This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The revisionist version of BYU's seasons starts this week as the Cougars attempt to move on from the Michigan shutout debacle. Up next is a home game Friday night against UConn, which won its opening two games, but dropped in the last two weeks against Missouri and Navy. The Huskies are certainly beatable, but the Cougars will need to rebound quickly and start fast to shake off the cobwebs from last week. Here's a position-by-position look at this week's matchup and which team will have the edge heading into Friday's game:
Tanner Mangum came back to reality last week after a sterling start to the season, throwing for only 55 yards and an average of two yards per attempt against the Wolverines. His receivers were almost entirely snuffed out by Michigan's coverage and extra weight will fall on him to win this game as BYU's top running backs deal with injuries. He'll have another tough matchup this week against the Huskies, who surrender only 125 yards passing per game.
N.C. State transfer Bryant Shirreffs is the guy under center for UConn. He's had a productive season with 847 yards and four touchdowns to only one interception while completing 65 percent of his passes. Shirreffs is also a rushing threat with 115 yards on the ground this season, a concern after BYU was chewed up by Michigan's rushing attack last week. Still, Mangum has better weapons and should rebound this week.
The status of several BYU rushers is up in the air, Adam Hine likely slated to miss the game Friday night after suffering an ankle injury against Michigan. Algie Brown participated in pregame warmups against the Wolverines and would be invaluable if he could return against UConn, but his status is unknown as well. Up next are Francis Bernard and Carter, Bernard rushing for 30 yards on four carries last week. The Cougars will get a break this week facing a UConn team surrendering nearly 171 yards per game on the ground.
Sophomore Arkeel Newsome seized the lead back spot for the Huskies last week against Navy, rushing for 69 yards on 14 carries and adding 51 yards in the passing game. Ron Johnson was the top choice in the previous weeks, rushing for 131 yards and three touchdowns so far this season. Along with Shirreffs potential to break a run, the Huskies have an edge here.
BYU's pass catchers were abysmal last week, getting lost in physical coverage to the tune of 12 total catches for 55 yards between nine receivers. The leader Devon Blackmon caught only one pass for 14 yards. UConn's pass defense is strong, but the Cougars have the variation in size and speed needed to exploit certain matchups to help Mangum out.
Junior Noel Thomas is Shirreffs' favorite target this season and is averaging over 15 yards per catch on 19 receptions for 286 yards. Freshman Tyraiq Beals is second on the team with 132 yards and Newsome is a threat to break passing plays out of the backfield. The Cougars had a down week, but still have more overall talent at receiver for the advantage in this category.
If the offensive line bent in the first few weeks of the season, the unit broke against Michigan. Mangum was under constant pressure with little more than a couple of seconds to throw the ball and was sacked three times. The Cougars struggled against a big, physical Michigan front seven and will need to bounce back to give Mangum more time against UConn.
Luckily for BYU, the Huskies' offensive line is equally troubled, evidenced by the team's position at 125th in the nation in scoring per game. Shirreffs has been sacked 12 times this season, second worst in the American Athletic Conference. Despite their overall struggles, BYU's defense sacked Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock twice, but the overall offensive line matchup is too close to call.
Defensive line and linebackers
Michigan's run game rolled through BYU's defensive front, racking up 254 yards, three touchdowns and a staggering five yards per carry. Adding to the long list of injuries is Harvey Langi, who is second on the team in tackles and looks questionable at best for this game. The Cougars will need to both pressure Shirreffs and find a way to limit Newsome. If not, they're in for another long day.
UConn is on the lower end of the American Athletic Conference, giving up 171 yards per game on the ground for the 74th best rush defense in the country. The Huskies are tied for eighth in the conference with only five sacks this season. Sophomore defensive lineman Folorunso Fatukasi who has three tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks is a player to watch.
BYU was hardest hit with injuries in the secondary last week after Micah Hannemann and Michael Davis were both hurt. Jordan Preator is expected to play this week after missing the last three games, a needed boost. The Cougars held up well overall against Rudock, allowing 194 yards and a touchdown, but broke down on several plays. They'll be tested this week, especially if Hannemann and Davis are limited.
UConn's overall team strength is in the secondary. The Huskies have the sixth best pass defense in the nation in passing yards allowed with only 130 per game and have allowed the fewest passing touchdowns (3) in the AAC this season. Safety Andrew Adams leads the team in both interceptions (two) and tackles (34) and will be a key player in limiting BYU's receivers.
Prediction: BYU has basically nowhere to go but up after a lowpoint against Michigan, but the Huskies have a strong defense and can move the ball effectively against a Cougars roster devastated by injuries. Still, BYU rebounds to win this one 35-13.