BYU-Troy to meet for first time on the gridiron

Max Clark

The BYU Cougars and Troy Trojans will meet on the gridiron for the first time in program history on Saturday, September 26. The 18 ranked Cougars – returning from an unanticipated bye week – will host the Trojans in Provo at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

There has been a lot of talk about the postponement of the BYU, Army game, but BYU head coach Kalani Sitake has made it very clear that they are focused on Troy. Here are three things to know about the Cougar-Trojan matchup:

Offensive Coordinators

Troy offensive coordinator Ryan Pugh – former BYU offensive line coach (2018) – led the Trojans’ successful offensive front in 2019. Last season, the Trojans averaged 34 points per game including a season high 63 points against upcoming BYU foe, Texas State. Pugh helped the Trojans finish in the Top 20 in total yards last season.

BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes led the Cougars to a great start in 2020 – scoring on nine of twelve total drives in their season opener against Navy. Grimes has a very successful history as an offensive line coach which has catalyzed the Cougars successful run game and ability to protect the pocket –the BYU O-line was given a run-block grade of 82.2 while allowing zero QB pressures against a complex Navy defense. Grimes and the BYU offense received a lot of national attention following the opening week win including the ENTIRE BYU offensive lined being named to the Sixth Year Sports National Team of the Week – WR Gunner Romney and RB Tyler Algeier were also listed on the Team of the Week.

Defensive Strengths and Weaknesses

Troy’s defense was a big question mark coming into the 2020 season. In 2019, the Trojan defense allowed an average of 35 points per game – one point more than what their offense were able to produce (on average). But, they proved productive during their season opener against Middle Tennessee State. The Trojans forced Middle Tennessee to punt three times and forced three consecutive turnovers – an interception, turnover on downs, and a safety – all in the first half. Though they may be considered volatile, the Trojan defense certainly can cause problems if they are on.

Although BYU’s defense was very productive in their week one matchup against Navy, they will need to transition from focusing on guarding a triple-option offense to guarding a Troy offense whose play makers wide-receiving core are the dominant play makers. During the 2019 seaosn, the Cougar defense forced eight fumbles and 15 interceptions. Payton Wilgar – who led the team with three picks in 2019 – returns to the roster this year. BYU also returns Khyiris Tonga (DL), Isaiah Kaufusi (LB), Zayne Anderson (S/LB), and Troy Warner (DB) in 2020 who all played significant minutes in 2019 and contributed to BYU’s defensive success.

Quarterbacks Room

Gunnar Watson was named the starter ahead of the Trojans week one matchup against Middle Tennessee State. The 6-3, 208-pound sophomore beat out junior college transfer and Named the National Junior College Athletic Association Offensive Player of the Year Parker McNeil and junior Jacob Free – who transferred from Vanderbilt - for the starting job. Watson had a very productive starting debut against Middle Tennessee leading the Trojan. Midway through the third quarter, Watson had already completed 25 of 36 pass attempts for 230 yards, two TDs, and an INT.

Zach Wilson was named the Manning Award Quarterback of the Week after an incredible week one performance. The junior quarterback is a much more experienced collegiate quarterback than Troy’s Watson. Wilson has appeared as the starter in all three seasons of his collegiate career. “Nothing is holding him back,” junior wide receiver Dax Milne said during a pre-season press conference. “He’s ready to make any throw that he needs given the play and he is going to be great this year.” Wilson completed 13 of 18 pass attempts for 232 yards, two touchdowns and a fluke interception during the season opener against Navy.

BYU is highly favored in the first ever matchup with the Trojans – ESPN’s Football Power Index favors BYU by 89.1 percent. Kickoff is set for Saturday, September 26 at 8:15 PM Mountain Time. The game will have limited in person attendance and will be streamed on ESPN. 

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