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Football: Irish look to stop Cougars’ up-tempo attack

Matthew DeFranks | Wednesday, November 20, 2013

If you think Baylor and Oregon play fast, wait until BYU comes to Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday.

The Cougars (7-3) will come to South Bend this weekend with an up-tempo attack that rivals the best in the country. BYU is averaging 33.5 points and 503.7 yards per game while pushing a pace installed by new offensive coordinator Robert Anae.

Anae’s offense – which uses the mantra “Go fast, go hard” – tied an NCAA record when they ran 115 plays against Houston earlier this season. The Cougars are averaging 86.8 plays per game and have topped the 90-play plateau five different times.

By comparison, Oregon and Baylor (both known for their breakneck paces) are running 74.6 and 80.3 plays per game, respectively. Notre Dame (7-3) runs 64.6 plays per game and has reached 75 just once this season.

Irish coach Brian Kelly said Notre Dame will have to be good on both sides of the ball to slow the Cougars down.

“Well, certainly we are practicing tempo,” he said. “And they run 90 plays if your offense is three and out, three and out, three and out. So we are practicing on both ends from that standpoint. We have done a pretty good job of holding on to the football, and we’ll need to do that. We’ll need to have some controlled drives and have an eye towards keeping their offense off the field.”

In Notre Dame’s 17-14 win over BYU in 2012, the Cougars ran just 61 plays and gained 243 yards under quarterback Riley Nelson’s direction. This season, BYU has been held to fewer than 14 points just once under sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill’s command.

Hill has been the catalyst of the Cougar offense, executing the read-option playbook to the tune of 956 rushing yards and eight touchdowns to complement his 2,379 yards through the air.

“His accuracy, I thought more than anything else, his ability to throw the football, has really changed their offensive structure [from last year],” Kelly said. “They struggled throwing the ball last year. [He’s] throwing it very, very well. And then his big play ability. He’s fast. He’s a guy that can take a run and turn it into a big play.”

Hill has been an expert in turning in runs into long gains this season, with 44 rushes of 10 or more yards, good for second in the country. He also ranks eighth in the nation with four plays of at least 40 yards.

The BYU offense has been a clear indicator of the Cougars’ success this season. In its seven wins, the Cougar offense has averaged 41.3 points; in its three losses; 15.3.

The Cougars mustered a combined 46 points in losses to Virginia, Utah and Wisconsin this season.

Kelly said the Irish will have to stick to their assignments on defense to be successful.

“We can’t have the quarterback unattended to. We haven’t have the dive unattended to,” he said. “We are going to get some run-pass conflicts that we are going to have to be on body with. They really force you to be on task every play. Wisconsin did a great job. Utah did a great job. We are going to have to; if we can do that, we can keep the points down, as well.


Injuries not an issue

The Irish came out of their 28-21 loss to Pittsburgh so banged up Kelly canceled practice during Notre Dame’s bye week. But he said no one should miss the BYU game due to injury.

Kelly said senior defensive lineman Kona Schwenke, junior linebacker Ishaq Williams, sophomore defensive lineman Jarron Jones and freshman defensive lineman Isaac Rochell have all practiced.


Golson to practice soon?

Kelly said suspended quarterback Everett Golson would be allowed to practice with the team before a potential bowl game if readmitted to Notre Dame.

Golson was suspended for a semester this spring due to what he called “poor academic judgment” and should be in line for the starting spot under center in 2014.

Golson has submitted his application and should hear a decision in mid-December, Kelly said.

“Though, if they wanted to give me the admissions responsibility, I would certainly consider it,” Kelly said with a smile.

Contact Matthew DeFranks at [email protected]