Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct 08, 2022

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

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38 OCT. 8, 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED GAME PREVIEW: BYU BY TODD D. BURLAGE BYU RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE Preseason fears for BYU in this category re- mained an ongoing reality during a 2-1 start while the Cougars tried to replace last year's star tailback Tyler Allgeier. The BYU coaches understood that filling Allgei- er's production void would be problematic. The fifth-round draft pick of the Atlanta Falcons set a single-season school rushing record with 1,601 yards in 2021 and tied for the national lead with 23 rushing touchdowns. This year, at the quarter post of the regular season, the Cougars ranked only 86th nationally in rushing offense at 152.0 yards per game. The extent of this production drop wasn't totally ex- pected — BYU finished 37th nationally in 2021 rushing offense with 188.5 yards a game. Because, even with Allgeier's production void to fill, BYU's left-side offensive line combo of junior tackle Blake Freeland and junior guard Clark Bar- rington is still considered one of the best guard- tackle duos in the country. The one-two tailback punch of seniors Christopher Brooks and Lopini Katoa provide the Cougars a decent ground attack. In addition, junior quarterback Jaren Hall is a nifty, dual-threat second-year starter as well. Through three games, Brooks led the Cougars ground game. The Cal transfer entered last weekend averaging 64.7 rushing yards per game and 5.4 yards per carry with 2 touchdowns. Katoa had 24 totes and was averaging 31.0 rushing yards per game. For Notre Dame, a run-stoppage unit that was ex- pected to be a team strength because of the depth, experience and talent along its front seven fell short of expectations during an 0-2 start. However, much improvement was shown in the 24-17 win over Cal Sept. 17. Notre Dame held the Bears to only 112 rushing yards and 3.6 yards per carry in its win. Interestingly, through three games, Irish defensive tackle Howard Cross III led the Irish with 21 tackles, while none of the Notre Dame linebackers had more than 17 stops. As a team, Notre Dame's rushing defense ranked only 95th nationally heading into the North Caro- lina game, after it allowed an average of 167.7 yards per outing. Advantage: Even BYU PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE At least to this point in 2022, the Cougars go as Hall goes, which has made for some tough sledding at times. Called on to match or exceed the 452.6 total yards and 33.1 points the Cougars averaged in 2021, with Hall as a first-year starter, the gifted sig- nal-caller has played this season essentially with- out his two top wide receivers because of injuries. Senior Gunner Romney and junior Puka Nacua combined for nearly 1,400 yards and 9 touch- downs last season, helping Hall to 2,583 passing yards with 20 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Romney sat out the first three games this season, while Nacua appeared in only one and made 1 catch for 22 yards. Both receivers were expected to be healthy and ready for Notre Dame Oct. 8. While waiting on the return of his two proven veterans, Hall so far has mainly targeted freshman wideouts Chase Roberts and Kody Epps. Roberts is explosive with 15 catches for 223 yards, a touch- down and a 14.9-yards per catch average through three games. Epps added 12 catches for 99 yards with a TD grab. Through three games, Hall had completed 77 of 112 passes for 827 yards with 5 touchdowns and 1 interception, situating him 58th nationally in passer efficiency rating. Hall also spreads it around. Through three games, nine BYU receivers had at least 4 catches, and five different Cougars caught Hall's 5 TD tosses. For Notre Dame, through its first three games, the Irish remained one of only three FBS teams that still hadn't forced a turnover. Though, the quarterback pressure numbers for Notre Dame greatly improved against Cal with 6 sacks and 5 quarterback hurries. Senior defensive end Isaiah Foskey paced the Irish with 2.5 sacks on a unit that lifted itself to 12th nationally by averaging 3.33 sacks a game. Advantage: Notre Dame On PaPer The duo of junior tackle Blake Freeland and junior guard Clark Barrington (above) is considered to be among the best guard-tackle left-side combos in the nation. PHOTO BY REBECA FUENTES/COURTESY BYU

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