Red zone touchdowns will be key at BYU
Published: Friday, October 12, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 12, 2012 01:10
It’s pretty obvious that to improve to 5-0 this coming Saturday, No. 10 Oregon State will need to score more points than Brigham Young.
It will be no easy task, however, considering BYU (4-2) is a perfect 4-0 at home this season, largely because of a defense that has allowed only 5.5 points per game at home.
Even more impressive than that might be the BYU defense’s ability to hold opponents off of the scoreboard once they get inside the red zone.
The Cougars are first in the nation in red zone defense, allowing opponents to score only 40 percent of the time — whether it is a touchdown or field goal — once they cross the 20-yard line.
“They’re a good, really good defensive football team,” said Oregon State head coach Mike Riley. “They are in the top of a lot of categories nationally on defense . . . They’re experienced, they’re smart, they play hard, they’re tough and physical, and they know what they’re doing.”
Interestingly, red zone offense has been a weakness for Oregon State this year.
The Beavers are respectable in red zone efficiency, ranking 57th nationally, scoring points 82 percent of the time.
But that doesn’t tell the whole story. OSU is only 99th in the nation in red zone points, meaning the Beavers are settling for field goals more than they would like.
In fact, the Beavers are scoring touchdowns on only 53 percent of their red zone trips. Coming away with only field goals has worked out for Oregon State thus far, but against a defense as stingy as BYU, touchdowns will come at a premium.
“We’re our own worst enemy,” Riley said. “We mess up a play, or we fumble the ball, or get a sack. It’s all our own problem really.”
Capitalizing on red zone opportunities will be especially important considering junior quarterback Cody Vaz will be making his first career start.
“I think it’s really important [to get in a rhythm],” Vaz said. “Not just for me, but for the offense as a whole, to continually move the ball on them, and just be able to get points when we’re down in the red zone. I think it will be a key thing this weekend.”
While efficiency will be important from the quarterback position and in the passing game, the running game has been the thing that OSU has lacked early in the season.
“Sometimes if you’re not running the ball it is [a major reason you can’t score touchdowns],” Riley said. “But when you have a running play called and you mess it up, go the wrong way, and all that stuff, then nothing’s going to work. So it’s execution; that’s the main thing.”
Oregon State has used both redshirt freshman running back Storm Woods and sophomore running back Malcolm Agnew around the goal line with limited success, and has even turned to sophomore fullback Tyler Anderson, who has two touchdowns in the last couple of games.
“Both Coach Riley and Coach [Langsdorf] have stressed [scoring touchdowns in the red zone] a lot,” Woods said. “We need to score more touchdowns instead of field goals so that the game gets out of reach . . . I always run hard, but when you’re literally inches or a yard away from the end zone you get hungrier and run harder.”
Regardless of who scores in the red zone for the Beavers, whether it be Vaz, Woods or somebody else altogether, touchdowns will be key if Oregon State wants to remain undefeated this season.
Andrew Kilstrom, sports reporter