I predicted this game would end at 34-10 in favor of the Cougars. One more score in favor of BYU and one less in favor of San Jose State and I’d have been pretty close. A safety will blow the spread every time anyway. The 29 points scored is a season high for the Cougars, while the 16 allowed are the fewest given up by the defense since the first game against Ole Miss, when the Cougars gave up just 13.
Here’s a look back at our keys to the game:
Doman. I think that Coach Doman is maturing as a play-caller. It helps that for this game he planned to play Nelson, who plays the QB position much like Doman did. The easier competition doesn’t hurt either, but I was happy with the play calls, and felt that the team was more than a match for the Spartans D. The Cougars were nearly balanced as well, gaining 219 passing yards and 224 rushing yards. Another note: the team was driving well on their last possession, reaching the San Jose State 25 yard line, but ended the game by taking a knee twice.
Nelson (or Heaps). Riley continued his success from the Utah State game through the first half against San Jose State. At one point, Riley had 4 consecutive completions, and 3 of those four were touchdown passes. He topped out at a QB rating of 334 in the first half. Nelson did fumble the ball on the SJSU 3 yard line after driving for 51 yards. The next play was a safety, as SJSU hiked the ball out of the back of the endzone. Riley also threw two interceptions during the game. In the end, the Cougars did not punt, and were forced to attempt (and make) field goals on only 2 of 5 scoring drives. With Nelson at the helm, the offense continued to make gains. Probably the play of the night for Nelson was the play immediately following a Kyle Van Noy interception, when Riley threw a 40 yard touchdown pass to a McKay Jacobson, who caught the ball without having to break stride. It was the best pass of the season by either quarterback.
Receivers. The tight ends continue to get more and more involved in the game – and this time Richard Wilson led all receivers with 3 receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown. McKay Jacobson had 2 receptions for 63 yards (and the aforementioned TD), and Ross Apo added another 41 yards on 3 receptions. This game marks two in a row that tight ends have a TD reception after having gone 17 games in a row without scoring. The more the TEs get involved, the better off this offense will be.
The Rush Attack. For the second game in a row, the Cougars have gained more than 200 yards rushing. They were led by a surprising figure, Mike Alisa, who carried 16 times for 91 yards! Nelson and Quezada each had 9 carries, for 65 and 47 yards, respectively. DiLuigi had a diminished role in this game, recording only one reception and 5 carries.
Special Teams. Justin Sorensen was perfect in the kicking game today, going 2/2 on field goals of 42 and 45 yards, as well as hitting all three PATs. Nothing special happened on our kick returns, but Hoffman averaged 24.3 yards on three returns.
Bronco D. I really thought the defense would come up with a fumble, which they did not, but they did come up with two interceptions. Kyle Van Noy and Travis Uale each made a pick, and Van Noy ran his back 31 yards before being stopped. That set up the Nelson to Jacobson 40 yard TD play. The defense was stingy on the ground, only allowing 70 yards rushing on 26 attempts (that’s 2.7 yards per attempt). The Spartans were never penalized in the game, but the Cougars kept a couple of SJSU drives alive with penalties. All in all, it was a good-not-great day for the defense.
What we know about San Jose State (2-4, 1-1 WAC)
San Jose State came into this game on a two game win-streak, after dropping their first three games in a row. The Spartans will continue on with their conference (WAC) schedule next weekend, as they will face Hawaii at home. Last year they lost 41-7 at Hawaii. Bowl eligibility is not expected at this point, but on the bright side, the Spartans already have won twice as many games as last year.
What we know about BYU (4-2)
BYU fans probably hoped this game would be a little more lopsided in favor of the Cougars. In fact, if just one or two more plays had swung in their favor, the scoreboard would have read quite differently. In the end, it was a good win for a team that needs something to build on. There is still room for improvement in each aspect of the game. The Cougars will test their skills next week against Oregon State, who has been off to a rough start at 1-4.