The Cougar offense had its way against an Idaho defense that leaked points through the air and on the ground like a screen door trying to hold back water. By halftime the game was over after the offense had already accounted for 367 yards and 35 points. It wasn’t a perfect performance by the offense, but a shellacking nevertheless.
Statistic-wise, one could say this was Riley Nelson’s best performance of the season. Nelson threw for 236 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions. However, given the opponent, it’s easy to understand why. Still, Nelson managed the offense well and did what was expected while playing barely more than one half.
Although he only threw the ball 11 times, backup quarterback James Lark came in and didn’t miss a beat. Lark hit Cody Raymond for his only touchdown of the game and added an additional 49 yards to the quarterback throwing stats. However, like Nelson, Lark managed the game and the offense very well and made good decisions with the football. The grade is lowered a bit given that both quarterbacks combined to only complete 25 out of 42 passes and never reached the magical number of 300 yards against a struggling defense.
Running backs: A-
The legs and vision of Jamaal Williams accounted for a 10-carry, 104-yard performance in a half-game performance. Williams averaged just more than 10 yards per carry and scored two touchdowns. He continues to find success within the zone-run reads, showing his continued maturation process. Had he played the entire game, he could have easily doubled his totals. In the second half the Cougar offense went conservative, both in play-calling and personnel. Backups Paul Lasike and David Foote took most of the rushing load as the offense slowly took their Cougar paws off the Vandals’ necks.
Wide receivers: A-
It was the Cody Hoffman show at LaVell Edwards Stadium, and it was a show he made look easy. Seemingly toying with the Idaho defensive backfield, Hoffman hauled in nine receptions for 108 yards and three touchdowns. Had he not dropped a pass at the very end of the first half, it could have easily been four touchdowns on the night, but Hoffman’s outstanding night was accomplished in only two quarters of play and could have easily been a much gaudier statistical performance. What his impressive was the fact that the Vandals’ defense game-planned for him but still couldn’t stop him. He has 2,267 career receiving yards, placing him at 10th on BYU's all-time receiving list. Ross Apo complemented Hoffman with four receptions for an additional 70 yards. Apo was much more involved in the passing game, and that helped the overall performance of the offense.
Walk-on Cody Raymond caught his first touchdown of his young college career early in the fourth quarter, and Skyler Ridley showed BYU fans that there is some depth at the x-receiver position behind Hoffman. The backups did a great job both blocking and catching the ball to sustain drives and move the ball downfield.
Offensive line: B+
The Vandals did their best to confuse the Cougar offensive line with odd fronts and unconventional stances, but the offensive line did a relatively good job off targeting and sustaining blocks for running lanes. During the second half there was a little more pressure allowed by the line than would be expected when going against a team with only one win on the season, but for the most part the offensive line did a good job of allowing the quarterbacks to throw the ball.
After holding Washington State, Boise State, Hawaii, Utah State and Georgia Tech to zero offensive touchdowns, one would think the defense could hold a one-win Idaho team that lost its head coach to a similar fate. However, that was not to be the case, as Idaho scored a touchdown on what is now considered one of the best defenses – if not the best – in Cougar history. Granted, the Cougar defense was down some first-team starters due to an altercation that led to the withdrawal of senior safety Joe Sampson and a one-game suspension for cornerback Jordan Johnson.
Defensive line: B
The defensive front did a fairly good job of sustaining gap control, but there could have been better chemistry between the line and linebackers in the zone blitz efforts. Much of that could be due to the fact that many were substituted in and out throughout the game. But despite the Cougars not getting any sacks and only one tackle for a loss (by Ezekiel Ansah), the defensive line helped in holding the Vandals to only 2.7 yards per rush.
From the starting four to the backups, the linebacker corps got it done once again. While it was a relative quiet night for superstar Kyle Van Noy – although he did force a fumble – the linebackers kept the Vandal ground game in check. Backup Uani Unga recorded five tackles – including four solo tackles – one interception and a forced fumble to lead the way. Spencer Hadley recorded his first defensive touchdown, while Van Noy had only one tackle on the night. But his prowess wasn’t needed, as was evident in the many players that saw playing time, including Manoa Pikula, Alani Fua, Jherremya Leuta-Douyere and Lene Lesatele. It was an overall good performance by the core of the Cougar defense.
With Jordan Johnson suspended for one game, senior Robbie Buckner came in and recorded an interception in his stead. Buckner could have had two on the night if he hadn’t dropped an easy – and probably unexpected – pass that went right to him. The Vandals completed only 20 passes on the night for a total of 212 yards. However, it was a coverage breakdown in the man-zone coverage from the safety position that allowed the Vandals to do what numerous offenses led by offensive gurus couldn’t do this year: score a touchdown. Idaho was almost able to match BYU’s average yards per catch, bringing the overall secondary grade down a little more than expected.
Special teams: C+
The most glaring performance by the special teams came from the field goal unit, with a 27-yard attempt missed horribly missed due to execution with the snap and catch. There were modest gains on kick returns, as well as two botched punt returns, one of which led to a Vandal fumble recovery. The bright spot for the special teams was the performance of Riley Stephenson, who averaged just 42.5 yards per punt, but was able to place two kicks inside the Vandals’ 20-yard line.