Aug. 27, 2012
By Jon Cooper
Brigham Young University Conference: Independent for football
2011 Finish: 10-3
Final Ranking: 25th (Coaches), NR (AP, BCS)
Postseason: Beat Tulsa, 24-21, in Armed Forces Bowl
Aug. 30: Washington State
Sept. 8: Weber State
Sept. 15: @Utah
Sept. 20: @Boise State
Sept. 28: Hawai’i
Oct. 5: Utah State
Oct. 13: Oregon State
Oct. 20: @Notre Dame
Oct. 27: @Georgia Tech
Nov. 10: Idaho
Nov. 17: @San Jose State
Nov. 24: @New Mexico State
Who’s Back: BYU will have plenty of experience, with seven starters returning on both sides of the ball as well as both kickers. Offensively, senior quarterback Riley Nelson, who started the final seven games of the 2011 season (going 6-1), is back, as are four of the team’s six leading rushers, including junior running back Michael Alisa, who averaged 5.4 ypc last season. The Cougars also return their top four receivers, including starters Cody Hoffman, and Ross Apo. Up front, guards Braden Hansen, a senior, and Houston Reynolds, a junior, return along with senior right tackle Braden Brown, and junior tight end Austin Holt.. Junior PK Justin Sorensen and senior punter Riley Stephenson both return, while on returns, kick-returner Hoffman and junior punt returner JD Falslev are back. Defensively, BYU returns most of its front seven, including nose tackle Romney Fuga and end Eathyn Manumaleuna and linebackers Uona Kaveinga, Brandon Ogletree and Kyle Van Noy, all of whom are upperclassmen. Corner Preston Hadley and KAT Daniel Sorensen return to the secondary, also both upperclassmen.
Who’s Gone: The Cougars say goodbye to their leading rusher in 2011, J.J. DiLuigi, running back Bryan Kariya and wide receiver McKay Jacobson, along with tackle Matt Reynolds and center Terence Brown. On defense, they lose DE Hebron Fangupo (6 TFLs), linebackers Jordan Pendleton (8.5 TFLs, 4.0 sacks), Jameson Frazier (6.0 TFLs, 2.5 sacks) and Jadon Wagner (5.0 TFLs, 2.0 sacks) and free safety Travis Uale (49, 34, 3 INTs, tied for the team lead, 1 FC) and cornerback Corby Eason (46 tackles, 40 solo) in the secondary.
The Last Time We Met: Georgia Tech turned the ball over four times, was held to 243 total yards, and saw its four-game winning streak in season openers snapped, 24-13, on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2003, at Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah. The Jackets led, 13-7, at intermission on the strength of a pair of Dan Burnett field goals and a Nathan Burton 39-yard return of a blocked punt by Kenny Scott, but the offense never got going in the second half, and the Cougars took over in the third quarter. After taking the opening kickoff 80 yards in seven plays to regain the lead, 14-13, BYU took advantage of a miscue by Scott, who hesitated in his own end zone on a kickoff, then ran the ball out and was stopped on his own five. Tech was forced to punt and the Cougars drove 43 yards in nine plays, putting the ball in the end zone and putting the game away. Tech, was outgained, 362-243, and managed only 93 rushing yards, led by P.J. Daniels’ 57 yards. Freshman quarterback Reggie Ball added 39 yards on five carries and threw for 147 yards, completing 15 of 24, with one interception. BYU dominated time of possession in the second half, holding the ball for 19:08, while Tech’s four second-half possessions resulted in a punt, an interception and two fumbles.
All-Time Series: 1-1 (1-0 at Bobby Dodd Stadium)
Five Things You Need To Know about BYU:
1. The Cougars passing game will be a big test for the Jackets’ secondary. Cody Hoffman, who is on the preseason Fred Biletnikoff Award Watch List, had 943 yards in reception yardage, last season, scoring a team-high 11 touchdowns (10 of them on TD passes) and averaged 15.5 yards per reception, while Ross Apo added nine scores and averaged 13.3 yards per catch. Hoffman and Apo combined for 43.8 percent of the team’s receiving yardage and 19 of the team’s 28 receiving touchdowns. The four returning receivers — Hoffman, Apo, Falslev (10.6 ypr) and Marcus Mathews (11.1) all averaged more than 10 yards a catch.
2. Hoffman is a double-threat, as he is the team’s top kick-off returner, having averaged 24.4 yards per return in 2011. The redshirt junior broke off a 93-yard return for a touchdown against Central Florida last Sept. 23rd. It was the first kickoff returned for a score by a BYU return man in more than 13 years, a span that covered 158 games. Mike Rigell was the last to do it, victimizing homestanding Hawaii on Oct. 17, 1998, in a 31-9 Cougars victory.
3. Alisa made the preseason Doak Walker Award Watch List. He ran for 455 yards (second on the team) and three touchdowns and proved as big a threat catching the ball, averaging 11.0 yards per reception. The 6-1, 213-pounder also can lay a lick on you as a blocker, having played linebacker as a freshman in 2008 before going on a mission. He made 11 tackles (nine solo) with a sack and a forced fumble in 12 games.
4. BYU’s top five tacklers from last season — Ogletree (76, 36 solo), Van Noy (68, 50), Sorensen (61, 32), Kaveinga (57, 31), and Hadley (51, 32) — are back, the player to watch may well be Van Noy. The 6-3, 235-pound junior LB led the team in tackles for loss (15) and sacks (7.0) last season, tied for the team lead in interceptions (3), forced three fumbles (second) and recovered one.
5. A lot of teams claim to be like a family. BYU’s team practically is. Brothers Marcus and Mitch Mathews both could see playing time on offense (Marcus is a junior tight end, Mitch, an incoming freshman, is a wide receiver). Brothers Spencer and Matt Hadley both play defense, with Spencer a junior linebacker, while Matt, an incoming freshman plays defensive back. Then there is DB Daniel Sorensen and PK Justin Sorensen, both juniors, who are cousins. But it doesn’t end there. Senior running back Zed Mendenhall is no relation to coach Bronco Mendenhall but his brothers Zane, a running back, and Zeke, a linebacker both played at BYU. Zane, a running back in 2010, while Zeke, a linebacker played in both 2009 and ’10. Junior linebacker Uani ‘Unga (note the apostrophe) and freshman DB Morgan Unga are cousins of Harvey, BYU’s all-time leading rusher. (Unai also has a twin brother, Feti, who plays linebacker at Oregon State, a brother, Paul, who played defensive end at Arizona State, and an uncle, Tim Manoa, a running back, who played collegiately at Penn State then had a four-year NFL career with Cleveland and Indianapolis). Butch Pau’u is the nephew of former Cougar defensive lineman and current defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi and cousin of senior linebacker Uona Kaveinga and former DT Hebron Fangupo. Finally, freshman wide receiver Dylan Collie is the younger brother of former Cougar, Austin.