You heard me right, UNLV has only beaten BYU 3 times in history on the football field. Of course, that doesn't surprise any of us... Anyway, the Cougars are having their worst season in the Bronco Mendenhall era, with their record being at 3-5. It is still very probable that the Cougars go to a bowl game this season with UNLV, Colorado State, New Mexico and Utah left on their schedule. Then their is UNLV... 1-7 with their only victory in a blowout at home with New Mexico. Their bowl chances were demolished last week while TCU destroyed any confidence they had, winning the game 48-6. But now they have the chance to almost doom BYU to go without a bowl game this season. Read after the jump to see just how good the chance of UNLV upsetting BYU in what would be their bowl game this season - a chance to ruin their arch rival's final season in the Mountain West Conference.
I'm not going to lie to you, UNLV does not have a very good chance of upsetting BYU - especially since its being played in LaVell Edwards stadium this season. The Cougars had a brutal non-conference slate with their only win coming from a close win over Washington and that is part of the reason they are where they are. Throw in a semi-lucky win over San Diego State with Replaygate and a last ditch drive by the Wyoming Cowboys at the end of the game that failed at the BYU 30. If either of those teams have better luck in the first half, then the Cougars would be doomed to no post-season since they still have #5 Utah on their schedule. Bottom line is that BYU has a lot of talent, but not a lot of experience - especially at the offensive skill positions.
What can UNLV do to BYU's offense to keep the Cougars at bay? Simple, get to Jake Heaps. Heaps has shown that when he has pressure in his face, he makes horrible decisions. Around 25% of the time he will throw an interception, another 25% of the time goes towards dropped interceptions, the next 25% is spent getting either sacked or fumbling the football, another 15% is incompletions, and the final 10% is a completion. Those are just estimates people, so BYU fans - don't jump all over me about how Jake Heaps completion percentage when under pressure is 30%, not 10%. Either way, the fact of the matter is that if UNLV can get to Heaps then the Cougar offense will have a long day.
If UNLV's offense wants to be successful against the BYU offense, then they are going to have to run the ball well. A 2-3 yard per carry average is not going to cut it since UNLV has done a horrible job this season in disguising pass plays. if they can average 4-5 yards per carry, especially on first down, then UNLV can get into 2nd or 3rd and manageable in which UNLV has succeeded this season.
BYU shouldn't have much trouble stopping the UNLV offense, but they could if they don't mix up blitz packages. When Omar Clayton is able to read the defense and audible for either a read option out of the shotgun or some sort of a pass, then the offense has shown to sustain drives (See: Nevada game until UNLV tied the game at 14-14). If BYU isn't able to disguise when they are blitzing, then Omar Clayton can simply audible for a different play based on the defense without having to change the formation.
If BYU is going to have success on offense, which they should, then they need to run the football well. I was going to say that they need to protect Jake Heaps, and don't get me wrong - they do, but if they get into 2nd-3rd and long, UNLV's lone playmaker on defense, Will Chandler, can really have a field day. Of course, this shouldn't be much of a problem since UNLV is 103rd against the run this season and BYU returned their entire offensive line. It's really going to come down to if UNLV can get some penetration to at least slow down the ball carrier as other defenders arrive to stop the run.
In reality, UNLV probably won't have any success on defense and will only get to about 20 on offense. I'm predicting a 17 point win for the Cougars.
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