BYU vs. San Jose State: What you need to know

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San Jose State's Tyler Ervin runs for a touchdown against New Mexico. The Cougars have been practicing to stop in for Friday's game. (Associate Press)
San Jose State’s Tyler Ervin runs for a touchdown against New Mexico. The Cougars have been getting ready to stop Ervin in Friday’s game. (Associate Press)

Don’t let San Jose State’s 4-4 record deceive you. BYU football will need to be prepared for certain juggernaut strengths the Spartans have on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.

The Cougars will have to prepare for and combat two major aspects of the Spartans’ game in order to come out with a comfortable win on Friday. First, the Cougars need to be ready for the Spartans’ run-heavy offense. Second, they will need to adjust their game plan on offense because of the Spartans’ stellar pass defense.

San Jose State’s running back Tyler Ervin is a brute when carrying the ball. He is currently ranked third among FBS rushers for total rushing yards at 1159. He rushed for 263 yards against New Mexico on Oct. 24, 2015. He has 193 of the Spartans’ 321 carries on the season.

So how do you stop a running back like Ervin? Head coach Bronco Mendenhall said Ervin is very difficult to tackle. Mendenhall said they used Washington State transfer, Squally Canada, during practice to accustom the defense to tackling someone who is difficult to bring down.

If the Cougars can contain Ervin then they should be set at containing the Spartans’ rushing attack since he accounts for the majority of the Spartans’ carries. If the Cougars are able to shut down the Spartans’ running game then that will limit them on offense due to their lack luster passing game. The Spartans are ranked 68th in the nation in passing offense.

Ari Davis
Nick Kurtz catches the ball and tries to get past a Cincinatti defender in the Cougars’ 38-24 win on Oct. 16. Kurtz has 368 total yards on the season. (Ari Davis)

San Jose State also has the best pass defense in the nation along with their consistent rushing attack. It currently ranks first in the nation in passing yards allowed. Quarterback coach Jason Beck said the San Jose defense can throw a lot of different things at BYU’s offense with their coverage and blitzes. The Cougars will have to adjust for those things as the game goes on.

“From a defensive standpoint, they have some great DBs that are going to test our offense,” Tanner Mangum told the media. “It will be good for us to take on that challenge against a good Mountain West team. It is something we are looking forward to.”

BYU’s receivers will need to be on the top of their game in order to find the weaknesses in the San Jose’s secondary defense. Wide receiver Mitch Mathews said the bye week allowed them to have more practices where they could run some plays that could trip up the Spartans’ defense.

BYU has the advantage though because of its balanced attack on offense. BYU’s run game has really come alive the past few games with the return of Algernon Brown and the emergence of freshman Francis Bernard. Tanner Mangum continues to improve every week. As long as both aspects of the offense are working in tandem, the Cougars will be rolling on offense.

The Cougars’ keys to the game

The Cougars need to utilize their size at the receiver position. The BYU receivers need to run strong routes and work hard to find holes in San Jose State’s secondary. If the other receivers are struggling then allow the tall receivers like Mathews, Nick Kurtz and Terren Houk to use their size to get up and grab passes.

The offensive line needs to continue to give plenty of time to Mangum in the pocket. Mangum will need all the time he can get in the pocket in order to overcome the strengths of the Spartans’ secondary. He should be healthy after the rest he will have received from the bye week. The offensive line also needs to make sure to stay true to their blocks and create holes up the middle for the running backs.

BYU’s defense needs to focus on stopping the run game while not forgetting about the Spartans’ pass game. The strength of the Spartans’ offense is obviously their run game and stopping the rushing attack will most likely disrupt the Spartans’ flow on offense. As long as the Cougars’ stay true to their defensive assignments, they will be able to disrupt the Spartans’ offensive game plan.

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