BYU has become more of a running team at this stage of offensive development, but the ramping up of the passing game is expected in due time. It was just hoped that this game would have been that time when BYU got back to its old self in the passing game.
Taysom Hill had a much better game this week than last. His completion percentage went up and his accuracy was much improved. He completed 14 of 19 passes for 177 yards. However, this was against Middle Tennessee, and one would expect at least 250 yards and at least one touchdown through the air. Despite that, Hill's decision-making was much better with his reads as he continues to grow within the passing offense. If Hill is going to succeed in the passing game, the play-calling has to change. But despite that being the case, he made the most of the opportunities that were given. Hill also did have 18 carries for 165 yards and two touchdowns, helping him earn a solid B grade.
Running back: C
For the second game in a row, the Cougars lost a running back to a concussion. With Jamaal Williams out for this game, Adam Hine was expected to receive more playing time, but that was cut short after he went down with a concussion while playing on special teams. Michael Alisa and Paul Lasike took the bulk of the reps, rushing for a combined 82 yards. While he lost a fumble in the blue zone, Alisa did manage to reach pay dirt twice. The biggest surprise in the running game came from freshman tailback Algernon Brown later in the game. Now whether a tired and all-but-given-up Blue Raider defense enhanced his performance or not, Brown was quick through the holes, quick in bouncing the play outside, and showed good vision. He carried the ball 11 times for 68 yards, almost the combined amount that Alisa and Lasike had. Brown averaged 6.2 yards per carry, second only to Hill's 9.2 yards per carry.
This was a game that could have featured senior Cody Hoffman, but the Cougar pass-catching specialist was serving a one-game suspension. However, others heard the call to step up, and that's what happened. There were no dropped passes, which was a vast improvement and should help to build confidence, and more receivers were utilized in various positions throughout the game. Mitch Mathews showed why many are high on his potential, and Ross Apo got in on the action despite not being 100 percent. It would have been great to see these two receive more opportunities to build on their chemistry with Hill, but there weren't enough passes called to allow for such a case. Mathews caught three passes for 47 yards, one of which was an incredible clutch catch, making one wonder if he could have caught a similar pass at the end of the Utah game if he wasn't interfered with. Apo led all receivers with four catches, but for just 38 yards, while J.D. Falslev and Skyler Ridley also got in on the action. The Cougar receivers didn't catch a single touchdown pass against the Blue Raider defense, leaving BYU's total number of touchdown receptions on the season so far at just one.
Tight ends: C+
Those that are considered the more traditional tight ends were primarily used to block in the passing game. The results in that limited responsibility were average at best. Brett Thompson raises the score due to his pass-catching presence downfield, which is what is desperately needed from the y-receiver position. Thompson has become the primary receiving threat from the tight end position, as predicted before this season, but the tight ends have to improve and become more of a downfield threat. Thompson was able to make some plays, giving Hill some play-making confidence.
Offensive line: B
The offensive line still needs some work, but there were some good signs on display against Middle Tennessee. While in the run game the offensive line didn't really start opening up big rushing lanes until the fourth quarter, the line did block well enough for an average of 5.6 yards per rush. In the passing game, the line held strong to give Hill time to make completions downfield. Unlike last week, Hill wasn't sacked for a loss.
Despite all the turnovers on offense and special teams, the Cougar defense played very well against the Blue Raider offensive attack. MTSU was held to just 212 total yards.
Defensive line: A
The Blue Raider offense is primarily a rushing one. With a three-man front, the Cougar trench men played sound in their gap control, allowing the linebackers to flow to the ball very well. Bronson Kaufusi, Eathyn Manumaleuna and Remington Peck did a very good job of containing Blue Raider running back Jordan Parker – who rushed for 154 yards against FAU last week – to just a 2.1-yard average. The three-man front also applied pressure from their gaps and made Blue Raider quarterback Logan Kilgore uncomfortable on passing downs.
Led by senior Cougar sensation Kyle Van Noy, the linebackers played very well in every facet of the game. While there was only one sack this game (which was recorded by Manoa Pikula), the Blue Raiders elected to go max protection in passing plays. Still, the linebackers were able to force the issue regardless and disrupt passing lanes with blitzes, while holding the Blue Raiders to just an average of 2.6 yards per carry. Austen Jorgensen had one of his best performances, recording nine total tackles, while Van Noy had seven, including one for a safety.
The Cougar secondary played very physical in the run game and covered well in the passing game. Skye PoVey had a solid game when he was in, along with Mike Hague and Robertson Daniel on the field side. Craig Bills had an outstanding performance – despite a questionable penalty call – in both run support and pass coverage. He ended up with seven total tackles on the night while recording two pass breakups. Daniel Sorensen gave BYU's defense its second interception of the season. The surprise player of the secondary was Blake Morgan, who seemed to really step up his game in both run support and pass coverage. Morgan covered the field very well primarily in run support.
Special teams: C+
This was a game of both the good and the ugly. Adam Hine again showed why he's a threat every time he touches the ball on kickoffs, and Falslev returned a 71-yard punt for a touchdown. Daniel Sorensen made all of his field goal attempts, rounding out the good aspects of special teams. Now for the bad. While Falslev scored a rare special teams touchdown, he also uncharacteristically turned the ball over twice, putting the Cougar defense at a disadvantage. That cannot happen against superior talent, or else it could result in a Cougar loss, especially with an offense still trying to find itself. Cleaning up special teams play is a must as the Cougars prepare for Utah State next week.