Cougar Curve: BYU 41, Northern Iowa 17

It wasn't the prettiest win you'll see, and Northern Iowa was well within shot of winning the game as the third quarter ended - which next to no one expected - but the Cougars did wind up with the win. Grades are in for every position group following Saturday's somewhat frustrating performance.

First and foremost, I'd like to point out that yours truly nailed the final score, as I predicted 41-17 in my breakdown article published on Friday. While my score was spot on, the game didn't go like I thought it would, as the Cougars made far too many mental errors in their first game of the year.

Quarterback: A

Max Hall riddled the Panther secondary, going 34-of-41 for 485 yards and two touchdowns. There is subsequently very little criticism you can throw Max Hall's way. Much is expected from Hall this year, and Saturday he played about like how most fans would expect him to against Northern Iowa. Hall was practically flawless.

Running Back: C

After one game, it looks as if BYU has Harvey Unga and nobody else in its backfield. Unga gets about a B+ grade for his performance in Saturday's game, while everyone else gets just above an F for their collective performance. Fui Vakapuna was held out of the game by the coaches due to an academic issue. Wayne Latu and J.J. DiLuigi both flopped in their long-awaited debuts, while Bryan Kariya did show a small glimmer of hope by scoring a touchdown during garbage time.

With the loss of Manase Tonga someone needed to step up, and no one did, which is troubling. Hopefully Vakapuna makes the right choices, because this team desperately needs him right now.

Wide Receiver: B+

Michael Reed was off to a great start before going down with an injury. He never really was the same after getting knocked out. Austin Collie started slow, but came on late. The middle was open for Hall all day, so he didn't really need to go to his wideouts all that much. It was also great to see Spencer Hafoka get a lot of reps and his first collegiate catch.

Tight End: A

Dennis Pitta dominated. He caused all sorts of problems for the Panther secondary, and they had no answers for him throughout the game. Pitta finished with 11 catches for 222 yards, while Andrew George chimed in with three catches for 35 yards. I thought that Pitta would be good in this game, but wow, he completely dominated.

Offensive Line: C+

They were fine, but it was frustrating to see Northern Iowa get the type of backfield penetration they did during the second half during running plays. Most fans and media members expected BYU's offensive line to completely dominate the course of play, but it did not. The linemen were fine, but they were hardly dominant, which is a disappointing effort against the likes of Northern Iowa.

Defensive Line: B+

I was ready to give this unit a solid A grade until the second half, when Northern Iowa was able to pound out some yards on the ground late in the game. What I noticed was a huge drop-off from Russell Tialavea to Mosese Foketi. A drop-off is expected, but not to the degree I saw Saturday. Bernard Afutiti did not play, which has to be due to a nagging injury or because the coaches finally determined to try and redshirt him. Those are the only reasons which make sense, but I'll find out more on that on Monday.

Linebacker: B

Matt Bauman and Coleby Clawson were the standouts of the linebacking corps. Clawson was my defensive player of the game, while Bauman showed very well in identifying and stopping screen attempts by Northern Iowa in the second half. The outside linebackers were beat on wheel routes out of the backfield for two huge gains, which can't happen.

Safety: C

I thought that the play of Kellen Fowler and David Tafuna was mediocre at best. There were too many long passes completed and both safeties never really asserted themselves throughout the game. They weren't awful, but they certainly weren't good out there Saturday from what I observed.

Cornerback: B+

Brandon Howard had a very solid outing. He didn't allow any yards made against him in coverage and prevented a long touchdown early in the game by running down the Northern Iowa quarterback just short of the end zone. Scott Johnson got a few passes completed against him, but did have some good plays as well.

Special Teams: B-

C.J. Santiago had a good day punting the football and Justin Sorensen did exactly what he was expected to do during most kickoffs. O'Neill Chambers showed some flash on kick returns, while Mitch Payne was accurate on all his attempts. The blocked extra point, however, leaves a big bad taste in my mouth and kept the special teams from getting a higher grade, as did Chambers calling for a fair catch inside the 5-yard line, which is a huge no-no. He'll learn.

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