BYU not intimidated by No. 13 LSU, must improve offensively
PROVO, Utah — BYU won’t be intimidated when it lines up against No. 13 LSU on Saturday. The Cougars are used to being underdogs against Power 5 teams.
This time it’s the Tigers that are 17-point favorites.
“I’m not too worried about LSU (just) because everybody’s like, ‘Ooh, it’s LSU, SEC,’” BYU running back Squally Canada said. “They bleed just like us. It helps that we’ve faced an SEC opponent before. It gives us an extra boost of confidence that we’ve been in this situation before.”
The Cougars have played 14 games against Power 5 teams in the last three seasons and hold a 7-7 record. Four of those wins came in 2014, but BYU did defeat Michigan State and Mississippi State in 2016.
Neither of those programs, however, was ranked at the time. The Cougars are 3-7 in their last 10 games against ranked teams.
Confidence will help, but execution will be more important after BYU struggled offensively in their season-opening 20-6 win over Portland State last week.
The passing game was choppy, with Tanner Mangum completing 16 of 27 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown.
There were big plays as 97 of those yards came on three completions but there was much left to be desired from the other 24 attempts. Receivers seemed to struggle with press coverage at times and Mangum also took some check-downs when there were opportunities downfield.
Portland State finished with 14 first downs compared to 13 for BYU.
“A lot of times guys start a little jumpy,” BYU offensive coordinator Ty Detmer said. “There were some plays left on the field and that happens. Especially when things pick up in a game speed situation. Receivers are moving faster, quarterback has got a little more adrenaline. There were some opportunities down the field that maybe we missed that we were close on.”
Mangum thought consistency was the biggest issue — a missed block here, a poor route there. He knows things must be much sharper against a traditionally loaded LSU defense that brings back five starters. The Tigers led the nation with just 16 touchdowns allowed in 2016, but will be without linebacker Arden Key, who set the school single-season record with 12 sacks last season.
“They have NFL first-rounders every year on that defense and that’s no different this year,” Detmer said. “You’ve got to be real efficient and play fast. You’ve got to be sharp and can’t be thinking and running and trying to get open. Got to know where you’re going and get there quick.”
The Cougars’ run game fared fairly well last week with 171 yards on 35 carries with Canada leading the way with 98 yards and a touchdown. The running-back-by-committee approach went as planned with Canada getting 16 carries and Kavika Fonua rushing for 59 yards on seven touches.
Canada thought the backs got tripped up in the holes and missed out on bigger opportunities.
“The best way to beat these cats is to run in between the tackles with low pad level,” Canada said.
New LSU coach Ed Orgeron is expecting to see a different team than what BYU put on tape in the opener. The offense was fairly vanilla as most teams try to avoid showing the entire playbook in games they can win without doing so.
Detmer said LSU will have their own defensive tweaks from last year that the Cougars will have to absorb and be able to make in-game adjustments.
“Obviously, they are going to put in new wrinkles for us,” Orgeron said. “From what I’m hearing, they have been game planning for us for a long time. They have been calling other schools about information and stuff like that. But we’ve gone back through 12 games of last year and we’ve gone through every formation and every play … so we’re prepared for it.”
BYU fans know the offense was mediocre in the opener, but they’ve also seen Mangum shine in big games. As a freshman he led fourth-quarter comeback wins against Nebraska and No. 20 Boise State and came two points shy of upsetting No. 10 UCLA. He set freshman school records for passing yards and passing touchdowns in 2015.
“A lot of it is just belief,” Mangum said. “Faith in ourselves, confidence in ourselves that we can play with them. It’s a great opportunity for us to go and play against one of the top teams in the country and let our hard work show. We obviously know we can play better.”
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