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And in that corner… The BYU Cougars

Nov 20, 2013, 9:00 AM EDT

BYU defense AP

If you hadn’t noticed, Notre Dame is in for a dog fight. With BYU coming to town with a score to settle, oddsmakers aren’t quite sure what to make of Saturday’s game, with the line swinging each way, a veritable toss up between two 7-3 teams.

Part of that is courtesy of Notre Dame’s big miss last week against Pittsburgh and the other part is the rather impressive football that BYU has played this season. After a rough start to the season against Virginia, the Cougars have gotten things on track, slowed only by in-state rival Utah and Wisconsin two weeks ago.

To get us up to speed for the game, I reached out to the Deseret News’ Jeff Call. The newspaper’s BYU beat reporter, Jeff has been covering the Cougars since 1993.

He was kind enough to answer my handful of questions before Saturday’s game between the Irish and the Cougars.

I asked, Jeff answered. Let’s enjoy.

Outside of a really disappointing loss to Virginia to open the season, it’s been another solid season for Bronco Mendenhall’s squad. How good is this team compared to the groups that won at least 10 games in five out of six seasons?

At times, this BYU team has looked as good as many of those that won at least 10 games. The Virginia loss was an anomaly of sorts because it was the season-opener, on the road, beset by prolonged weather delay, and it was the Cougars’ first game under an entirely new offensive coaching staff.

Bottom line is, BYU lost that game. But there have been times when the Cougars have looked very good, particularly in wins over Texas, Utah State, Georgia Tech and Boise State. Then BYU’s biggest test to this point, on Nov. 9 at Wisconsin, the Cougar offense struggled. The Cougars are hoping to redeem themselves against Notre Dame.

Taysom Hill has been a weapon in the running game, teaming with Jamaal Williams to become one of the best duos in college football. But he seems to struggle with decision making in the passing game, as his 12 interceptions indicate. How has he developed in his second season in Provo? How important is an error-free performance by Hill?

Hill is a phenomenal athlete and is one of the nation’s top running quarterbacks. He has made huge strides this season in the passing game, evidenced by his performance against Utah State, Houston and Boise State. But yes, he has struggled at times with accuracy and making good decisions. He threw three interceptions against Idaho State, which he attributed to trying to do too much.

Hill has shown glimpses of being an outstanding quarterback, but he is still developing. Against a team like Notre Dame, he will have to avoid turnovers and be accurate if the Cougars want to knock off the Fighting Irish.

Defensively, Kyle Van Noy was rightfully an All-Everything player this preseason. Having watched Stephon Tuitt deal with the challenges that come with a national spotlight, how has Van Noy played this season?

Van Noy has made a lot of big plays this season, including a pick-six on the first play of scrimmage at Utah State. He has known for filling up the stat sheet, as he has recorded a stat in every statistical category except for blocked kick and forced fumble.

He has four sacks, 15 tackles-for-loss, two interceptions, 11 quarterback hurries, and two interceptions. He is a semifinalist for the Butkus, Bednarik and Lombardi Awards. Van Noy is projected to be a high draft pick in next April’s NFL draft.

Cody Hoffman is a guy who put up some big numbers earlier in his career. His season got off to a shaky start with an injury and suspension. Are his numbers being down a bit a product of missed time or some struggles in the passing game?

Hoffman missed the season-opener due to injury and he was sidelined for the Middle Tennessee game due to a suspension, which means he’s only played in eight games. Since the Georgia Tech game, Hoffman has been outstanding.

A big part of BYU’s improved passing game can be attributed to Hoffman being healthy, in rhythm and on the field. He now owns every career receiving record at BYU, passing former greats like Austin Collie and Dennis Pitta.

BYU has already accepted a bowl bid for this season. It looks like they’ve already agreed to play in the Poinsettia bowl next year as well. Is this a product of conference independence? Is there a benefit in committing to a second-tier bowl early, or is it a necessity with conference tie-ins and an ever-changing postseason landscape?

Committing to bowl games years in advance is a necessity for BYU in this era of independence. Of course, the Cougars would love to play in a higher-tier bowl game, but the reality is, the only way that will happen is by going undefeated, and even that doesn’t guarantee anything.

Athletic director Tom Holmoe is working hard to enhance BYU’s postseason opportunities, but there aren’t a lot of bowl games that aren’t tied to specific conferences. Holmoe has said recently that he has some big bowl plans for the future. BYU is hoping that its partnership with ESPN will open doors of opportunity.

Last season, the Cougars gave Notre Dame all they could handle with Tommy Rees starting in place of an injured Everett Golson. What are the keys to BYU visiting Notre Dame and leaving South Bend with a victory?

Keys to victory for BYU: offensively, the Cougars must avoid turnovers, and be efficient on first down and in the red zone. BYU needs Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams to be at their best. Defensively, the Cougars must slow down Notre Dame’s rushing attack and make Rees beat them with his arm.

***

For more from Jeff heading into Saturday’s game (including a great feature on former Irish safety and current BYU Cougar Chris Badger), check out Jeff’s work at the Deseret News, or follow him on Twitter @ajeffreycall

  1. irishdodger - Nov 20, 2013 at 9:23 AM

    “Slow down NDs rushing attack”

    What rushing attack?

  2. dudeacow - Nov 20, 2013 at 11:07 AM

    Call me crazy, but I firmly believe ND will win the next three. A ten win season with four wins over ranked teams and a bowl victory is enough for me to call this season successful. The defense will be rock solid, the passing game will be consistent, and yes irishdodger, there will even be a rushing attack. Only three more games until the offseason, so buckledown and enjoy the ride.

    Go Irish. Beat BYU. And Stanford. And Rutgers (maybe).

    • ndgoldandblue - Nov 20, 2013 at 11:32 AM

      dude, if the Irish can do as you predict, I would say that the season was a resounding success. It could do wonders for recruiting as well. That would be a great Christmas gift.

      • rossumnminor - Nov 20, 2013 at 8:52 PM

        Well put, Christmas gift. That would be awesome.

    • andy44teg - Nov 20, 2013 at 1:59 PM

      Maybe not certifiably crazy, but definitely a few screws loose, which ain’t all that bad.

      • mayesdays - Nov 20, 2013 at 4:40 PM

        We are ND fans, of course we are a lil crazy. Go Irish! Beat BYU!

  3. mtndguy - Nov 20, 2013 at 11:36 AM

    BYU isn’t in the same category as Notre Dame. They were a WAC team, then a Mountain West Conference Team before going independent. They went independent mainly because in state rival Utah was accepted to the PAC 12 and BYU couldn’t stand the thought of Utah being in a more prestigious conference. As an independent BYU has little draw for recruits other than for devout Mormons. For many Mormon kids, Utah is a better option because they are in the PAC 12, so even on the religious front, BYU has lost some ground. The one thing BYU does have going for them that ND doesn’t, is their ability to send kids on a mission, then redshirt them. This makes their freshman 21-22 years old. Other than that, their depth, and quality of players is far below that of Notre Dame.

    In my opinion the longer BYU remains independent, the further behind they will fall. They just don’t have the draw for recruits that Notre Dame has as an independent.

    A healthy ND offensive and defensive line should be able to dominate the line of scrimmage, and give ND a victory. Let’s just hope that in fact the injuries have had time to heal.

    • NotreDan - Nov 20, 2013 at 6:01 PM

      How the heck does this get 47 thumbs down? Must be some Romney supporters reading this blog.

      • mtndguy - Nov 20, 2013 at 6:53 PM

        Maybe even a few Mike Leavitt for President supporters.

    • nudeman - Nov 20, 2013 at 8:13 PM

      There are a few ND guys who I’d like to send away. But I won’t be mentioning any names.

      • rossumnminor - Nov 20, 2013 at 8:54 PM

        I would also nude. They’re ND men but still … Said this on another board and got harped on

    • irishaggie - Nov 21, 2013 at 12:07 PM

      As much as I dislike BYU i disagree with you ( and trust me I can’t stand them). I grew up around 80% mormons and BYU fans are the most delusional in the country. They may not be in the same category but i dislike that kind of cockiness of this comment. BYU is a proud football program. Go look at their history buddy. They have a Heisman Trophy winner, and a National Title in 1984. It seems like every year they get big wins whether it be against Oklahoma, Texas, UCLA, Oregon State, and they have beat ND before.

      As far as recruiting, go look at their past four recruiting classes. BYU does not mind playing true road games in UCLA, Texas, Wisconsin, Ole Miss, or at ND because they now recruit Mormon players nationally. What has kept them from being a consistent 10 win team over the past 3 years is inconsistent QB play just like ND. If Taysom Hill becomes a consistent QB this is a very good team.

      If we wanna talk revenue that BYU makes. They make far more money than the Utah Utes. They have their national Mormon following, and they have better facilities including a Class A stadium (believe me I have been to both stadiums multiple times). They were not invited to the PAC-12 so they went independent to schedule tougher games, and to keep their own money. Isn’t that would ND wants too. ND has a better reputation but BYU is no little sister of the poor.

      • mtndguy - Nov 21, 2013 at 5:53 PM

        Irishhaggie, I too have spent a considerable amount of time in Utah. I agree that BYU’s stadium is slightly better. However the Utes have plans to build a new stadium in the near future due to the new money coming from the PAC 12. The Utes have also added a new state of the art practice facility this year, you can read about it here:

        http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865584756/Utah-football-Utes-unveil-new-state-of-the-art-football-center.html

        As far as the amount of money each team has, I’ve heard the PAC 12 deal is worth around $30 million for each school. I’ve heard the BYU ESPN deal is worth around $1million per home game. I haven’t found anything definitive, so if you have, please provide a link. Of course BYU is a private school and have the financial backing of the LDS church so ultimately if they pull that card out Utah cannot compare, nor can any college football team in America for that matter if you’re familiar with the LDS church’s business arm.

        I compare BYU’s recruiting classes to ND’s in a post below. Check it out, they’re nothing to brag about, and have actually gotten worse over the past four years, not better.

        I’m not being cocky about ND vs BYU, but pointed out some facts. BYU has had some good teams, and have beaten ND before. There is no doubt however that ND is a far superior football school. If you don’t see that, then you’re blind my friend. Even if BYU beats ND on Saturday, that will not change the history or current state of ND vs BYU’s programs. Even most of my Mormon friends who are diehard BYU fans know that.

      • irishaggie - Nov 21, 2013 at 7:35 PM

        Oh mtndguy, now you’re just trying to insult my intelligence but its ok I know not everyone has their head on straight, and like the old phrase goes; you can’t fix stupid!

        I’m not saying BYU will beat ND, even though they very well could. I never said BYU was a better program. BYU wishes they were ND. What you bring up is such common sense and obviously ND has the better program, obviously ND has better recruits, and obviously ND has a larger following, but BYU is no road kill. If you wanna believe that go ahead, nobody will stop you but insulting a very good football program just makes you look foolish.

    • mtndguy - Nov 21, 2013 at 8:54 PM

      irishhaggie, show me where I insulted BYU. I haven’t insulted anyone unlike you who have insulted me. I never called BYU road kill, those are your words. I’m also not insulting your intelligence. You made some statements about BYU’s recruiting, which are incorrect, and about the revenue BYU makes which again is incorrect. It’s you who is insulting my intelligence by spouting off “facts” that have no basis.

  4. irishdodger - Nov 20, 2013 at 12:00 PM

    @dudeacow:

    Ok, you’re crazy. I will stand corrected & acknowledge your successful prediction if I’m wrong, but I don’t think that’ll happen. If I didn’t love the Irish so much & needed to make some easy money, I’d load up on both BYU & Stanford to cover easily. Again, I hope I’m wrong & going 9-4 (w/ a bowl win) would be a resounding success IMO….but nobody here has pointed out what they’ve seen from the coaching staff & the players that give any confidence that they will do what you predict. Put it this way, if ND wins the coin toss & Kelly elects to receive & then goes thee & out…you’ll have a pretty good indication of what I’m talking about. I love BK & don’t want him replaced, but his stubborness is just as responsible for losses this year as the players’ lack of execution. I predict this blog will be filled w/ ND fans bashing another poor performance from the likes of Bennett Jackson, Mattias Farley, Dan Fox & Tommy Rees this Saturday night. Give me a sign or indication as to why I should expect otherwise & I’ll do my best to embrace it….but I haven’t seen it yet. Reality bites.

    • ndgoldandblue - Nov 20, 2013 at 12:21 PM

      So does that movie (Reality Bites). Has anyone ever seen it? It’s horrible.

      • 4horsemenrideagain - Nov 20, 2013 at 1:23 PM

        ooohhh, ethan hawke, teen angst. he’s so dreamy. soundtrack is pretty good though.

  5. 25kgold - Nov 20, 2013 at 1:10 PM

    So, what’s the chances Rees comes out guns blazing in his last home stand against these fighting Romney’s? This should be the best game of his career.

    • NotreDan - Nov 20, 2013 at 6:03 PM

      I hope so. One huge BLAST off for Tommy.

      2 (or 3) more games until Golson

    • nudeman - Nov 20, 2013 at 8:33 PM

      25kgold
      Probably not as good as the chances he doesn’t

  6. nudeman - Nov 20, 2013 at 1:17 PM

    As the year draws to an end, several questions remain unanswered:

    1. When will they sell those practice jerseys in the bookstore?
    2. Why is ND so bad on STs?
    3. Is Andrew still pre-med?
    4. How many years of eligibility will Golson have? 2, 3, 6?
    5. Why has Keith’s mom forsaken us?
    6. Why did BK turn down that penalty?
    7. Single gunman or guy on grassy knoll too?
    8. Is Tommy more effective throwing into double coverage, or triple?
    9. Has Vanderdoes’s gramma recovered fully from her summer cold?
    10. Any chance on Tee?

    • andy44teg - Nov 20, 2013 at 2:05 PM

      OK…#6 is one that I definitely want someone to answer. I’m assuming you’re talking about the declined penalty vs Pitt. That and Tuitt getting kicked out were two of the dumbest decisions of the game (not including any of TR’s dumb-ass decisions)

      • c4evr - Nov 20, 2013 at 4:44 PM

        Yes, and how about the refused penalty against Michigan late in the 3rd quarter. They scored 4 plays later after Gardner scrambled 9 yards for the first down. In all my years watching the game, I can’t recall any coach refusing penalties, under normal gamer circumstances, that left the other team with a 3rd down and less than 10 yards to go.

    • 4horsemenrideagain - Nov 20, 2013 at 2:14 PM

      let me take a crack at these:

      1. in time for christmas, but don’t go to the bookstore for it. go to gimbels. they’ll have exactly what you’re looking for, I’m sure.
      2. bad scheme and even worse execution.
      3. i just hope he decides he doesn’t want to come back for a fifth year, because bk will look sort of heartless not giving him one, but everything in me says bk should not give it to him.
      4. 2 yrs. left.
      5. not totally sure, but i think she’s mad at you. probably because sometimes you’re mean to her son. send her a christmas card and maybe a fruitcake. fruitcake is the salve that heals all wounds.
      6. the “bill belichick syndrome” the the main symptom of which is to make a head coach think he is twice as smart as his opponent (for example, 2009 colts/patriots 4th down call).
      7. LBJ was the one behind all of it.
      8. it doesn’t matter, so long as it’s under-thrown and devaris daniels doesn’t make a play on the ball.
      9. i have a policy against commenting on the health conditions of the allegedly ill grandmothers of former ND recruits. i will comment, however, on ucla being the most overrated team of 2013. a mediocre team in a less than mediocre conference. they will lose their last two games and squeak a w in their bowl game.
      10. just slightly less than me being a male cheerleader for ND next year. he’ll go to ole miss and on to the nfl. in a related story, by 2016 ole miss will be caught for recruiting violations that will set a new standard for egregiousness in the modern era.

      • nudeman - Nov 20, 2013 at 3:22 PM

        LOFL
        Good ones, esp. #7.
        I still dream we can pin it on Cheney, Rummy and Wolfowitz.

      • bernhtp - Nov 20, 2013 at 8:54 PM

        Roger Stone is only one of many who have alleged that LBJ was involved.

      • 4horsemenrideagain - Nov 22, 2013 at 11:44 AM

        bern that was exactly where i heard about that theory. imus interviewed stone and i am a sucker for a good conspiracy theory and that one has all of it; fraud, corruption, texas democrat, throw in some casa nostra, and communism and some sex to round it out.

    • don74 - Nov 20, 2013 at 8:28 PM

      11. When will GAIII finally lower his pad level
      12. Will the divot patrol be around for the 2014 season
      13. First and goal….empty set set
      14. Will Troy Nicklas ever be an H back

  7. fnc111 - Nov 20, 2013 at 1:35 PM

    This one will get ugly folks. Kelly loses out and again to meatchicken next year and he will be fired.

    • c4evr - Nov 20, 2013 at 4:37 PM

      That sounds about right. Even tho you are getting plenty of thumbs down (same thing happens to me – it’s pavlovian at this point), it does sound as though some here are starting to turn the corner and get off the BK bandwagon. A Senior Day loss usually sounds the death knell for recent ND coaches.

      • nudeman - Nov 20, 2013 at 8:15 PM

        c4
        You were doing so well for a couple weeks
        Sigh …

      • tucsonfan - Nov 20, 2013 at 11:47 PM

        I always wonder why you and fnc bother to follow this team. I’ve never seen a positive comment from either of you, especially re Kelly. Did you stray over from the rabies infected ndnation??

  8. rcali - Nov 20, 2013 at 3:31 PM

    Unless BYU can’t defend our passing offense which includes back shoulder fades and rainbow grab balls, then it should be a slobber knocker.

    • scottatnd - Nov 20, 2013 at 4:54 PM

      I don’t know whether to laugh, or vomit. – Hank Hill

  9. fnc111 - Nov 20, 2013 at 5:22 PM

    c4,

    There is something up with Kelly and Michigan. The guy has no will to beat them. He’s done a lot of strange stuff against them since coming here. Not kicking a FG before the half in 2010 while Nate Montana was hacking it up at QB. He sat Lynch and Tuitt for the disaster choke job the next year at scUM. These are some of the worst Michigan teams ever and he gets scared to play them or is tanking on purpose because his wife graduated from there. I don’t have the answer but I keep trying to figure it out. CBK has blown so many games since being here you wanna vomit even thinking about it. Tulsa, usf, Pitt, etc. Head scratching moments to say the least. Thank god for Te’o last year.

    • mtndguy - Nov 20, 2013 at 7:03 PM

      fnc111 and c4, FYI this upcoming game is against BYU. Here’s a link to the schedule http://scores.nbcsports.com/cfb/teamstats.asp?team=0104&report=schedule in case you get confused again.

    • nudeman - Nov 20, 2013 at 9:10 PM

      Fnc
      You’re right … you don’t have the answer.

    • tucsonfan - Nov 20, 2013 at 11:49 PM

      Yep, that’s gotta be the answer–Kelly “has no will to beat” Michigan.

      I think you’re off your meds or something fnc.

  10. jerseyshorendfan1 - Nov 20, 2013 at 6:48 PM

    Wow, the Cougars had a season opener with a prolonged weather delay? Did Dayne Crist play the first half, never to be heard from again? That sentence had me flashing back to the USF game circa 2011 which seems so long ago. Well, anyway, I’m uneasy about this game. Feel like we might be looking ahead to Stanford too much. Hope not. I’m hoping the Irish prevail in a close one but what the hell do I know? I had them going 11-1 losing only to Stanford because I thought the Cardinal would have a big chip on their shoulder given the way they lost last year. You know they’ve been salivating for this game for a year now. Wait a minute, I’m looking ahead to Stanford now. Let’s take care of the Cougars first. ND 24-21 in a nail biter. GO IRISH!!!!!

    P.S. Keith, is there some reason that Folston hardly played against Pitt? I was thinking maybe he showed up late for a meeting or did something equally stupid to piss Kelly off. Has there been any scuttlebutt around the program to that effect?

  11. mtndguy - Nov 20, 2013 at 6:50 PM

    Here’s a comparison of ND’s and BYU’s recruiting class rankings according to Rivals.

    2013 ND 3………BYU 70
    2012 ND 20……..BYU 61
    2011 ND 10……..BYU 62
    2010 ND 14……..BYU 40
    2009 ND 21……..BYU 50

    I know recruiting rankings aren’t necessarily an indicator of success, however there’s no doubt Notre Dame recruits a higher caliber football player on a consistent basis. A quick look at BYU’s recruiting classes show a team stacked with 2 and 3 star kids with a 4 star here and there.

    Notre Dame should mop the floor with these guys. I guess we’ll all see on Saturday……..

    • nudeman - Nov 20, 2013 at 8:28 PM

      Well, we won’t be mopping anything.
      Predicting another crapfest where – if ND wins – we’ll hear this in the post game presser:

      – “I have to tip my hat to Bronco Mendenhall. He had his kids ready”.
      (Translation: “Our guys were worn out from trick shot Monday”)

      – “Those young men from BYU were really ready to go. This was their SB”.
      (Translation: “We play a lot of Super Bowls”)

      – “Tommy left a few plays out there”.
      (Translation: “24-53 with 3 INTs; Even I am ready for him to graduate”)

      – “Our seniors are really a special group of young men”
      (Translation: “Half of these guys just can’t play”)

      • mtndguy - Nov 20, 2013 at 10:19 PM

        Come on Nude! I’m trying to get a band wagon started before it’s popular. I thought sure you’d want to hop on board :-)

      • 25kgold - Nov 20, 2013 at 11:49 PM

        LOLOLOLOLOLOLOOLOLO!!!!! That’s spot on!

      • tucsonfan - Nov 20, 2013 at 11:53 PM

        I’m confused by what you mean, Nude–are you saying we’ll hear these if ND wins AND its a crapfest??

        If they win, I don’t really care how–see vs Spartans, Trojans, AZ State. And Kelly has been correct about execution–that’s what cost the Pitt game for sure.

    • 1historian - Nov 21, 2013 at 7:45 AM

      During the Charlie Weis era, as the story goes, ND was playing Boston College in Boston. In the BC locker room prior to the game the BC coach asked his team – “how many of you were recruited by Notre Dame? Raise your hands.”

      Not a hand went up.

      B.C. 17 – 0.

      • mtndguy - Nov 21, 2013 at 6:19 PM

        1historian, the fact that BC won that game doesn’t change my opinion that ND should have won it based on their better recruiting classes, better facilities, more resources, and what should be superior coaching talent. I don’t think anyone here will be surprised if BYU wins on Saturday, but I think most here would agree that ND should win the game based on the factors above, and if they don’t they’re underachieving as a team.

  12. fw190wuerger - Nov 20, 2013 at 7:59 PM

    After seeing the response to your comment above, I wonder if you will get triple-digit thumbs down on this one.

  13. harvupdyke - Nov 20, 2013 at 9:07 PM

    Rudy, been a long time…just dropping in to see what’s new. I see a lot of y’all don’t respect BYU, which is probably a mistake. We saw that leading up to the nat’l title game last year…how’d that work out for ya?

    With today’s current sports headlines, y’all draw a lot of comparisons to A-Roid. You’re not as good as you think you are & no one can stand you.

    Just another title run down here in Tuscaloosa.

    Roll dam tide.

    • mtndguy - Nov 20, 2013 at 10:24 PM

      I don’t think anybody here didn’t respect Alabama. BYU is a long way from there. BYU plays hard, but they shouldn’t win.

  14. rocket1988 - Nov 20, 2013 at 11:17 PM

    @harvey updyke
    At least Rudy graduated from Notre Dame. More than we can say for you and Bamas most famous player Forrest Gump. But you and him do have something in common though. An I.Q. around 80

    • tucsonfan - Nov 20, 2013 at 11:55 PM

      um, Harvey, that would be “you and he”, especially if you are being critical of someone’s education and IQ.

  15. irish4life79 - Nov 21, 2013 at 12:27 PM

    This game is a pretty much must win for BK IMO the pitt loss as bad as it was but then to turn around and lose out the rest of the way and be at 7-5 would be a sheer disaster and i would have to start questioning if change could be coming if next years not a resounding success. That said i hopin to finally see some emotion and leadership on senior day. im predicting a big day for the D behind Tuitt,Nix and Shembo after a week off and more great things from j smith. i think the ND D line will rise to this challenge similar to the usc and asu games.

  16. mdp44 - Nov 21, 2013 at 3:56 PM

    How’s Obama care working out, my insurance went up, even though it”wasn’t supposed to change”

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