Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct 08, 2022

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 36 of 55 OCT. 8, 2022 37 GAME PREVIEW: BYU Three Things To Know About BYU 1. Returners Aplenty On Defense BYU entered the season ranked No. 1 in ESPN analyst Bill Connelly's returning production rankings, with 85 percent of its 2021 statistical contributors back for 2022. The Cougars' defense is largely responsible for that. That unit returned 93 percent of its defensive production from 2021, including all 11 starters. Sophomore linebacker Ben Bywater, last year's leader in tackles (102) and tackles for loss (9), returned in the middle of the defense. Senior safety Malik Moore and sophomore cornerback Jakob Robinson, who tied for the team lead with 3 interceptions last year, returned as secondary anchors along with senior corner Kaleb Hayes (team-high 12 passes broken up and a 48.7 percent completion rate allowed in 2021). The returning experience comes with an expectation of significant improvement. BYU's defense ended last season ranked 80th nationally in yards per play allowed (5.75), 103rd in third-down conver- sion rate (43 percent), 94th in plays of at least 10 yards allowed (189), 109th in sacks per game (1.54), 109th in opponent completion percentage (65.5) and 74th in yards per carry (4.35). The Cougars fin- ished the year ranked 83rd in the defensive Fremeau Efficiency Index. Early returns on the defense in 2022 have been mixed. It impressed in a 26-20 double-overtime win over then-No. 9 Baylor Sept. 10 by holding the Bears to 3.6 yards per play. A 41-20 loss to then-No. 25 Oregon a week later, though, was a letdown. 2. Another Impressive Quarterback BYU gave junior quarterback Jaren Hall the tricky task of replacing 2021 No. 1 overall pick Zach Wil- son last winter. Hall responded with a season that created NFL Draft buzz himself. He threw for 2,583 yards on 8.7 yards per pass with 20 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. He added 307 yards rushing on 5.0 yards per carry with 3 touchdowns. Hall had one of the best running backs in the country taking pressure off him last year in Tyler Allgeier, who ran for 1,601 yards and 23 touchdowns. Allgeier is now on the Atlanta Falcons, and his departure put Hall at the center of the Cougars' offense. So far, he has handled the increased attention well. He threw for 827 yards with 5 touchdowns, 1 interception and a 68.8 percent completion rate in BYU's first three games. BYU replaced Allgeier with California transfer Christopher Brooks, who had 194 yards and 2 touchdowns on 36 carries through three games. Brooks was the Golden Bears' leading rusher in 2019 and 2021. 3. Independent No More BYU's 12-year run as a Football Bowl Subdivision independent is ending after this season. Last year, the Cougars accepted an invitation to join the Big 12 and will officially become a member in July 2023, along with Cincinnati, Houston and Central Florida. They made the move from the Mountain West to independent after the 2010 season and have played a coast-to-coast schedule most years. A few teams that went independent in recent seasons did so because they were squeezed out of a conference amid realignment (like New Mexico State) or prioritized other sports when joining a new conference (Connecticut). All were harmful moves financially. BYU, though, made the move on its own timeline and signed a football media rights deal with ESPN. The Cougars' 2010 independence announcement came with the revealing of a six-game series with college football's most famous independent, Notre Dame. The first two games were played in 2012 and 2013, both Irish wins in South Bend. Notre Dame's 2012 ACC partnership, though, put the completion of the series in doubt. The schools agreed to shrink it to three games on the condition Notre Dame made the trip over the Rocky Mountains. That trip is this year's meeting in Las Vegas. — Patrick Engel Nacua and Romney accounted for 77 catches, 1,399 yards and 9 touchdowns last season. Sophomore Chase Roberts picked up the slack early this year with 15 catches for 223 yards and a score through Week 3. Hall's first 5 passing touchdowns of the season went to five different players. The weapons are as widespread as you'd expect them to be for a team that returned 18 starters. Much like BYU's Achilles heel on offense, though, the way to get to the Cougars' defense is on the ground. Or- egon ran for 216 yards. BYU allowed 157.1 rushing yards per game last year. In its three losses, that number inflated to 222. Freeman has said all year he wants Notre Dame to be a run-first, physical team. If the Irish live up to that mantra, they could very well walk away with a season-defining victory in a city that has defined many lives over the years for better or worse. Just remember than Ve- gas, the venue and all that come with it won't matter once the ball is kicked off. This is survival of the fittest for Free- man and company. ✦ 2022 NOTRE DAME SCHEDULE Date Opponent (TV) Result/Time (ET) Sept. 3 at Ohio State L, 21-10 Sept. 10 Marshall L, 26-21 Oct. 8 California W, 24-17 Oct. 8 at North Carolina W, 45-32 Oct. 8 vs. BYU* (NBC) 7:30 p.m. Oct. 15 Stanford (NBC) 7:30 p.m. Oct. 22 UNLV (Peacock) 2:30 p.m. Oct. 29 at Syracuse TBD Nov. 5 Clemson (NBC) 7:30 p.m. Nov. 12 vs. Navy^ (ABC/ESPN) 12 p.m. Nov. 19 Boston College (NBC) 2:30 p.m. Nov. 26 at USC TBD * at Las Vegas; ^ at Baltimore 2022 BYU SCHEDULE Date Opponent (TV) Result/Time (ET) Sept. 3 at South Florida W, 50-21 Sept. 10 Baylor W, 26-20 Sept. 17 at Oregon L, 41-20 Sept. 24 Wyoming W, 38-24 Sept. 30 Utah State (ESPN) 6 p.m. Oct. 8 vs. Notre Dame* (NBC) 7:30 p.m. Oct. 15 Arkansas TBA Oct. 22 at Liberty TBA Oct. 29 East Carolina (ESPN2) 6 p.m. Nov. 5 at Boise State TBA Nov. 19 Utah Tech 1:30 p.m. Nov. 26 at Stanford TBA * at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas Sophomore linebacker and 2021 leading tackler Ben Bywater is one of 11 returning starters on BYU's defense from last season. PHOTO BY JAREN WILKEY/COURTESY BYU

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