In addition to the weekly previews that we’ll do to showcase the Cougars match up that week we are going to provide you with an “insider” perspective as well. Each week we’ll ask questions of a blogger for BYU’s opponent that week and post their answers as a post for you to read. We’ll give you some background info and link you to their own site so you can read all the good stuff they are doing while supporting their own teams.
Academically Ineligible: What has been the atmosphere there in Corvallis these first 5 weeks?
Andy Wooldridge: With two bye weeks and two road games, it was initially pretty quiet. Then, with the team at 3-0 before last weekend’s game against Washington St., is was as festive as it had been in years. Problem was the team, or at least the offense, seemed to be almost assuming an automatic win, and the Crimson Cougs didn’t cooperate. Once the team got going and pulled out the win, there was a sense of relief, and excitement going forward.
Then the announcement of Sean Mannion’s injury came out, and there was an initial feeling of shock. 24 hours later, its moved on to a feeling of trying to get through this, given that there is some reason for hope for Sean’s return.
AI: Is the season lost because of the loss of Sean Mannion?
AW: No. With four wins and a near-sure thing in the bank against Nicholls St., a bowl trip is still well within reach. There’s also a sense that the Beavers still have a chance at some wins with Cody Vaz, even if Mannion can’t come back this season. The next three opponents are not high scoring, and the Oregon St. defense is playing well, so at least until we see what happens this weekend, no one is conceding any of those games.
AI: What can you tell us about backup Cody Vaz?
AW: Vaz is a red-shirt junior, and has 3 1/2 years in the program. He was the #2 in 2010, when he last played, in 5 games, and has worked a lot with the 1s & 2s for 2 1/2 years in practice, so he knows all the plays, and the receivers are comfortable with him, and how he throws.
He’s not as tall as Mannion, but is a bit more mobile, and he has a big enough arm to still throw the deep ball. The question will be how quickly he can adjust to game speed.
AI: Describe your defense and what BYU can expect to see defensively.
AW: The defense will look different than what BYU fans will recall from last year, and in the Las Vegas Bowl. Oregon St. is using more nickel packages, and even a lot of dime, and even against the run, in order to get more speed on the field. The corners are experienced, and Jordan Poyer is arguably the best player in the game. The safeties are mostly still young, and have made a few mistakes, but are fast, and have proven to be strong in run support.
Defensive ends Scott Crichton and Dylan Wynn are both very fast, and OLB Michael Doctor is having a good year. LB D.J. Welch is also very fast; assuming a mildly sprained ankle he suffered against Washington St. continues to improve the rest of the week.
Oregon St. is also playing far more people on the defensive line and at linebacker than ever before, keeping players fresh, and allowing that speed to continue to be a factor all game long.
As a result, expect to see Oregon St. flying to the ball on defense. It worked well against strong running teams in Wisconsin and UCLA, and the Beavers got four interceptions against Washington St.
AI: Give our readers two players for them to watch for in making an impact on the game.
AW: I’ll actually give you 3, because the wide receiver tandem of Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks need to be thought of as a package. Both are blazing fast, and have been able to run away from coverages all season. They will give Vaz some open targets just as they did Mannion.
Defensively, I mentioned Poyer, and he will be all over the field. He had three interceptions against Washington St. He’s also a threat to blitz, and may move inside in the dime. He also returns punts. Opponents who lose track of Poyer at any time do so at considerable peril.
AI: What do Beaver fans think of Mike Riley?
AW: Many fans were getting nervous after back to back losing seasons, and impatient with a perceived lack of changes that were needed as both the defensive and the offensive coordinators were retained. There was real concern that the game might have passed him by.
But Riley brought in Rod Perry, who has years of NFL experience, to coach the DBs, and install some new schemes. That in turn allowed defensive coordinator Mark Banker to do some creative things with the rest of the defense.
Riley also took back the play calling, which he did when Oregon St. was running off 8, 9, and 10 win seasons, but gave up starting with the Las Vegas Bowl year. That’s had a lot to do with the improvement in the offense this year, and is also a reason why Vaz has a chance to have some success.
Virtually everyone likes Riley personally, and once he got some success going, faith was quickly restored. The loss of Mannion will test that, but if Oregon St. can pull off a couple of wins in the next four games, Beaver Nation will be pretty encouraged.