Mike Pagnotta knows BYU has a good quarterback in sophomore Max Hall.
Hall leads all Mountain West Conference quarterbacks in total yards passing (2,130), yards per game (304.3 yards) and touchdowns (14).
But Pagnotta, a junior safety, also knows almost every quarterback who has played at BYU over the last few decades have put up big numbers.
“I think a lot of it has to do with the scheme they run,” Pagnotta said. “(Hall) has a good arm, he can make all the throws, you know, but I think a lot of it is the scheme. Not taking anything away from him as an athlete.”
Hall this season replaced John Beck, a four-year starter who finished his career second all-time in passing at BYU behind Ty Detmer.
The transition to Hall has been seamless, with the Cougars’ offense not missing a beat.
BYU ranks first in the league in scoring offense with 30.3 points per game. Conversely, CSU sits last in scoring defense, allowing 30.8 points per game.
Pagnotta, the Rams’ fifth-leading tackler with 34 on the season, will need to step up big along with the entire unit against a potent Cougars attack.
“Watching them on film, they are really good,” Pagnotta said of BYU. “But they’re not perfect. They’re beatable for sure. I think if we go out and execute there’s no reason we can’t hang with them.”
Rams defensive backs coach James Ward said he is looking for his team to make more game-changing plays.
“We’re doing a good job, you can always be better obviously, but I think we can have a bigger impact on the game with more turnovers,” said Ward. “You saw that in the UNLV game.”
In their only victory of the season, CSU returned two interceptions for touchdowns and forced three other turnovers in a 48-23 win over UNLV.
In their other seven games this year, all losses, the Rams have forced a total of 11 turnovers.
Turnovers could be huge in slowing down not only the talented Hall, but three Cougars who rank among the MWC top ten in receiving yards per game.
Those three are receivers Dennis Pitta, Austin Collie and running back Harvey Unga, who also ranks fourth in the conference with 97.7 rush yards per game.
Pagnotta said the key for the Rams remains stopping the run, which they are worst in the conference at doing, allowing 226.6 yards per game. If they can do that, they’ll take their chances with Hall.
“We kind of stress that as a defense,” Pagnotta said. “Eliminate the rush and make them beat us with the pass. I think it’s a point of emphasis for us this week.”
Sports writer Jeff Dillon can be reached at email@example.com.
Hometown: Cave Junction, Ore.
By the Numbers:
71 – tackles in 2006, second-most for CSU
6.8 – average tackles per game this season, third most for the Rams
3 – positions played at Illinois Valley High School, running back, quarterback, and defensive back