Game Day Grades: BYU 31 vs. USU 14
For the most part the Cougar defense played up to expectations and did their job corralling Keeton prior to suffering a leg injury. The Cougar offense was more balanced in both the run and passing game; the results of which are primarily due to the play of quarterback Taysom Hill. The results was the most complete game by BYU so far in the season.
This was a talented Utah State defense and the strength of it lied within the Aggie secondary. Utah State deviated from what was expected, and what they had been doing all season long, and followed a similar game plan to that of Utah. They didn't go man-press but rather a mix of man and man-zone coverage. The difference this time was Anae made the adjustments and Taysom Hill found his receivers.
Hill proved he could be a very good secondary, I still contend that Utah State's secondary is better than Utah's, which, like Utah, begged him to pass. Hill completed 17 of 32 for 278 yards and passing for three passing touchdowns. Hill wasn't perfect, and for the second game in a row gave up the ball within the blue zone, and there is still a lot of room to improve. However, this will come with more playing experience and more diverse play calling as that experience is gained. Still, Hill put together his best passing performance and managed to hit his receivers for a pass efficiency rating of 155.65 and beat Utah State with his arm rather than his legs. This is what Utah State's defense asked for and Hill delivered by connecting to seven different receivers through out the game.
Running Backs: B
The ground game produced 160 yards on 50 attempts, the lowest rushing production of the season, but most of this could be laid at the feet of the offensive line performance. While Utah State played both an even and odd front, they did stack the box to keep Hill and his rushing cohorts in check for an average of 3.2 yards per attempt. The rushing game has become more predictable and this will have to change if BYU wants to win out the rest of the schedule. Teams are stacking the box on first and second down placing the offense at third and long and into a long passing distance. If rushing the ball on first and second down is going to become the game plan norm, the ground game has to do a better job of creating shorter distances on third down. The predictable ground game created far to many three and outs due to long third down situations.
Wide Receivers: A
Mitch Mathews finally broke out and had a the type of performance everyone knew he could have. He caught five passes for 112 yards, three of them going for touchdowns. Skyler Ridley and Kurt Henderson got into the mix catching five passes for a total of 98 yards. There weren't as many dropped catchable balls this time around and that's a good thing. Cody Hoffman didn't have quite the same performance as in previous games and much of that credit could go to Utah State cornerback Tay Glover-Wright, who did a good job defending against USC's Marqis Lee. However it didn't matter as Hill found another target in Mathews. The Cougar offense will be very potent and hard to defend when both Mathews and Hoffman put together a complete game. The positive part about Mathews' performance is the confidence building aspect and the chemistry building aspects that were seen between passer and pass catcher.
Tight Ends: B
The bright spot from the tight end position was once again Brett Thompson who made a few catches from the tight end position. Thompson continues to be the positive force from the tight end position whereas the more traditional tight ends in the program contribute on special teams or in the blocking scheme up front.
Offensive Line: C
The offensive line was just average against the Utah State defensive front. The overall performance was both up and down at times with there being a lack of consistency up front in both the ground and passing game blocking schemes. Hill was sacked twice and pressured more in the passing game than would like to be seen from a historic passing program. When the line gave Hill time to set his feet, feel confident in the pocket, and throw the ball the results were very positive. When Hill had to make adjustments in the passing game with his legs due to poor blocking up front the results led to many three and outs from Hill throwing the ball away. In the ground game, the offensive line wasn't able to open up holes on first and second down placing more pressure on Hill on the shoulders of Taysom Hill to make a play.
The defense wasn't perfect but it was good enough to hold Utah State's offense to just two scores, one of which was caused by a fumble placing the defense in a short situation. The defense gave up more rushing yards than Coach Mendenhall would normally like, but overall the Cougar defenders shut down the rushing from the quarterback position and forced them into a passing game.
Defensive Line: B
The defensive line had another solid game. There was pressure at time from the d-line, mostly from Bronson Kaufusi in the passing game, but the primary responsibility of the d-line is to set up the linebackers to make the plays. They did a fairly good job of doing this but the execution could have been a little better. Also better play in the two-gap could have led to more tackling opportunities for the defensive line. Utah State was able to rush for a total of 186 yards, but a lot of this lies squarely on the outside linebackers.
There were some breakdowns in discipline on the edges that allowed for large rushing gains by Utah State running back DeMartino and Williams to get out on the edges in the option-ride offense. However, Kyle Van Noy more than made up for it setting the tone early by scoring an interception for a pick-six on the first play of the game. Although the Cougar defense didn't score a single sack in the game, Van Noy had another monster performance. When he wasn't making tackles from sideline to sideline, he was breaking up passes and making USU quarterback Craig Harrison feel very uncomfortable in the pocket. From the middle of the defense, Uani Unga had a monster game as well despite not being fully healthy. Unga had one of the best performances from a middle linebacker since Kelly Poppinga recorded 17 in a game against TCU back in 2007. Unga nearly matched that by number with 16 but did have a forced fumble.
The Cougar secondary was given the task of shutting down the passing game, which it did for the most part against primarily a second string quarterback. After Chucky Keeton went down in the first quarter, Craig Harrison was kept mostly in check. Safeties Craig Bill and Daniel Sorensen both had outstanding games in run and passing support. Robertson Daniels played a big role in the ground game and made very good reads in the option-ride offense to become the second leading tackler on the team. The secondary gave up 211 yards through the air but no big mistakes in coverage.
Special Teams: B
The special teams were solid for most of the day. There weren't any big returns on punts by J.D. Falslev, which is what he more than likely wanted in front of his hometown crowd, but there weren't any mistakes either. BYU was able to block a field-goal attempt closing the score to seven points in the second quarter and giving USU some momentum. However, Daniel Sorensen was able to get around the edge to block the attempt and kept that from happening. Overall it was a solid perfor