Know Your Opponent: UCLA vs BYU


The UCLA Bruins play the BYU Cougars at 730pm Saturday night at the Rose Bowl. The Game will be televised on Fox Sports 1. Here comes your UCLA vs BYU Preview!

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After relative cruises in their first two games against the Virginia Cavaliers and the UNLV Rebels, the Bruins now get set to face the roller coaster ride that is the BYU Cougars. Like the Bruins, the Cougars have also started 2-0, but their victories have come under slightly more duress.

After losing veteran quarterback Taysom Hill against Nebraska, BYU turned to 22 year old freshman backup (by way of a Chilean mission) Tanner Mangum to save the day. Mangum responded by throwing a Hail Mary touchdown to beat Nebraska and then followed that up by throwing for over 300 yards and two more heroic touchdowns against Boise State.

BYU comes into the Rose Bowl Saturday as a relativly heavy underdog at +17ish points, but the battle-tested Cougars look to be the first true test for of the season for UCLA.

"Did You Know? … BYU’s mascot Cosmo has been around since 1953, but the original BYU mascots were actually a pair of live cougars that the school bought for 50 cents each in the 1920’s…"


UCLA and BYU have squared off in football a total of 10 times; the Bruins lead the series 7-3, but the Cougars have won the last two games. Strangely enough, the two teams faced each other three times in just over a year with three different UCLA coaches in 2007-08. Karl Dorrell coached the #13 Bruins to a  27-17 victory at the beginning of the 2007 season, but the Bruins finished 4-6 after that and Dorrell was fired.

Defensive Coordinator Dewayne Walker then coached the Bruins in a crushing 16-17 loss in the 2007 Las Vegas Bowl when All-American Kicker Kai Forbath had a last second field goal attempt blocked.  The following season, new coach Rick Neuheisel took the Bruins into Provo to be skinned and pelted 0-59.

"Did You Know? … BYU, Utah State, Utah and Weber State all compete for the Beehive Boot, a piece of authentic pioneer footwear. The Boot is awarded to the Utah team that has the best record against the other schools in a given year…"

BYU Offense

Since Hill went down in the Cougars first game at Nebraska, BYU has operated in fits and starts. BYU has had decent enough play from running back Adam Hine (130 yards, 5.3 YPC in 2 games) considering that the Cougars lost their best running back in the off season when senior Jamaal Williams withdrew from school for personal reasons.

BYU also has a number of good recievers, led by Mitchell Juergens and Mitch Mathews; the Cougars also have incredible size at receiver, with Mathews at 6-6, Terenn Houk and Nick Kurtz at 6-5 and Moroni Laulu-Pututau at 6-4. However what was designed to be a dink and dunk, drive sustaining offense under Hill has turned completely boom or bust under the aged-freshman Mangum.

Mangum has piloted 17 drives in BYU’s first two games and 10 of those drives have gone for 20 yards or less (including 2 interceptions).  The Cougars scored on six of the remaining seven drives, but every score required at least one 35+ yard play or was aided by multiple 15 yard penalties.

Long Plays on Scoring Drives Against Nebraska:

  • a 38 yard catch set up a field goal
  • the 42 yard Hail Mary won the game

Long Plays on Scoring Drives Against Boise State:

  • a drive for -9 yards was saved by an unbelievable jumping out of bounds throw for an 84 yard touchdown
  • another -9 yard drive is saved by a 70 yard completion and later punched in for a touchdown
  • BYU scores a touchdown on a drive aided by 30 yards in penalties
  • Mangum makes a huge 4th down throw for a 35 yard touchdown
Takkarist McKinley

has turned into a real beast for the Bruins. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Cougars have not shown the ability to sustain a drive down the field, and the priority for the Bruin defense should be to make them prove it. Blitzing and forcing the issue early only puts Mangum in the situations that he has so far thrived in: making him improvise and heave the ball to his giant receivers.

UCLA should try to generate enough pressure with the front four so that they can keep the BYU receivers covered and not let anyone slip behind them. Takkarist McKinley and Deon Hollins will have to attack but not let Mangum escape the pocket.

If the Cougars prove they can actually drive down the field a couple times, then maybe it will be time for Tom Bradley to dial up the blitzes, but until then the Bruins should make the Cougars earn every yard.

"Did You Know? . . . The Bruins have been pretty good at preventing big plays under Mora; the last two years, the Bruins have given up only seven pass plays of 40 yards or more (this year they have given up one 40+ yard pass to UNLV). . ."

BYU Defense

Look for Perk to be the MVP of yet another game. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

Just like UCLA, the Cougar defense lost a big piece of its defensive line when nose tackle Travis Tuiloma was injured against Nebraska. BYU has tried to make up for the loss by attempting to cause chaos and blitzing unpredictably. They play a 3-4 defense, and send linebackers and defensive backs on rushes regularly.

The Cougars play hard and angry, but if the Bruins can continue their zone-blocking running game, Paul Perkins and company should have a good day. All the blitzing can cause chaos for an offense, but blitzes open holes, and the experienced Bruin line should be able to take advantage.

With a defense as aggressive as BYU, a good running game will be double important in protecting Josh Rosen. If the Bruins can continue to balance the run with the pass, Rosen can continue to exploit teams off of play-pass fakes, run-pass options and screen plays.

If the run falters and Rosen is put into more than a few obvious passing downs, BYU is going to tee off on him, and if they hit him, it will be hard. Rosen has done an excellent job so far of feeling pressure, moving in the pocket and throwing to areas left open by blitzes, but the Cougars will be running all over the field on zone-blitzes designed to confuse him. The bottom line is that the offense needs to stay balanced and unreadable so that BYU can’t key in on any one aspect without getting burned by another.

"Did You Know? … That UCLA’s 0-59 loss to BYU in the teams’ last meeting in 2008 is the most lopsided loss of a Power 5 Team to a Group of 5 Team (a stat stolen from the great Chris Dufresne of the LA Times) …"

The Bruins are in for a tough contest against a rugged opponent that is riding high on two huge wins. However, the Bruins have been more consistent in all three phases of the game this year. The Bruin offense should be able to impose their will on the Cougars.

If the defense can avoid giving up too many big plays, the BYU offense will probably sputter. I believe the Bruins will control the game and win comfortably this Saturday at the Rose Bowl.


UCLA 30 BYU 13

Go Bruins

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