It seems to be another one of those Bronco Mendenhall-led BYU teams: start slow (1-2) and then get very good as the season progresses. The Cougars are now riding a four game winning streak, after cruising through Corvallis on their way to a 38-28 victory over the Beavers of Oregon State, that was not as close as the score indicates. Indeed, the cougars were up 38-21 with just 30 seconds to go. The Beavers had to rely on lucky breaks to keep things even at halftime, but the Cougars really blew things open in the second half and ended up having an easy victory. I will happily admit that I was wrong – I guessed a close, low-scoring game at 23-16. Here’s a look at what went right, and wrong for the Cougars in their big win.
Keys to the game
Doman. I keep expecting opposing teams to be able to adjust to Riley’s style of play and shut him down late in the game, but it’s not happening. I’ll give partial credit to Doman on this – he’s obviously been able to more fully implement his offense under Riley, and has been able to keep defenses from keying on Riley because of the variety of ways he has to get rid of the ball.
Nelson. Riley had another solid game: 17/27 for 217 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT. Oh and an additional 87 yards rushing, good enough to lead the team in that category. He averaged nearly 13 yards per completion, and more than 7 yards per carry. Under his leadership, the team went 11/14 on third downs, and came up with nearly 500 yards of offense (217 passing and 282 rushing).
Receivers. In the last two games, Cody Hoffman has emerged (once again) as the leader of this group. He had 9 receptions for 162 yards and a touchdown – that’s 18 yards per catch. Falslev added three catches for 18 yards and a TD, and TE Kaneakua Friel also recorded a receiving touchdown. That marks three straight games that TEs have caught a pass for a touchdown.
The Rush Attack. Mike Alisa, like Hoffman, had another great game, to match his performance against San Jose State. Alisa rushed for 84 yards, and constantly seemed to be running over or through the first and sometimes second tacklers. He and DiLuigi each had a rushing touchdown, though Mike had a second, long rushing touchdown called back on a holding penalty. DiLuigi added 74 yards of his own, including a 41 yard scramble.
Special Teams. Justin Sorenson had an off day. I don’t recall a touchback in the game, and he only managed to connect on 1/3 field goals, one of them being blocked right before the end of the first half. He was a perfect 5/5 on PATs. The Nelson-led offense led to another slow day for Riley Stephenson, who only punted once. The Beavers missed on both of their field goal attempts as well.
Bronco D. The final score doesn’t tell the whole story here. This defense was really great against the Beavers. The Beaver O was held to just 59 rushing yards on 23 attempts (that’s a measly 2.6 yards per carry), and completed only 27/43 pass attempts. The Cougars caused and recovered two fumbles, and Brandon Ogletree and Kyle Van Noy each recorded an interception. Van Noy returned his 43 yards before being tripped up. Probably the best time of the game for the Cougar defense was the beginning of the third quarter, where three consecutive Beaver drives ended like this: interception, fumble, fumble.
What we know about Oregon State (1-5, 1-2 Pac12)
The Beavers had been hopeful about building on their win over Arizona, and reaching bowl eligibility. At this point, that dream is all but over, as OSU has three ranked teams left on its Pac 12 schedule. Next week they are going on the road to take on the Cougars of Washington State. Typically, one would have a W already penciled in on the schedule next to WSU, but the Cougars are already 3-3 this year, and they even beat the Beavers down in Corvallis last season.
What we know about BYU (5-2)
Perhaps my favorite stat through all of this is that BYU has more Pac12 wins than Utah does. The season looked bleak around midway through the Utah State game, as it looked like the Cougars were headed to a 2-3 record with consecutive losses to Utah State. Jake Heaps was benched in favor of Riley Nelson, and that has either been or has coincided with a revitalization of the BYU team and season – now the Cougars are 5-2, and are seriously looking at what could be a 10 win season. This week the Cougars face off against FCS (the “c” is for cupcake) Idaho State. It comes at a good time though, as BYU will be playing TCU the week after.