BYU Football: Playmakers Emerge For Cougars In Win Over PSU

The college football season kicked off on Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium as BYU took down Portland State, 20-6, to win its fourth consecutive season opener.

There were plenty of questions heading into the game as the Cougars graduated 21 seniors from last year’s team, including stars players such as Taysom Hill, Kai Nacua, Harvey Langi and the school’s all-time leading rusher in Jamaal Williams who are all now in the NFL.

Offense

Some of the biggest question marks surrounded around the tight end position. Despite being known for its All-American tight end tradition, the Cougars have struggled over the past several years.

However, after Saturday’s game, all the preseason talk about bringing the tight end tradition was backed up as freshman Matt Bushman and Neil Pau’u combined for four catches for 84 yards and a touchdown. Considering last year’s leader at the TE position was Tanner Balderee who had just 13 catches for 156 yards, is a great sign for Cougar fans.

With Nick Kurtz, Garrett Juergens, Mitchell Juergens and Colby Pearson now gone at the wide receiver position, the Cougars were counting a lot on Jonah Trinnaman who was coming off a year where he had 28 receptions for 321 yards and one touchdown. However, it was Talon Shumway who had the biggest day of the group as the sophomore had two great grabs for 47 yards to lead the receiving corps.

Running Backs coach Reno Mahe still has not found his guy as he used a running back by committee approach Saturday afternoon against the Vikings. Squally Canada led the way with 16 carries for a career-best 98 yards on the ground and one touchdown for an average of 6.1 yards per carry. Despite the positive stats, it didn’t really feel like it as Canada was held in check for much of the game before busting out for a 34 yard gain late in the second half.

Kavika Fonua, a converted linebacker, had arguably the best day for the Cougars as the junior running back had seven carries for 59 yards for an average of 8.4 yards per carry. Fonua’s biggest run on the day came in the second half as he broke five tackles before finally being taken down for a 34-yard gain.

Defense

Portland State’s offense didn’t play great but was in the game thanks to penalties that killed numerous drives for the Cougar offense. On defense, BYU held PSU to just 220 yards for an average of 3.1 yards per play.

Zayne Anderson, a 6-foot-2 defensive back, forced the game’s only turnover as the junior sealed the game with his 26-yard interception return.

After sitting out last year, Sione Takitaki made his presence known as the junior defensive end had a career high with four tackles-for-loss and tied a career-high with two sacks in just the first half.

Up next for BYU is a showdown against LSU at NRG Stadium next Saturday. The game is set to kickoff at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.

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