Teams definitely clash, as the BYU Cougars and the UCLA Bruins will do this weekend, but it is the individual battles that make football so interesting. Mark Schofield previews the Tanner Mangum and Myles Jack matchup.
One of the more intriguing matchups on Saturday kicks off at 10:30 pm eastern when 19th ranked BYU travel to Los Angeles to take on 10th ranked UCLA in a matchup of unbeatens. It was expected that the Bruins would be undefeated at this point, especially behind wunderkind freshman QB Josh Rosen. For the Cougars ‒ who started the season unranked ‒ their unblemished record is nothing short of a miracle.
In their season opener BYU traveled to take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers, and early in the fourth quarter they trailed by four and had lost starting quarterback Taysom Hill to injury. However, true freshman Tanner Mangum came on in relief and stunned the home crowd in Lincoln with a Hail Mary to Mitch Mathews, beating Nebraska, 33-28.
In Week 2, the Cougars hosted then-20th ranked Boise State. Once more, BYU trailed and faced a fourth down and seven on the Boise State 35-yard line with under a minute left. Prior to the snap, head coach Bronco Mendenhall looked to be saying a prayer on the sideline:
Then, this happened:
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Prayer answered, apparently.
With the football on the left hash, Mangum stands in the shotgun with 11 offensive personnel on the field in 2X2 slot formations. The Broncos have their 4-2-5 nickel package in the game showing Cover 1 in the secondary and a potential A-Gap Blitz:
The Cougars send three receivers deep, with streak routes on the boundaries and a seam route from Mitchell Juergens, who begins the play in the slot on the left. The slot receiver on the right runs an out route at the first down marker.
As edge pressure forces the QB to slide and buy time in his feet, he spots Jurgens on his seam route, forgoes the shorter pass, and takes his shot. Jurgens does a great job of winning the football at the catch point, out-maneuvering safety Dylan Summer-Gardner (#29) to snare the pass in the endzone:
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The BYU offense, which has averaged 344 yards passing over the first two games, faces a stiff test this weekend when they lock horns with this UCLA defense. The Bruins gave up only 52 passing yards to UNLV in last week’s blowout win, and held Virginia to 238 yards through the air.
Leading the way for this unit is the proverbial Jack of All Trades, linebacker Myles Jack. As a freshman in 2013 he started 12 games for the Bruins at linebacker, but when injuries mounted late in the year he saw time at running back as well. In week 9 of that year he carried the ball six times for 120 yards and a touchdown against Arizona, and the following week notched a UCLA freshman record with four touchdown runs against Washington. Oh, and he had eight solo tackles in the Arizona game and five total tackles against the Huskies.
Jack is an athletic linebacker with the ability to work quickly off of blocks. He plays with great awareness and recognition. On this play from the Virginia game, he is lined up as the weak-side linebacker in UCLA’s base 4-3 defense. The Cavaliers have quarterback Matt Johns in the shotgun with 11 personnel on the field, showing trips to the right:
Virginia runs Taquan Mizzell on the outside stretch play here, and sends two blockers towards Jack. First, the left guard tries to block him one-on-one, but the LB deftly sheds the block attempt. Then, center Jackson Matteo pulls around the edge and uses a cut block on Jack. But even as he is sprawling to the turf, the linebacker is able to get his arms around the RB and assist S Jaleel Wadood with the tackle:
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Again, Virginia sends Mizzell on the outside stretch play to the right, with Matteo leading the way around the end. Jack sheds off his blocker – Matteo – and wrestles the ball-carrier to the ground even as the beaten lineman is tugging on his jersey from behind:
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Because of his athleticism, the linebacker can play from boundary to boundary and help on both run and pass plays to the outside. In addition, the defensive coaches have no concerns about leaving him on the field for passing downs, and moving him outside to cover receivers when necessary. This play from last season’s Alamo Bowl is one example. Kansas State has quarterback Jake Waters in the shotgun with 10 offensive personnel on the field, using trips formation to the left. UCLA has their 4-2-5 nickel defense in the game showing Cover 2 in the secondary, with Jack sliding over to the trips side of the field:
The inside receiver in the trips is Kody Cook (#19), who runs a deep post route. Watch as Jack turns and runs with the WR’s post route, and is able to cut under the receiver and snare the interception:
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With the football in his hands, Jack quickly transitions from defender to ball-carrier, making a number of cuts and shedding a few tackles before finally being dragged down in KSU territory.
This late night duel in the west should be a terrific football game to watch. But while the players and angles will made for great storytelling, the big matchup in this game is this big play BYU offense against Jack and this stout UCLA defense. Whoever wins that battle likely sees their team emerge with the victory.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.
Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.
BYU Videos Courtesy of ESPN. UCLA Videos Courtesy of DraftBreakdowns.