With Riley Nelson getting the start, the Cougar offense racked up 446 total yards of offense. Three turnovers by Nelson (two interceptions and one fumble) kept the grade from being higher, but three touchdown passes, the ability to move the offense, and the overall playmaking raised the quarterback grade from a C- last week to a B- this week.
Running backs: A
The offense found its leg, and did so behind Michael Alisa, who made his presence known with a breakout performance. Alisa ran for 93 yards, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. The backfield racked up 225 yards overall in what was the best rushing performance by the backfield all season long.
Wide receivers: A-
There were deep-ball completions to McKay Jacobson – who was celebrating his birthday on Friday – and more nice grabs by Cody Hoffman and Ross Apo, both in the medium and short passing game. The Cougar receivers caught passes all over the field, including the end zone, for an overall good performance.
Tight ends: A
For a second straight game, a tight end scored a touchdown. Marcus Mathews dropped a pass that could have resulted in another, but overall the tight end position produced well on the field for big plays, which forced the safeties to key in more, opening things up on the outside.
Offensive line: A
The offensive line blew open holes all game long, allowing the Cougars to average 5.2 yards per carry. It was the type of performance from the offensive line that BYU fans had been waiting for all season long. With the emergence of Alisa, the offensive line looked outstanding.
Offensive MVP goes to: Michael Alisa
Although the offense seemed to move at will under the direction of Nelson, the game ball goes to Alisa, who was the workhorse of the game. With the offense going to a play-not-to-lose style in the second half, Alisa got the job done as the game was put on his shoulders.
Defensive line: B
The defensive line got pressure on San Jose State quarterback Matt Faulkner up the middle, split gaps when asked to and made plays from behind and on the edges in pursuit. The longest run of the game came from a backup running back for 19 yards. Overall the defensive line played well in controlling the gaps.
While the linebackers did well in the run game, it was the passing game over the middle that really hurt the defense. SJSU spread the field and attacked BYU's middle using tight ends and h-receivers, which gave the middle linebackers trouble all night long. SJSU tight end Ryan Otten exploited the short catching game in the second tier of the defense nine times for 108 yards.
With Carter Mees and Travis Uale getting the starting nod, and Daniel Sorensen coming in later, the safety grade would have been higher but the lack of safety help over the middle in zone defense lowered the grade.
The Spartans were able to sustain drives through the air, but most of it was by attacking the inside rather than the outside. It wasn't a complete game by the cornerbacks, but overall the cornerbacks turned in a good performance and held the Spartan receivers in check for three of the four quarters.
Defensive MVP goes to: Jordan Pendleton
Pendleton was all over the field making plays, whether it was rushing the quarterback, dropping back in pass coverage or defending the running game. The level of defensive play rises when Pendleton is in the game.
Special teams: B-
Two field goals by Justin Sorensen and long kick returns by Cody Hoffman gave the special teams this grade. The grade would have been higher had the punt return coverage fared much better.