The “go fast, go hard” offense needs a few things in order to work. First, it needs an offensive line that can hold blocks for an extended period of time. As speculated, this game would be won or lost in the trenches. In the end, BYU lost to a team that only won four games last year.
Taysom Hill wasn't able to do much. Whenever Hill set up in the shotgun or dropped back, Coach Jon Tenuta's Virginia defense was flushing him out of the pocket, sacking him, or disrupting the timing on the play. It's one reason why Coach Anae went to more of a run-based offense until towards the end of the game when it was too late and BYU fell into the strength of the Virginia defense, the secondary.
Running backs: B
Jamaal Williams seemed to pick up where he left off last year. The sophomore ran for more than 100 yards and was, at times, able to gash the Virginia front seven. Most of his success was due to his own personal talents as a hard-nosed runner. Williams did miss a catchable pass out of the backfield that was intercepted, leading to a Virginia score. The running backs did seem to have trouble at times in pass protection and targeting blitzes. That could perhaps be because the up-tempo offense doesn’t allowing the backs to target correctly. However, Adam Hine, Paul Lasike and Michael Alisa all ran hard as well and contributed in a positive manner when their numbers were called.
Tight ends: D+
The tight end position has literally fallen out of the BYU offense. The only real contribution came from Brett Thompson, who is more of a wide receiver hybrid than a true tight end. There was virtually no performance, other than a short string of catches from Thompson, from the tight end position.
Offensive Line: D
The game was going to be won or lost based on the performance of the offensive line. The “go fast, go hard” philosophy would only work if there was a high level of sustained execution. Against Virginia, the offense seemed to wear down BYU's offensive line, creating problems in the passing game. In the end, Virginia ended up with more sacks than BYU. The run-blocking was spotty at best, as BYU's offensive line just couldn't generate enough push up front to wear down Virginia's defensive line despite having the hurry-up offense as a tool. The results were bad snaps, poor blocking in the passing game, and little push in the run game. If BYU is going to be competitive, the issues with the offensive line needs to be fixed and fixed fast. Coach Tujague has his hands full and there is still a lot of work to be done.
Wide receivers: B-
Virginia’s biggest defense was a pulled hamstring for Cody Hoffman, Hill's favorite target. With Hoffman not playing, there was a lot of inconsistency from the receivers. Four dropped passes in the first quarter didn't help Hill, and when it comes to connecting with receivers, a quarterback has to have trust. Add to the fact that the offensive line didn't provide much help in allowing Hill to survey the field to make the throws, and you're left with a very one-dimensional offense. J.D. Falslev scored one of BYU’s touchdown.
BYU's defense played well enough to give the offense a chance to win the game. Kyle Van Noy and company virtually shut down Virginia's speedy backs and pressured quarterback David Watford out of the pocket and disrupted passing lanes.
Defensive line: B+
BYU still needs to find a nose guard, as it was hoped that Marquese Johnson would be the guy this year to free up Eathyn Manumaleuna to play defense tackle. Despite that fact, the defensive line played very well in the run game and stunted well, allowing for linebackers to make plays when needed and at crucial times. Remington Peck had the tall order of facing a future high NFL draft pick in Morgan Moses and held his own for the most part. Manumaleuna played very well and Bronson Kaufusi was able to put pressure on Watford to disrupt the Virginia passing game.
The strength of BYU's defense is the linebacker corps, and it showed again against Virginia. Kyle Van Noy was again a monster from the weak side position, both in pass rush and run defense. Alani Fua played very well covering Cavalier tight ends Zac Swanson and Jake McGee in the flats. Fua was also very disruptive from the strong side position when blitzing and defending against the run. From the middle, Uani Unga had a big night stuffing the run against some of the faster running backs BYU will face all season. Both Unga and Spencer Hadley proved tough and played very fast from the middle, keeping Virginia running backs Kevin Parks and Taquan Mizzell bottled up for the most part.
The surprise of the Cougar defense came by way of how well the cornerbacks played despite that position being depleted. Robertson Daniel faces some very fast receivers in Tim Smith and Darius Jennings. Robertson did get caught looking in the backfield – coaches call this having "dirty eyes" – and it led to a Jennings touchdown. Despite that small mental lapse, Daniel played very well both against the pass and the run. Skye PoVey also played very well from the boundary position, as not many passes were thrown his way. Safeties Craig Bills and Daniel Sorensen did a good job in helping both Daniel and PoVey in the passing game, and it was evident that they’re some of the best safeties BYU has had back there in a long time.
Special teams: C+
Justin Sorensen made the one PAT and one field goal he attempted, and Falslev did well in returning punts. The grade would have been raised to a ‘B’ if special teams didn't allow a blocked punt that led to a Virginia score. In the end, special teams play was the difference in a game in which the offenses just couldn't get going.