BYU’s Defense Prepares For Challenging West Virginia Ground Attack

Nov 3, 2023, 4:33 AM | Updated: 6:20 am

PROVO, Utah – BYU football has struggled to stop the run this season. That’s a big concern coming into Saturday’s matchup against West Virginia because the Mountaineers’ identity is tied to running the football.

BYU is 82nd nationally in rush defense, allowing 154.5 yards per game. West Virginia has the nation’s 16th-best rushing attack, fifth in the Big 12, averaging 203.2 yards per game.

West Virginia boasts a dual-threat QB in Garrett Greene

The Mountaineers are led by dual-threat quarterback Garrett Greene, who has no reservations about taking off to run. He’s run 72 times this season for 404 yards eight touchdowns. Then West Virginia also features CJ Donaldson, who was benched last week but is expected to be back in the starting role. Plus, they have freshman Jahiem White who had a breakout game against UCF.

It’s a tall order for BYU. The Cougars have had an offense that’s struggled the past month, so the defense coming up with stops will be at a premium.

“I’m really excited about it. They’re a good team,” said BYU defensive end Tyler Batty to KSL Sports. “I’ve probably watched the majority of their games on TV, I feel like they’ve played in windows where we’re not playing. So I feel like I’ve been able to watch the majority of their games live, which has been awesome. … They have a really good running quarterback; he likes to get loose. I’m excited. I think our defense has progressively gotten better versus the run over the season. So I’m really excited to face that challenge.”

What BYU football looks to do against a dual-threat QB

BYU has faced a few dual-threat quarterbacks this season with Kansas’ Jalon Daniels, Emory Jones from Cincinnati, and Arkansas KJ Jefferson. But no one is more willing to run than Greene. He’s improved as a passer this year, yet his calling card is still to run the ball.

“You’ve got to account him for 24/7. Not only does he like to run it, their scheme is based around that. So there are designed QB runs. That doesn’t mean they can’t give it to the running back … but you’ve got to account for multiple runners,” said Batty on the challenges of facing a dual-threat QB. “Those are the challenges we face is that you gotta be doing your job. You can’t be caught or else you may pay.”

The reason for West Virginia’s successful ground attack is their offensive line. BYU defensive coordinator Jay Hill believes it could be among the best units they will face.

“I think they are for sure one of the O-Lines we will face this year. If the best O-Line that we face,” Hill said. “This scheme is creative. It’s complicated and it causes you issues and matching up. You need to be very assignment-sound. There’s a reason why they run the ball well and why they lead the league in time of possession right now. So we’ve got to do a great job being assignment sound, matching up what they do, and not losing our eyes in the run game.”

BYU vs. West Virginia

Date: Saturday, November 4, 2023

Location: Milan Puskar Stadium

Kickoff: 5 p.m.


Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM) — Extended pregame coverage begins at Noon

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

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BYU’s Defense Prepares For Challenging West Virginia Ground Attack