Max Hall couldn't have had a worse start to the game , as he misread coverages and turned the ball over early. Hall was never comfortable in the pocket or with reading what TCU was providing in coverage. To Hall's credit, no one was open downfield for the better part of the game, as TCU seemed able to jump every route run by the Cougar tight ends and receivers.
The man who was open was Harvey Unga, and he simply was not used effectively Thursday, particularly since he looked to be the only player able to beat TCU's aggressive defense with plays when the ball went to him. Hall's eyes were squarely locked downfield all night, and in this observer's mind, he could have done himself and the offense a lot of favors by checking off underneath the coverages.
The Cougar offense is in a standstill since the bye week, and it's starting to become unclear whether it will ever get on track again this season. Hall was inaccurate as well with too many of his throws in what was simply another underwhelming effort by the Cougar offense - for the third week running. The problem this time was that they went against a much better defensive unit in TCU.
Running Back: B
They weren't used nearly enough, as I alluded to above. This is a game in which Unga needed to be used more, and he didn't get the ball nearly enough. The run game was working, and it's not time to abandon the run when you're down 17-0 in the first half, which is exactly what Robert Anae and the offensive brain trust did. The run game was working, but the coaches weren't patient enough.
Wide Receiver: C
It was troubling how hard it was for the Cougar receivers to get open all night. Austin Collie faced a barrage of double teams, so it's hard to blame him, but Michael Reed wasn't getting open against single coverage, as TCU's cornerbacks were able to get very physical with Reed and throw him off his game.
Tight End: C
Dennis Pitta was able to make some plays against some very physical coverage, but it wasn't nearly enough. Andrew George meanwhile seemed to run into every coverage TCU threw at the Cougars. Tight end is a position where there is a lot of reading and knowing when and where to sit down in routes or when to go over the top. The tight ends and receivers struggled at this on Thursday, as the TCU defensive backs seemed to know what was coming every single time. They were thereby able to jump almost every route being run by the Cougar receivers and tight ends.
Offensive Line: C+
The run blocking was relatively very good, considering how staunch TCU is against the run, and had the Cougars stuck with the run they very well could have kept this game in check. The pass blocking wasn't good, however, as Jerry Hughes made the pocket his own personal playground by recording four sacks and very much disrupting the rhythm of the Cougar passing attack.
Defensive Line: B-
The defensive line wasn't the problem from my point of view. They were good at the point of attack, but the gaps weren't being filled effectively by those behind them, nor was the second layer of containment effective during most plays.
Coach Hill opted to play coverage for the most part, and the Cougars were ineffective in their three- and four-man pass rushes. Overall it was an okay effort by the Cougar defensive front.
The inside linebackers simply were not making plays. I've harped on this before, but this group of inside linebackers are not tackling well in the open field, not filling gaps effectively, and simply not knocking an offensive attack backwards. TCU was falling forward on virtually every play, as they proved to be the far more physical team on both sides of the ball.
On the outside it was clear that TCU was intent on running away from David Nixon. The OLBs were better than the ILBs for the most part, but in a defense in which everything is designed for the linebackers to make plays, this defense is struggling.
David Tafuna was ineffective out of the backfield once again at both coverage and open-field tackling, which may have caused him to get pulled in favor of Andrew Rich early in the ball game. Kellen Fowler didn't allow much over the top, but didn't tackle effectively either.
Anyone else notice how TCU was able to exploit the field side of coverage time and again during crucial third down situations? Brandon Howard was completely overmatched physically Thursday, and it was a matchup that TCU exploited over and over and over again.
Scott Johnson wasn't involved much due to TCU picking on Howard's side of the field. Brandon Bradley was inserted at the field corner position late in the ball game, and it will be interesting to note if this change continues.
Special Teams: C-
BYU got a lot of work done on kick return Thursday, with O'Neill Chambers getting a full night's worth of work returning TCU's kickoffs. Chambers was effective getting the ball well past the 20-yard line on most occasions. On the two kickoffs by the Cougars, TCU was able to get too many yards. The punting was mediocre.