John Beck came out on fire, leading two completed drives in to the end zone. He was very accurate and sharp. Hard to criticize much regarding Beck's play in the first half as BYU's offense put up 31 points.
The point total of 31 unfortunately held up for the entire third quarter and well into the fourth. Beck was not very good in the second half for the second week in a row to put it bluntly. He was overthrowing receivers consistently while throwing behind receivers on slants and throwing too low on many underneath patterns which would have made good yardage had they been on target.
I thought Beck's most impressive play came on his touchdown pass to Watkins where he managed the pocket extremely well buying himself time in the pocket with simple and patient moves. Hopefully Beck can prove consistent throughout the entire game and handle any halftime adjustments the defense throws at him into conference play.
A few dropped passes by the usually sure-handed Johnny Harline and Zac Collie cost the receivers a better mark. Receivers for the most part were consistent, but largely unspectacular not getting behind the defense or breaking open any underneath passes thrown to them.
Todd Watkins was involved in the offense and that was a good thing as he caught seven passes for close to 100 yards. The bad news was that his seven catches did not break the century mark in yardage. One legitimate attempt was made to get the ball to Watkins deep but he and Beck did not appear to be on the same page. I sincerely hope that this does not become a theme as Anae and company apparently did not see the need to go to the strength of BYU's most potent offensive weapon.
Running Backs: A
Hard to complain about the play of Curtis Brown and Fahu Tahi. Both ran the ball very effectively and I applaud the use of these stellar backs to the tune of 26 carries between them. They are a strength as Coach Mendenhall mentioned in preseason when he call the running back position the strength of the team.
I also liked the use of two-back sets. Tahi and Brown are two of the strongest weapons on offense and having them on the field at the same time makes sense. This is especially the case in short yardage situations where Tahi proved punishing as a lead blocker.
Offensive Line: B+
The hogs gave Beck all the time he could ask for throughout the game and opened up good holes for Brown and Tahi. They were stale-mated on a couple of short-yardage situations and were beat a few times on blitzes, but these were few and far between. Offensive line had a very solid outing and cut down on the phantom holding penalties if only for the lack of presence of an ACC officiating crew.
Defensive Line: B+
The D-line controlled the line of scrimmage as you would expect against Eastern Illinois. There were not a ton of plays made by Vince Feula, Manaia Brown, Daniel Marquardt and company, but they held the line and allowed the linebackers behind them to fly around and make plays effectively throughout the game. I would have liked to have seen more pressure off the pass rush.
Paul Walkenhorst and Justin Luettgerodt were flying around making plays all day long. Both were extremely active in the backfield and from sideline to sideline. Cameron Jensen was as solid as expected clogging up the middle of the field. Good outing for what is arguably BYU's deepest and most talented unit on either side of the ball.
Although he led the team in tackles, Nate Soelberg continues to get beat downfield, his great speed and athleticism not-withstanding. This time it happened on several occasions against Division I-AA talent. Soelberg's play and consistency must improve as the Cougars head into conference play against TCU if they are to win the conference.
There were several noticeable mistakes made by the safeties in coverage on passes out to the flat. They did not allow much behind them and the linebackers in front of them did not allow much to get past them. Very quiet outing for the safeties which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
The Cougars deserve praise for a great first half. The second half was another story. With seven minutes left in the game Eastern Illinois had outscored BYU 10-0 in the seconds half. I recognize that players naturally have a letdown after outscoring a clearly inferior opponent by 31 points in one half, but that should not be an excuse.
BYU was not sitting on the ball in the second half. They were throwing the ball around trying to score. The ironic thing was that BYU's offense proved most effective when they moved the ball primarily on the ground.
EIU obviously made some adjustments in the second half on defense and BYU did not appear to respond effectively. For the second week in a row Beck and the passing game proved largely ineffective during the second half as the productivity and crispness of Anae's quick-hitting offense unraveled. Hopefully this does not prove a consistent theme throughout the year.