Know the Opponent: BYU’s improved defense primed to slow down Ducks

·2 min read

BYU would be the first ones to tell you that its defense wasn’t that good last season. The Cougars allowed over 25 points and nearly 400 yards of total offense per game.

What a difference a year has made.

So far, the defense in Provo has been excellent and the Cougars expect more of the same as BYU heads into Autzen Stadium to face an Oregon offense that is looking for big plays downfield.

Easier said than done, however.

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Baylor has been known for explosion plays over the last decade or so, but against this BYU defense, they were nowhere to be found. In the 26-20 double overtime victory, the Cougars held the Bears to just 289 yards of offense.

That’s usually a typical half for Baylor.

But against BYU’s 4-2-5 alignment, the Bears had a tough time moving the ball down the field on a consistent basis. Finding their way into the opponent’s backfield was a tough task for BYU in 2021 as they only garnered 20 sacks and 64 tackles for loss.

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In 2022, the Cougars have lived in the backfield with five sacks already, including four last week. Having healthy linebackers seems to have done the trick as both Keenan Pili and Payton Wilgar are back from injury. Those two along with their leading tackler from a year ago, Ben Bywater, and second-leading tackler Max Tooley, BYU has a linebacker corps that would rival anyone in the country.

According to Oregon head coach Dan Lanning, their athleticism and knowledge of the game are what make BYU’s linebackers different from others.

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“They play a lot of vision break defense, so when you watch them play, you’re gonna see a lot of zone eyes where when the ball is thrown, you have guys swarm to the ball because they have a vision of it,” he said. “They’re not necessarily a man-match team or a lot of man-to-man and because of that, backers are gonna swarm around the ball, they’re gonna be able to get interceptions on tip balls or get their hands on the balls. We have to do a good job of protecting and finding those small windows in between the defenders.”

The BYU defenders have just one interception in their first two games, but if Oregon’s Bo Nix isn’t careful with the ball, that number will definitely increase.

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Story originally appeared on Ducks Wire