BYU’s football team heads west to California to test its new look secondary as it faces off against a potent San Jose State passing attack.
The Spartans (8-2) have been dominant on offense this year and will test the BYU secondary. San Jose State is averaging 325.8 passing yards and is averaging 30 points a game. San Jose State’s two losses came against Utah State and Stanford, making this a team that should not be taken lightly.
“They’re good on offense, and they’re a good team,” said head coach Bronco Mendenhall. “We’re looking forward to the challenge. It’s another road game with great exposure, and our team is excited to play.”
The Spartans are led on offense by junior quarterback David Fales, who has thrown for 3,126 yards and 25 touchdowns this season. Noel Grigsby, a junior wide receiver, is Fales’ favorite target in the passing attack. Grigsby has 914 yards and seven touchdowns receiving this season. On the ground, Fales will hand the ball off to senior De’Leon Eskridge. The running back has rushed for 729 yards and scored seven touchdowns.
The last time the Cougars (6-4) faced a passing offense of this caliber was in October against Oregon State. In that game they gave up 332 passing yards and allowed the Beavers to score 42 points. Senior defensive back Preston Hadley offered a couple solutions to help avoid a repeat of the Oregon State results.
“Like in any game, we’ve got to stop the run,” Hadley said. “Then we’ve got to get after the quarterback and force them into third and long situations. Lastly we need to win our one-on-one battles. They’ve got some players that can play, but we’re up to the challenge as always.”
The Cougars will need a clean and well-executed game from senior quarterback Riley Nelson. Nelson can hand the ball off to Jamaal Williams to milk the clock and keep the Spartans’ offense off the field. When the Spartan offense does get on the field the Cougars will need to get plenty of pressure on Fales using the speed of Kyle Van Noy and Ezekiel Ansah in the pass rush. The two Cougar defenders have combined for 11.5 sacks in 10 games.
BYU would normally rely on its nickel coverage to try and counter the San Jose State passing attack. This week will be different however. Last week’s loss of starting safety Joe Sampson has forced the Cougars to change up how they defend the pass. Coach Mendenhall said that players like Spencer Hadley and Craig Bills have had to learn new roles the last two weeks. Robbie Buckner also got playing time, filling in for starting cornerback Jordan Johnson.
Sampson and Zac Stout were both kicked off the team last week for their roles in a late-night altercation at the Rancherito’s in Provo. Jordan Johnson also missed last week’s game but will be allowed to play again, as long as he fulfills coach Mendenhall’s requirements for good standing with the program.
With a win on Saturday, BYU’s football team would secure a winning season to go along with its invitation to the Poinsettia Bowl. Kick-off is at 8:30 p.m. MST and can be seen on ESPN 2.