In the first half the BYU Cougar offense appeared unstoppable, virtually having its way in every facet of the game against the Boise State defense. The offense put itself in a position to hang 21 points on the Broncos in the first quarter, but had to settle for 10 points. In the second quarter the Cougars scored an additional 14 points in what was a solid first half.
Taysom Hill continues to improve and impress. In the past he impressed with his legs, but this go-around he impressed with his arm in ways that show real field-general development. It's one thing to be an athlete playing the quarterback position and another to be a quarterback who is an athlete. Against Boise State, Hill showed to be the latter as he read the Bronco defense, made multiple reads in the passing game and attacked with more precision. Despite not running the ball as much, Hill managed to gain 69 yards on the ground, but it was through the air where he made his greatest impression. Hill hit nine different receivers, distributing the ball to different position groups and throughout various layers of the defense for a total of 339 passing yards and three touchdowns. Hill showed his arm strength and ability to hit receivers on target downfield for sizable gains while also hitting shorter timing routes much more effectively. His passing continues to improve, and against Boise State it took a big leap forward.
Running backs: B
The run game turned in a solid performance, with Jamaal Williams rushing for 107 yards on 21 carries. Williams was the workhorse, while Paul Lasike, Algernon Brown and Adam Hine had their moments and contributed in a positive way throughout the game. The only drawback was the third quarter, when the ground game seemed to all but dry up with multiple three-and-outs. Still, the running backs accounted for 160 yards on the ground.
The highlight of this game came by way of Cody Hoffman now owning all of BYU's receiving records. He had four catches for 57 yards and one touchdown. He now has 31 career receiving touchdowns, which breaks Austin Collie's record of 30. Ross Apo continued to show improvement and has now turned in three touchdowns in the last two games. Mitch Mathews led all receivers with 66 receiving yards and had a 40-yard score. The receivers from the slot to the outside caught multiple passes. Even Marcus Mathews, who hadn't been seen all season long, got into the action with a catch for nine yards.
Tight ends: A
It's about time! The tight ends came out on fire and were a force to be reckoned with, as both Devin Mahina and Kaneakua Friel beat down the Bronco linebackers and safeties with both finesse and aggressive play. The tight ends caught a total of seven passes for 93 yards, making it a performance long awaited from them. Friel played physical after the catch, barreling over Bronco secondary defenders, while Mahina caught balls in traffic. The tight ends looked like the BYU tight ends of old, and it was refreshing to see.
Offensive line: B+
Against a very good Bronco defensive front, the Cougar offensive linemen played physical in the passing game, allowing Hill to settle in the pocket more comfortably and make his reads and throws downfield. Against Houston the Cougar offensive line gave up eight sacks, one of which resulted in a safety, but this time around the line only gave up two. There were still some snapping issues that need to be addressed, and the offensive line wasn't perfect, but the group played much better across the line and it showed. Along with the physical play of the offensive line, their passion showed after Hoffman took a targeting hit. The line opened up holes for a total of 229 rushing yards and an average of 4.6 per rush, and that gives this group a well deserved B+ performance.
The defense once again played tough, holding a disciplined, talented and slippery Bronco offense to just three points in the first half while stopping three fourth-down attempts. The defense played tough from the defensive line to the linebackers to the secondary and forced multiple turnovers when BYU's offense was starting to slow down.
Defensive line: B
The defensive line didn't get as much pressure on Bronco quarterback Grant Hendricks as desired, and they lost containment a few times, which resulted in long first-down runs. However, Bronson Kaufusi did record one sack, and the defensive line did a relatively good job of playing sound gap-control football for the most part and allowing the linebackers to flow well to the ball.
The linebackers had a monster game against a tough Boise State offense. Led by Uani Unga's 15 total tackles, Alani Fua's 13 and Spencer Hadley's 12, the Cougar linebackers dominated in both the ground and passing game. Manoa Pikula turned in one sack, while Austin Jorgensen stuff a fourth down at a key point in time to give BYU's offense the ball back. While there were some missed tackles that could have resulted in sacks, overall this was a very good performance collectively by the linebacker group.
This is a group that continues to plug away regardless of injuries or personnel. The Cougars secondary lost hard-hitting safety Daniel Sorensen early in the game, and that had the potential to change the prowess of the defensive backfield. However, the secondary stepped up with some player movement. Skye PoVey took over for Sorensen and turned in four tackles while hauling in an interception. There were some errors, but given the nature of the Bronco offense, a depleted Cougar secondary actually held the Broncos to fewer passing yards despite them throwing a few more passes.
Special teams: B-
There was a missed field goal early in the first quarter, but Justin Sorensen came back to convert three in a row afterwards. The Cougar special teams did give up some long return yards, and at times didn't help the defense by pinning the Broncos deeper on punts. Overall it was a decent night, but there wasn't anything really that special about the special teams during the Boise State game.