For BYU fans, the two-hour weather delay was well worth it as the Cougars scored on the first play from scrimmage and didn’t look back as Puka Nucua took the ball on an end around and ran untouched to the end zone for a 75-yard score.
There were plenty of bright spots as well as some negatives from the game and with newcomers — combined with some players out with injuries — there was still a lot that we learned on Saturday.
Here’s all the takeaways from BYU’s dominant win over USF.
The preseason hype was well deserved. With nearly everyone returning on both sides of the ball, there was high expectations this year for the Cougar offense and defense, and the team didn’t disappoint. Led by junior dual-threat quarterback Jaren Hall, the Cougar offense was clicking on all cylinders on Saturday as they cruised to a 38-7 halftime lead.
In fact, the 28 points that BYU scored in the first quarter were the most ever in a quarter under Kalani Sitake. The previous high by a Sitake-coached team was 21 points. With a veteran quarterback, coaches and players showed just how much confidence they have in Hall as Sitake went for it on fourth down early in the first quarter with the Cougars in their own territory. The team didn’t even flinch as Hall quickly got the play in and the team picked up the first down.
It also helps that the offensive line provided huge holes for the running backs and gave Hall all the time in the world to thrown the ball for much of the game. The Cougar offensive line has received a lot of attention this year and is rated as one of the top lines in all of college football. A big part of that is the return of nearly everyone, and the addition of Oregon transfer Kingsley Suamataia to the talented bunch.
The top O-lines 💪😤 pic.twitter.com/dw3IYU6UNu
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 1, 2022
The biggest question surrounding the offense this year was who would step in and replace Tyler Allgeier, the standout running back drafted in the fifth round by the Atlanta Falcons. The answer so far is a mix of Lopini Katoa and Cal graduate transfer Chris Brooks. Both running backs did well averaging 5.5 and 10.4 yards per carry. Brooks started off slow, before settling into a groove, which included a 52-yard rushing touchdown up the middle in the third quarter.
On the receiving front, we all know about the stars (Puka Nacua and Gunner Romney), however, with Romney still out nursing an undisclosed injury, several players stepped up in his absence to give Cougar fans a sigh of relief.
Chase Roberts, Brayden Cosper and Kody Epps were 3 of the top 4 receivers for BYU on Saturday. Roberts led the way with 41 yards, Cosper had 27 and Epps added 26. Keanu Hill and Dallin Holker each caught touchdown passes and tight end Isaac Rex was back in action after going down with a season-ending injury last year. The sophomore had two catches for 23 yards.
Overall, the offense was very efficient and only punted only once in the first half before playing vanilla in the second half. This was by design as the Cougars wanted to keep things simple so that they didn’t show much as they gear up for Saturday’s showdown against No. 10 Baylor.
What a difference a healthy team makes.
No unit was more depleted than BYU’s defense was last year. By the end of the 2021 season — and due to so many injuries — offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick joked that he didn’t even know who was on defense during the game against USC.
With nearly everyone recovered from their season-ending injuries, the Cougar defense looks solid as they held USF to 21 points and less than 300 yards of total offense.
It’s also important to note that BYU took it’s foot off the gas by the fourth quarter and seven of those points also came from special teams. So all in all, the Cougar defense only gave up 14 points for the game. This is pretty remarkable considering the program has ALWAYS struggled in games on the east coast, had to deal with a 2 hour weather delay and also played with its second and third string players for much of the second half.
This is simply sensational from BYU linebacker Max Tooley who reads the QB like a book and takes it to the house to open up a 21-0 lead over USF
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) September 3, 2022
The defense not only held USF well below it’s usually scoring average, but the Cougars also got in on the scoring action as well as Max Tooley jumped in front of a pass and took it to the house for a pick-6.
Just how dominant was BYU on Saturday? The Cougars prevented the Bulls from entering BYU territory on their first six drives, with three of those drives being three-and-outs.
However, one of the most frustrating things was the lack of pressure on defense as the team was content on rushing just four players all night. BYU did get one sack on the night, however, the Cougars managed just two tackles for loss, meanwhile USF finished the game with a sack and seven tackles for loss.
Jake “Goldroyd” looked back to his normal self as the junior was perfect on both of his field goals (2/2) and extra point attempts (6/6). Both field goals were from 37 and 39 yards.
Ryan Rehkow was solid as the sophomore punter had just two punts on the day, with both landing inside the 20-yard line.
However, the biggest negative from the game comes from the kickoff department. Yes, we all understand the strategy. Every person returning kicks dreams of running it back for a touchdown and making a big play for their team. By using sky-high kicks, the kickoff coverage team can hurry down the field and tackle the opposing player around the 15 or 20-yard line.
Yes, doing so makes a team go an extra 5-10 yards, however, it is really worth the risk? Look no further than USF’s Jimmy Horn Jr. who returned a kickoff for a touchdown against the Cougars in the second half. Then a little bit later, his teammate, Brian Battie, added a 38-yard return later and combined with a personal foul call on BYU, the Bulls were able to start their drive at the BYU 43-yard line. That return helped set up the Bulls’ final touchdown of the night.
It doesn’t help either that Baylor returned a punt for a touchdown in in its win over Albany last week. If there was is one area that needs to be fixed, it’s the kickoff coverage team. BYU’s kickers have the ability to kick it out of the end zone, will special teams coach Ed Lamb switch to that against Baylor, or will he continue to take the risk?
I expected the Cougars to struggle a bit in this game due to a number of factors (playing on the east coast against an inferior team, the team looking ahead to Baylor as well as bad weather). I had BYU winning 34-23 in my preview, I just didn’t expect them to blow out USF like they did.
The game in a lot of ways had a very similar feeling to the season-opening win over Navy in 2020. This year’s team appears to be just as good as that 2020 team and luckily for Cougars fans, this team will actually get to prove itself against some top teams this year, including this week’s Top 25 showdown against No. 10 Baylor in what will be BYU’s home opener. LaVell Edwards Stadium is going to be rocking!