I was all ready to pass out Max Hall a C grade at best as the first half came to a close, but Hall came out on fire in the second half, showing great poise in the pocket for the second game in a row. Hall was without question the best quarterback on the field today.
Hall threw for nearly 400 yards and two touchdowns. It was apparent that Hall adjusted to the coverages thrown at him in the first half and knew exactly where UCLA's coverage holes were during the second half. Now he needs to make the next hurdle, which is clicking on all cylinders from the beginning, and doing away with mistakes that made the difference in the game.
Of course, the first-year quarterback is learning as he goes, and the exciting thing is that his learning curve is readily apparent, as he's shown much better in the second half of both games played this year. As mentioned, Hall was clearly the best quarterback on the field, showing the type of poise, smarts and downright guts that the starting quarterback on the opposing sideline still strives for.
Running Backs: C
The running backs were pretty much a non-factor throughout the game, save a few nice plays by Manase Tonga and Harvey Unga. The run-game simply was ineffective, as the Bruin defense was able to bottle up most runs effectively. Both Unga and Tonga did prove effective catching the ball out of the backfield, however.
This observer is starting to wonder why Fui Vakapuna is getting reps over even Wayne Latu at this point in the season. Vakapuna has simply proved ineffective so far this season after two games. The type of burst and brutal physicality that Vakapuna showed early last season has simply disappeared. If Vakapuna does not show some gains in the next couple of weeks, look for his reps to go down considerably.
Wide Receivers: B+
The wide receivers were much more involved Saturday, as they had to be if BYU's offense was to prove effective. Austin Collie had a big game, catching seven passes, of which two went for touchdowns. Both Matt Allen and Michael Reed were quietly serviceable. It would have been nice to see some more big gains and some plays down the field by the outside receivers, but overall they had a good effort.
Tight Ends: A-
Vic So'oto's fumble is the only reason why this group does not get a solid "A" grade. The tight ends exploited the Bruin coverage effectively during the second half, as all three tight ends got involved and were effective up the seams and across the middle of the field.
Offensive Line: C+
The outside pass rush from Hall's blindside did the team in as much as any other factor on the field Saturday. For the second game in a row, the main pressure Hall has received has come from the outside off the edges. UCLA's defensive ends were a bit undersized, but very fast and athletic, and Dallas Reynolds, David Oswald and Garrett Reden had a hard time adjusting to them.
The run game was pedestrian at best, as the Cougar offensive front wasn't able to open many holes at all throughout the course of the game. UCLA's front-seven was extremely good, which allows for some relative leeway in this particular grade, but given the talent and expectations of this year's OL, you'd expect a little better effort overall than was Saturday.
Defensive Line: B
For the most part the Cougar defensive front held the potent UCLA ground game in check, although the Bruins did rush for over 100 yards on the ground. They got decent pressure on Olson throughout the game and didn't allow Markey or Bell many big gainers.
The tackling in the open field was again very good, although UCLA's offensive speed did allow for some more yards to be made around the edge against BYU's very athletic OLBs. The middle was very solid throughout the game, as Kelly Poppinga, Shawn Doman and Markell Staffieri all backed up the line very well up the middle of the field.
For the most part they held UCLA's receivers in check, although a couple of passes were allowed deep, as were some critical third-down conversions. Kayle Buchanan and Ben Criddle are forming the best CB duo Cougar fans have seen in quite some time, as UCLA's wideouts weren't big factors in the game.
Both Corby Hodgkiss and Quinn Gooch had outstanding games, knocking down numerous passes across the middle. The middle of the field was taken away from Ben Olson and UCLA's passing attack in large part due to the collective effort of Hodgkiss and Gooch.
Special Teams: D+
They were better than last week, but that is not saying much at all. BYU lost the field position battle throughout the game by not netting nearly enough yards on punts, and by not returning much of anything effectively on punts or kickoffs.
C.J. Santiago struggled again, while Mitch Payne proved true on his only field goal attempt. One tidbit of note was Brian Smith kicking the ball off in place of Payne during this game. Payne has a noticeable hook to almost all of his kick attempts. Everything Payne misses, he misses right, while the field goals he makes hook inside the post to the right on almost all occasions. It will be interesting to see if Payne can learn to work with his hook or fix it in future dates.
Offensive MVP: Max Hall
Defensive MVP: Bryan Kehl