After the blowout loss to Utah last week, the Cougars were hoping to use this game as a turning point – something to build on – to define the rest of the season. BYU was able to accomplish that goal by pulling out a win against a tough UCF team – reigning C-USA champs who went 11-3 last season. While the Knights outgained the Cougars by nearly 140 yards, BYU won the game as I called it: on strong plays by the defense and by winning the turnover battle. Here’s a look at what went right and what didn’t, as we review our keys to the game.
Doman. The BYU OC moved up to the box for this game. I won’t say that was why they won, but it certainly can’t hurt to be able to see the whole field of play, and thus be better able to identify the strengths and weaknesses that the opposing defense is showing you. Credit Doman for not losing the second half battle – as was the case the previous two weeks. The Cougars overcame deficits of 10-3 and 17-10 to eventually win the game.
Heaps. Jake continues to be a work in progress. His accuracy was below 50% this week, at 16/34 for a mere 133 yards and an INT. He was competent enough to win the game. One really encouraging piece, the leading receiver in the game was TE Marcus Mathews, who caught 4 passes for 35 yards.
The Rush Attack. BYU’s rushing crew had a much better night this week, combining (less the Heaps sack) for 137 yards. Kariya rushed for 52, DiLuigi for 38, and Quezada for 26 yards. Kariya and DiLuigi each scored a touchdown on the ground as well. After the game, Bronco said that they had simplified some of the running game. Whatever they did, I hope they do it again, and that it continues to be effective.
Special Teams. Special teams! From an abysmal game last week to saving the game this week! I cannot fully express how big an impact special teams had on this game. In the second half, BYU was finally able to put together a touchdown drive, only to have that be followed by a UCF touchdown drive, which put the game right back where it was. On the ensuing kickoff, Cody Hoffman accomplished what no other Cougar had done in 13 years: he returned that ball for a touchdown. 93 yards, and all he needed was one monster block as he ran the ball all the way back, untouched. It was an amazing moment for the team and for the fans. It also demoralized the UCF team who had just scored what would be their last points of the night.
Again, in the fourth quarter, with the game tied at 17, UCF’s JJ Worton muffed a Riley Stephenson punt, which was recovered by BYU’s Michael Alisa. Michael ran it into the endzone and the entire team gathered around him to celebrate. It was something these guys needed to help ease the pain of the week before, when nothing went the Cougars’ way. They got flagged for a celebration penalty, and the touchdown didn’t count because you can’t advance a muff, but 3 Bryan Kariya rushes later, BYU had that touchdown and the winning score 24-17. Further, 4/5 Sorenson kickoffs were for touchbacks, and Riley Stephenson averaged 45 yards per punt on 6 punts, with a long of 67. It was really an amazing night for Cougar special teams.
Bronco D. The defense really had a great game. UCF came in averaging more than 200 yards per game on the ground, and the BYU defense was able to hold them to just 81. They were also held to just about half of their usual points per game, at just 17. The defense, like the offense this week, did not fall behind due to poor halftime adjustments, as they allowed only one scoring drive in the second half. Standout performances by Joe Sampson (impressive Sack early on, and an INT to seal the game), Uona Kaveinga (who continues to force fumbles and just be plain nasty), and Kyle Van Noy (who showed off a wicked vertical leap to tip the ball that Sampson intercepted).
The biggest weakness for the defense continues to be Corby Eason. He dropped a potential INT that hit him in the numbers, and the UCF quarterbacks were targeting (and having success against) his side of the field all game long.
What we know about UCF (2-2, 0-0 C-USA)
UCF expected to come in and win against BYU this week. Their players were frustrated by the loss, especially when they were able to dominate the offensive statistics. UCF has a bye this week, so they will have plenty of time to dwell on the loss, and prepare to open C-USA play on October 8th against 1-3 Marshall. The following week will be a rematch of last year’s C-USA championship game at SMU.
What we know about BYU (2-2)
This game felt much like last year’s game against San Diego State. It was a close, hard-fought game, which I felt helped to define the season. I applaud the fact that the players were able to come together to win a tough, close game, just one week after having so much go wrong against Utah. Hopefully the Cougars can build on what they did in this game as they take on Utah State next week.