Max Hall came out about as bad as he could have. He was clearly confused by the coverages Utah threw at him, and if he hadn't adjusted, Utah likely would have won the game. Hall showed what he has been able to show throughout the year after sluggish starts by improving with every snap as he settled in and made plays.
Hall has finished games stronger than he has started them in just about every game this year. His confidence and bright football mind has steadied him throughout the year. Hel was nails down the stretch, avoiding a great pass rush while unleashing a pass to a wide-open Austin Collie on a fourth-and-18 that Cougar fans won't soon forget.
Running Back: A-
Harvey Unga, despite dropping what should have been a game-sealing touchdown pass, had a dominating performance. Unga was very effective, but it was very apparent during the game how much BYU could benefit from a second back who could rotate effectively with Unga.
If a running back could have come in to spell Unga effectively when he was winded, BYU likely would have cruised to victory, as Utah proved weak at the point of attack. Despite that, Unga came through when needed by scoring the game-winning touchdown.
Wide Receiver: B
Austin Collie had an effective game, catching five balls for 125 yards, including the critical fourth-down play where he was able to get behind the Utah coverage. Collie had a touchdown taken away from him on a questionable offensive pass interference call, but despite that was productive. Collie also ensured that BYU would do no worse than overtime with a catch on a two-point conversion.
Michael Reed and Matt Allen both had a quiet two catches between them. BYU's WRs were effective, but should have had more production considering Utah was intent on doubling tight end Dennis Pitta on almost every play.
Tight End: C+
The tight ends were too quiet in this game to warrant a higher grade. Andrew George came through with three catches, while Pitta was limited to only three receptions. Utah's defensive game plan was focused on shutting down Pitta, as the Utes threw every type of coverage imaginable at the emerging Cougar tight end.
Offensive Line: A-
The offensive line won the game for the Cougars on offense. Going in, I stated that the team that could run the ball most effectively up the middle would win the game. BYU was the better team at the point of attack, leading to consistent holes for Unga to run through and adequate pass protection for Hall.
Right tackle remains to be the gaping weakness in this year's OL. While every position was solid, the rush around the right tackle disrupted too many plays and almost cost the Cougars the game, as a Ute defensive end was able to get around the right tackle to dislodge the ball, leading to a second-and-18 right out of the gate on a drive where BYU had to have a score.
Defensive Line: A-
Utah was unable to mount an effective running attack, and the pass rush was decent throughout the game. Jan Jorgensen again led the attack with two big sacks on Johnson. Every defensive lineman was efficient, and Brett Denney continued to make plays when he subbed in for Ian Dulan.
The tackling by this unit has been too unspoken for so far this season. What might be the most impressive thing about this unit is their ability to wrap up and push opponents backwards when tackling. Kelly Poppinga, Bryan Kehl, David Nixon, Chris Bolden, Markell Staffieri and the rest all completed their defensive assignments effectively.
What kept this unit away from an "A" grade was the pass rush. When BYU brought pressure off the edges from Kehl and Nixon primarily, they seldom got to the quarterback. Other than that, the linebackers were very good.
What the linebackers and the entire defense did most effectively was guard against Utah's trick plays. The misdirection plays Utah ran were wastes of downs, as the Cougar defenders remained consistent in their gap assignments.
Nothing was gained down the field against Ben Criddle and Kayle Buchanan, but what was most impressive about this unit was their run support. Criddle especially blew up his blocking assignment to make plays on the edges. Teams have been unable to exploit what some consider to be a below-average CB unit.
This unit was every bit as effective as the cornerbacks. Corby Hodgkiss made his presence known early, making big hits and a critical interception early on. It was hard to notice free safety Kellen Fowler during most passing plays, which is always a good thing if you play free safety.
Special Teams: B
C.J. Santiago was effective at punting the ball, and Mitch Payne kicked through three of four field goal attempts. The kick coverage was good, while the kick return unit of BYU didn't play much of a factor at all. The special teams didn't do much to win the game for BYU, but they didn't do anything to give them a disadvantage either.
Defensive MVP: Ben Criddle