The Cougar Curve: BYU vs. UNLV

McKay Jacobson

Someone needs to tell UNLV that Christmas is still two months away because the Rebels were giving the ball away like jolly old St. Nick on December 25th. The game went largely as predicted with BYU executing while UNLV self-imploded. BYU took advantage of every UNLV mishap with a very efficient game both offensively and defensively.

Quarterbacks: A-

John Beck's interception was perhaps the only thing keeping him away from another grade A performance. A 20 of 26 passing effort with over 10 yards gained per attempt is about as good as it gets for any quarterback.

Beck again proved confident in the pocket and in his reads. Few of his passes could have been better placed as Beck continues to play at a new level. Beck is playing as well as any quarterback in the country.

Running Backs: A

No Cougar running back averaged less than 6 yards per rush. Curtis Brown was well on his way to over 200 yards before he was pulled halfway through the third quarter. Manase Tonga was surprisingly efficient catching the ball out of the backfield considering he was playing with a cast on one of his hands.

The backups also did extremely well. Joe Semanoff was solid in his runs and blocks, but it was Mike Hague that really turned some heads rushing effectively enough to amass 116 yards in slightly over a quarter's worth of work. His 87-yard touchdown run was a thing of beauty as he outran the entire Rebel defense for the score.

Wide Receivers: A

They made plays whenever the ball was thrown their way, although they were not featured as much in this game. Freshmen McKay Jacobson was the star of the bunch catching his first two touchdowns of the season.

Inside Receivers: A-

Nathan Meikle had the best catch of the day playing from the inside H receiver position when he laid out for a Beck pass on BYU's second touchdown drive. Jonny Harline again caught two touchdown passes, one a 48-yarder. Daniel Coats was not a big part of the passing game, but he did block well.

Offensive Line: B+

After the BYU O-line turned in their best run blocking performance of the season, it is tempting to give them an A, but multiple holding penalties necessitate a downgrade. They did not allow a sack and the RBs averaged almost 8 yards per carry, but I counted at least 4 holding penalties, which just cannot happen.

Defensive Line: A-

Ian Dulan was back getting a full slate of reps and it showed. I do not think anyone realized just how good the 17-year old freshman was until he was held out of the last two games. Dulan consistently got penetration, disrupting UNLV's offense on several plays.

Russell Tialavea is steadily getting more and more reps every game at nose tackle and deservedly so. Russell is not allowing anything up the middle and got to the QB on a few occasions.

Overall, it was just an outstanding performance by the Cougar defensive line. The defensive game plan only called for 3 and 4-man rushes, and although they did not account for any sacks, they got good pressure. The defensive line forced Steichen and Hinds out of the pocket consistently, which led to several bad throws.

Linebackers: A-

The LBs were solid, as always. Aaron Wagner had a very good game stuffing up the cutback lane on multiple occasions. Both Bryan Kehl and David Nixon proved dominant on the outside. Nixon is quickly proving to be BYU's best outside blitzer coming around furiously on the outside to disrupt plays and hurry the quarterback.

Safeties: B

Dustin Gabriel went out early after getting his bell rung. HE was replaced by Cole Miyahira. BYU safety play took a hit as a result of the change, but they allowed few big plays and nothing over-the-top. Corby Hodgkiss played very well in coverage late in the fourth quarter.

Cornerbacks: A-

Walk-on Ben Criddle played an outstanding game. He picked off his first pass in the end zone that all but ended any hopes UNLV had of making it a game. Criddle has been teased by teammates for dropping some easy picks. He has been working extra hard after practices at catching balls, and it finally paid off. More INTs are sure to come from Criddle.

Justin Robinson and Kayle Buchanan both proved solid opposite Criddle all game long. Robinson got a pick himself although it came as a result of an underthrown pass. The defense forcing 6 turnovers is tremendous. This is a defense that makes plays, which is something BYU fans have not seen enough of in recent years.

Offensive Player of the Game: Mike Hague/McKay Jacobson. Have to give it up to the true freshmen

Defensive Player of the Game: Ben Criddle

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