it in to make it 28-27. Unsportsmanlike conduct on Washington. Will they be assessed the 15 yards on the extra point or the kick off? Here we go … BYU blocked the extra point attempt and recovered the ball. The score is 28-27 and the clock still shows two seconds. There’s another unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Not sure whom it’s on, but Washington just attempted an onside kick and recovered the ball. It looked like he caught the ball inside the 10-yard zone. Penalty on Washington and there will be another kickoff. The clock shows NO time remaining, but the game cannot end on a penalty.

5:17 p.m.

Another kickoff attempt by Washington — this time into the end zone for a touchback and BYU will have the ball on its 20-yard line. One second left. Hall will take a knee on the snap. He does, and that’s it. BYU holds on to beat Washington for the first time ever in Seattle. Final score 28-27, BYU over Washington.

Keys to Game vs. Washington Huskies

Brigham Young’s BCS-busting dream season could easily become a nightmare in Seattle if it doesn’t take Washington seriously this weekend. This game is the first real test that will indicate if Bronco Mendenhall truly has mended the deficiencies in his game preparations for early season road contests. In the past two years, all of BYU’s four losses occurred within the first few games of the season on the road at Arizona, Boston College, UCLA and Tulsa.

Five keys to defeating Washington

1. Contain Jake Locker. Duh. This one’s pretty fundamental. Oregon held Locker to 57 yards rushing on 16 carries and 12-of-28 passing for 103 yards last week. The Ducks also sacked him three times. The Ducks won at home 44-10, although the game was close (21-10) at the end of the third quarter. Ty Willingham pulled Locker once the game was out of reach with just over 7 minutes remaining.

Locker is a 6-foot-3, 222-pound speedy, powerful runner who poses the option threat every time he touches the ball. He’s not a terribly accurate passer and more dangerous on the ground, but the kid is competitive and will find a way to beat you if you don’t bottle him up on every play.

At the same time, the Cougars cannot afford to let running backs Chris Polk or Brandon Johnson pick up the slack for the Huskies on the ground. Oregon held Polk to 19 yards on 14 carries and Johnson to 13 yards on seven rush attempts. Quite simply, they took away the ground game and forced Washington to try and beat them through the air. BYU would be smart to follow a similar game plan, especially with the depth and strength the Cougars possess on the defensive front line.

2. Protect the ball—protect the quarterback. BYU got away with fumbling the ball four times last week to Northern Iowa. If the Cougars do that in Seattle, they’ll leave with a loss.

The Cougars need Max Hall to turn in another zero-pick game as well. It’s pretty demoralizing to a defense when Hall is able to sit in the pocket and pick it apart with an array of targets at various distances across the field.

If the O-line keeps the pressure off Hall, the ground game will open up and then Harvey Unga and Fui Vakapuna can land some pretty nasty one-two punches in the gut of the Husky front eight. Washington is sporting a 3-3-5 defensive scheme under new coordinator Ed Donatell and it has good team speed. Oregon managed 496 total yards on offense against the Huskies—256 yards passing and 240 yards rushing. A balanced output of that caliber would bode well for the Cougars in Seattle.

3. Control both sides of the line of scrimmage. This is really a sum of the first two keys to the game. Washington returns solid experience on both sides of the line—just like the Cougars—and it’s not rocket science to figure out the veracity of this equation. If BYU can contain Locker and the Husky rushing attack while protecting Hall and giving him enough time to read through his progressions and find his open receivers, besides winning the turnover margin, then the Cougars will go home with a much-deserved victory. Both sides of the line need to step up their game in a big way against the Huskies.

4. Spread the ball around. Washington will try to neutralize BYU’s weapons and force the Cougars into a one-dimensional attack. They’ll gladly allow Dennis Pitta a couple hundred receiving yards in exchange for bottling up Unga and the ground game and marginalizing the rest of the wideout corps. Hall needs to get the ball to Austin Collie and Michael Reed on a consistent basis early in the game to stretch the field on the Husky defenders and as Bronco Mendenhall has said, “force them to pick their poison.” The rotational receivers like Hafoka, Ashworth, White and Chambers need to make some big plays when called upon like White did last week in the fourth quarter.

When the Cougar offense is humming in high gear and several players are getting touches and gaining yardage, a state of confusion and panic sets in on the defensive side of the ball. When this happens, Hall & Co. chew up the clock, wear the opponent’s defense down and the scoreboard starts to rock ‘n roll at a dizzying pace for the Cougars.

5. Start fast and take the crowd out of the game. There are several reasons why BYU has never won in four tries in Seattle, but the overarching factor in all four of those losses has been a slow start on the Cougars’ part.

The Washington home-field advantage is real. Even in down years, the Huskies have pulled off major upsets on their home turf and the fans are itching to make one happen this Saturday. It is imperative for the Cougars to score early and often to quiet the 70,000-plus faithful in Husky Stadium. It’s the first home game of the new season and both players and fans will be pumped up to cage the Cougars.

If the Huskies have the lead or are hanging close in the fourth quarter, it will be a monumental achievement for BYU to pull off a win on Saturday.

Prediction: I would be surprised to see BYU start fast and sustain any sort of comfortable lead against a very hungry, agitated Husky team. I envision a see-saw struggle with the Cougars hanging on for a 24-20 win. The scoring could go a bit higher, perhaps 34-30, with special teams play being a deciding factor.