After returning from a two-week hiatus, Riley Nelson threw the ball 51 times but only completed 28 attempts, although there were dropped balls by receivers and tight ends. However, despite the numerous dropped passes and Nelson’s three interceptions, the offense had one of its better performances when considering the level of completion.
The offense was able to march down the field and found relative success against No. 10 Oregon State. BYU’s offense lives and dies with Nelson, and when he’s good, the offense is able to march down the field, but when he’s bad, the offense seems to stall. Nelson threw for 305 yards against an undefeated Pac-12 team. That total could have been nearly 400 yards had many catchable passes not been dropped and many easy passes not been thrown into the ground. Nelson also went outside the offense and threw three interceptions – one of which should be blamed on a receiver – to hurt BYU’s chances of a comeback.
Running backs: B-
Twice Jamaal Williams ran untouched into the end zone to help BYU tie up the game. Although the ground game wasn’t as effective, it was enough, but what makes the running backs’ grade better is the fact that the backs are emerging in a more well-rounded attack. Williams ran the ball 15 times for 37 yards and caught four passes out of the backfield for 76 additional yards. A higher rushing average would have helped raise the grade.
Wide receivers: B
Cody Hoffman was once again the star of the pass-catching corps, hauling in 10 passes for 102 yards, marking his fourth game of the season with more than 100 yards catching. Ross Apo caught three passes for 23 yards and needs to find a way to get more involved within the offense. There were some very catchable balls dropped during the game, one of which bounced up into the hands of an Oregon State defender and went for a pick-six to seal the Beaver victory.
Tight ends: C
The tight ends struggled mightily at a time in which they were needed to have a productive game. Kaneakua Friel dropped about five catchable passes but ended up with three catches for 18 yards. Devin Mahina came in and caught two passes, one for a touchdown on a crucial fourth down. Richard Wilson also added two catches as well, but in the end the many dropped balls over the middle and downfield gives this position an average grade.
Offensive line: C
The offensive line faced a tough Oregon State defensive line that is considered one of the strengths of the Beaver defense. Consistency was an issue up front with the offensive line. At times Nelson had time to throw the ball, and at others he was forced out of the pocket and forced to run. Nelson was sacked twice. The interior of the line was aggressive, and that’s with a third string left guard starting in his second game ever against a 10th ranked team. Most of the offensive line breakdown came on the outside.
Defensive line: C+
The defensive line played well at times but then fell short of holding the two gap at others. Often times the OSU offensive line was able to get into the second tier of the Cougar defense to lock up linebackers in the ground game. Romney Fuga was the second leading tackler on the BYU defense, and his performance raises the overall grade.
The linebacker group was also inconsistent, both in pass rush and pass coverage. Against the run, the inside linebackers were often uncharacteristically out of place, and were beat downfield or over the middle in the passing game. Much of this could have been due to the linebackers being stressed to play a little outside the defense in support of the struggling secondary.
Defensive backs: C-
The defensive backfield turned in one of its worst performances of the season, and this was against a backup Oregon State quarterback throwing the ball. Beaver receivers Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks seemingly made easy catch after catch downfield at crucial times due to the lack of single-man coverage. BYU has gone to more of a man-coverage – rather than man-zone – on the outside and Oregon State picked it apart for 332 yards, with an average of 10.4 yards per catch.
Special teams: B-
It should be a coaching rule that if the ball goes at least two yards deep in the end zone, the kick returner should take a knee. That way BYU’s offense would start at the 25-yard line instead of at a disadvantage on the 15-yard line. Justin Sorensen did kick a field goal from 35 yards out, and punter Riley Stephenson had a decent game. Consistency was an issue in the punting game, despite Stephenson averaging 46.8 yards per attempt, but the grade is lowered due to the consistent poor judgment in the kick return game.