Boise State opponent scouting report: BYU

A look at the Broncos’ foe Friday night.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comOctober 23, 2013 

Facts and figures

• Where: Provo, Utah (pop: 115,919)

• Founded: 1875

• Enrollment: 33,336

• Colors: BYU blue, white and BYU tan

• Nickname: Cougars

• Record: 5-2

• Last game: Won 47-46 at Houston on Saturday

Offense

Bronco Mendenhall, 47, is 79-31 in his ninth season at BYU, going 23-10 since the Cougars transitioned into an FBS independent. A Utah native, Mendenhall played at Snow College and Oregon State. He was an assistant at both schools following his playing career and also has coached at Northern Arizona, Louisiana Tech and New Mexico. He was BYU's defensive coordinator in 2003 and 2004 before being promoted to head coach.

Once known for winging the ball around like few others more than two decades ago and helping create the spread offenses now in vogue, BYU is now doing its work on the ground.

The Cougars are 14th nationally with 263 rushing yards per game, led by quarterback Taysom Hill (a Highland High graduate), who has 772 yards and seven touchdowns in seven games. Sophomore running back Jamaal Williams has 626 yards in six games. He missed most of the second half against Houston with a hip pointer, but said he expects to play Friday.

Hill is coming off the best passing game of his career, when he was 29-of-44 for 417 yards. He had four TDs, along with three interceptions. He is 119-of-235 for 1,680 yards with nine TDs and eight INTs this season. His top target is senior Cody Hoffman (25 catches, 467 yards).

The line has battled inexperience and injuries, with two likely starters suffering season-ending injuries before the year began. Eleven linemen have started at least once in 2013.

Defense

Mendenhall spent his career as a defensive assistant, and the Cougars' defense is what Boise State coach Chris Petersen calls Mendenhall's "baby."

The Cougars have finished in the top 25 nationally in total defense the past three seasons. They again have a stout group, giving up 366 yards per game, good for 37th in FBS. BYU's base 3-4 defense has received some strong play from its linebackers, including senior Kyle Van Noy, who turned down the NFL to return for one more season. Van Noy has 44 tackles (11 for losses), four sacks and 11 quarterback hurries.

Fellow senior linebacker Uani 'Unga leads the team with 69 tackles. Safety Craig Bills, who started the first six games, but missed the Houston game, is expected to play Friday.

Special teams

Senior JD Falslev is averaging 10.4 yards per punt return this season, including a 71-yard touchdown Sept. 27 against Middle Tennessee. The Cougars' kickoff return defense is 99th in the nation with a 24.2-yard average, a number inflated in part by a Houston 95-yard touchdown. BYU's senior kicker, Justin Sorensen, has been sharp, making 11-of-13 field goals after struggling his first three seasons (22-of-40).

Did you know?

BYU has produced seven winners of the Sammy Baugh Trophy, given to the nation's top collegiate passer, three more than any other school.

Dave Southorn, 377-6420; Twitter: @IDS_Southorn

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