Earlier I wrote my keys to the BYU vs. Utah State game and what the winner of the game would have to do.
Turnovers: I wrote that BYU would have to protect the ball and force turnovers of their own. They were able to do this for the most part. The pick-6 that Kyle Van Noy had on the first play from scrimmage was definitely the exact type of tone-setting play that BYU needed. 10 seconds into the game and the Aggies were already 7 points down. BYU ended up winning the turnover battle 3-2.
Line play: There was no doubt that BYU’s offensive line was no match for the Aggie’s defensive line. Utah State was able to hold the Cougar rushing attack to under 170 yards and was consistently in the backfield wreaking havoc. I thought their game plan for keeping Taysom Hill in check was spot on. One thing I thought BYU should have done was to start throwing screen passes to take advantage of the aggressiveness of Utah State. In the end, the play-action pass eventually bought Taysom Hill enough time to find his receivers downfield.
The BYU defensive line was good enough to do what they needed to. There was just enough pressure on the Aggies to keep the quarterback from getting too comfortable. BYU’s bend-but-don’t-break defense can be frustrating from a fan’s perspective, but it was enough to keep the Aggies in check with the exception of the short field touchdown following Taysom’s fumble, and a garbage time touchdown that the bench scrubs allowed at the end of the game.
Wild Card: I said that quarterback play was going to be big in this game, and it was. Chuckie Keeton’s knee injury early on definitely impacted the game. Now, Chuckie Keeton’s absence may have kept this game from becoming a track meet, but he doesn’t play defense. Regardless of who was playing quarterback for the Aggies, Taysom Hill played what I can only describe as his most complete game to date. Taysom completed just over 54% of his passes for 3 touchdowns. I saw him going through his progressions and not just staring down his intended receiver – well, not all the time anyway. He was also sensible enough to go down when he realized that a play was done and there was nothing left to gain. Without a doubt, Taysom’s play was the biggest key to BYU’s win.
I’d like to also take a moment and recognize another BYU player for his offensive explosion. Mitch Mathews’ 5 catches for 112 yards – including 3 for touchdowns – was most surprising. He’s definitely someone other defenses are going to have to watch out for moving forward.
Obviously there is still work to do. The play calling is still too predictable (2 runs up the middle, with a pass on 3rd down). Cody Hoffman and Ross Apo have been completely non-existent so far, and the offensive line is…well…offensive. However, after having written this game off as a loss makes me more optimistic about the games to come.
And maybe the Vegas odds-makers can keep putting us as underdogs…