From the film room: Breaking down BYU

College coaches don't like to spend too much time dwelling over a previous game, regardless of the outcome. Sure, they'll sit down with their players and watch the film, work on corrections and point out the things that were done well. But the page is turned quickly. However, what those coaches do like to do is examine film on their next opponent from that opponent's previous game. That's what did as well. From the film room, here is a look at the BYU Cougars, who knocked off Ole Miss 14-13 in Oxford, Mississippi.
The Cougars went with a spread offense for most of last season, but this year BYU is trying to get back to its roots as a West Coast style offense. Generally speaking, that means more single back sets, shorter passes, and play-action against the flow. BYU struggled offensively against Ole Miss; the Cougars scored only one offensive touchdown, and managed just 316 yards of offense despite holding the football for just over 34 minutes.
Overall, the Cougars rushed for 91 yards on 31 carries (2.9 yards per rush) and threw for 316 yards on 38 attempts (5.8 yards per pass attempt). The only turnover came when starting sophomore quarterback Jake Heaps forced a throw down the field that was picked off in the second half, and it was returned for a touchdown.
Early in the game, Heaps was hit during the team's first drive, on a play in which he didn't recognize a corner blitz, and didn't seem to recover until late in the first half. During that same series, the sophomore took a delay of game penalty and then followed that up by bouncing an open throw into the turf three yards short of a 12-yard route.
BYU loves to pull guards in its running game and loves to also pull those guards when it uses play-action passing out of running formations. The Cougars pulled a guard just under 10 times against Ole Miss, and the play-action pass on those instances was used in a manner that dragged a tight end or fullback against the flow of the offensive line. More often than not, the throw from Heaps was a short one, mostly in the flats, and wasn't pushed down the field.
Despite Mississippi showing a lot of man coverage, Heaps was reluctant to push the football down the field. Redshirt freshman Ross Apo, who was at one time a Texas verbal commitment, was the best skill player on the field for the Cougars. He caught a 19-yard touchdown pass after throwing a double move on a safety, and also hauled in a deep jump ball against man coverage. However, despite Apo's ability, BYU really didn't test Ole Miss vertically.
BYU's backs, especially out of the shotgun, were used much more as receivers than as pass protectors. Frequently, the Cougars would cross those backs out of the shotgun when they used two backs, one on each side of the quarterback, in order to try to beat the linebackers in man coverage. BYU went to two backs, one positioned on each side of the quarterback, on 13 occasions out of the shotgun. When the Cougars experienced a lot of success offensively, it was because they were able to establish the running game with a lead blocker, and then play-action off of those running plays to take advantage of linebackers that over pursued.
Like UT offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin, the Cougars like to use multiple tight ends and motion to create leverage in the running game.
On the instances when Ole Miss brought a lot of heat, there were more than a couple of times when BYU showed some confusion in its pass protection. The backs struggled to pick up blitzers, and on three separate occasions, a linebacker ran freely right through the offensive line without a lineman moving over to chip him, or pick him up.
Riley Nelson, the Cougars' second-string quarterback, entered the game two times, and ran the option out of the shotgun each time.
Heaps had difficulty recognizing defenses pre-snap and adjusting to coverages. Ole Miss blitzed its corner only twice all game, each time he showed it pre-snap, and both times the corner got to Heaps to create a negative play. On the interception, Ole Miss showed blitz in a passing down, backed off at the snap of the football, and Heaps stared down a post route all the way. Also, Heaps didn't check out of two delay handoffs that were ran right into a blitz, which was shown before the snap. When Ole Miss was able to get pressure on Heaps, he was visibly rattled.
When Rebel defensive linemen fired up the field quickly against the run, the BYU offensive linemen liked to drive those linemen the direction they were going out of the play.
On second and long or third and long, BYU threw the ball 82 percent of the time (22 chances).
Facing an Ole Miss offense that was without its projected starter at quarterback and eventually lost both of its top two running backs during the game, the Cougars gave up 208 total yards. Ole Miss rushed for 64 yards on 29 carries (2.2 yards per rush) and threw for 144 yards (5.1 yards per pass attempt).
Defensively, BYU uses a 3-4 scheme, and likes to bring its outside linebackers to the line of scrimmage in order to either blitz or play the run. From watching the film, it looked like BYU went almost exclusively with zone coverage and didn't bring its defensive backs near the line of scrimmage very often. This was a unit that wanted to play the run and then keep everything in front of it in the passing game.
Whenever Ole Miss motioned players into the backfield, specifically while in the shotgun, BYU liked to blitz because it anticipated run. The anticipation was right more often than not, which allowed the Cougars to really keep the running game in check. Also, BYU middle linebackers in the 3-4 scheme blitzed specific gaps in running downs in order to disrupt the design of the run play. Immediately after the snap, you would see those middle linebackers fly right into a gap going as fast as they could in order to try to create a negative play in the running game.
Eventually, Ole Miss went with third-string quarterback Zack Stoudt right before halftime and stuck with him the rest of the game. Stoudt had some success finding holes in the zone coverage, but wasn't able to create explosive games in the passing game. There were a couple of instances when a receiver got behind the secondary, but the Rebels couldn't capitalize.
When Ole Miss was able to kick the outside linebacker out of the way and bounce runs off-tackle, it had some success, but running the football up the middle was a problem.
The BYU front seven did its part to stuff the running game, but it didn't get the quarterback very often, which included instances when it brought the heat.
Normally on third-down passing situations, the Cougars brought a zone blitz, or at least showed a potential zone blitz. The linebackers and safeties were allowed to roam to create different looks, which allowed BYU to help disguise its zone coverage.
Ross Apo (redshirt freshman - WR) - On a team that doesn't possesses a high level of athleticism and speed, Apo was the most impressive offensive skill player in a BYU uniform. He scored the Cougars' only offensive touchdown on a nice double move, created problems for Ole Miss defensive backs and was extremely tough to handle in man coverage.
Daniel Sorensen (sophomore - DB) - This defensive player fought off blocks, got to the line of scrimmage in the running game to make tackles and played intelligent football at a high speed.
Matt Reynolds (senior - OT) - Reynolds was a frequent visitor on numerous magazines' all-American lists as an offensive tackle, and he played well in BYU's season opener.
JJ Di Liugi (senior - RB) - He might have been the guy that Heaps looked to most in the passing game and he's also a running back. It is clear BYU trusts this veteran to make plays offensively, and it used him in a variety of ways.
Kyle Van Noy (sophomore - LB) - If there is an athletic linebacker that can come off the edge and really get the quarterback, it's Van Noy. He wasn't consistently in on a lot of plays, but the sophomore showed flashes of big-play ability.
Jake Heaps (sophomore - QB) - There were times when Heaps looked like the quarterback that's become a well known name nationally, and then there were times when he looked like an average joe. The talent is in there, and once he got into a rhythm, he made plays.
Well, the Longhorns are definitely going to have an advantage when it comes to speed and athleticism. BYU simply doesn't have the type of speed and talent that Texas will put on the field. The Horns need to find ways to take advantage of that offensively by getting players into space against a heavy zone defense, and defensively pressuring the quarterback.
Speaking of pressuring the quarterback, Texas needs to go out of its way to hit and rattle Heaps early. The sophomore signal caller was a different quarterback early in the game when he was hit early, and was visibly rattled; his accuracy took a significant hit, he failed to manage the clock and he failed to recognize coverages. The more UT hits Heaps, the more he's going to struggle. Also, Diaz should give his players a ton of freedom pre-snap to disguise coverages. Almost all of Heaps' throws were in the flats to backs, or shorter, intermediate routes. He didn't go through progressions often, and a lot of his throws were single reads against man coverage. Ole Miss didn't try to confuse him enough and offered similar looks, which allowed him to settle in. Diaz should dial up the aggressiveness throughout the entire game.
Texas is going to be tested defensively in the running game. I'd expect BYU to use the fullback and the pulling guard to attack Texas between the offensive tackles. That was an area for concern for Texas in game one, and is something for which the Horns should prepare.
With the speed Texas has, it needs to test BYU vertically. The Cougars got Ole Miss into long passing downs, and played to keep everything in front of them. With the soft coverage that BYU will likely show, UT should utilize quick hitters and then start really pushing the football down the field. That will require Garrett Gilbert to be much more accurate in the intermediate passing game, but those soft coverages could get him going.
Against the Rebels, BYU was far from impressive. It scored just one offensive touchdown despite dominating time of possession. Ole Miss was a very bad group defensively last year and was able to more than hold its own against BYU. Plus, the Cougars weren't able to bury a team that lost its top two runners and played almost exclusively with its third-string quarterback. BYU will definitely present a challenge for a Texas team still trying to figure everything out, but it was not an impressive football team in its opening game against Ole Miss.