The Cougar defense was absolutely dominant as BYU needed just a single touchdown drive to take down the Aggies 6-3 in Provo last night. Here's a look back at the keys to the game from our preview.
Make no mistake, Utah State is a very good team. But BYU was the better team last night, thanks to their incredible defense. This game had been billed as a defensive battle by fans and media alike. I, too thought it would be a defensive struggle, but at 21-17, I underestimated the BroncoD, and overestimated our offensive output. The 6-3 final score would be all the rage in the SEC, but leaves the Cougar faithful still wondering, "Where is our offense?"
Here's a look back at what went right and wrong for the Cougars in their victory last night.
Quarterback Who? I said last week that a healthy Riley is better than Taysom. After this week, I think Taysom is growing into the role. Sure, Hawaii was low-hanging fruit that even Jason Munns probably would have rolled over, but Utah State has a legitimate defense. Taysom's overall numbers in the game were absolutely on par with Riley: 24/36 passing for 235 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. The difference in the game was a 25 second long, 61 yard drive at the end of the first half. The drive included three consecutive completions to Cody Hoffman for 8, 28, and 22 yards, and was capped by a 3 yard TD pass to J.D. Falslev. Was he stellar? No. But he made the plays needed to win the game. Something Riley was really good at...last year.
The Utah State defense had only been allowing an average of 281 total yards (174 passing and 106 rushing), but the Taysom Hill-led Cougars were able to beat those totals, ending with 380 total yards (235 passing and 145 rushing). Scoring aside, this offense had pretty good numbers.
The Rush Attack. The preceding tweet was mine, just before gametime. It turned out to be a solid prediction, as Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams rushed for 80 and 71 yards, respectively. That combined total of 151 is two yards higher than half of what they rushed for against Hawaii, and it turned out to be just enough for a Cougar victory. In case you were keeping track, Hill and Williams combined for more yards than the team had in total (145). That was mostly due to Falslev's failed 4th down fake field goal, which netted a 16 yard loss.
Probably the biggest difference in offensive performance this game was Brandon Doman's playcalling. While still not great, it was obvious that the Cougars were intent on making 3rd downs manageable, by making sure to gain a few yards on 2nd down. The result was a 9/20 3rd down conversion rate, which isn't stellar, but it kept drives moving, and gave our defense a few good breaks.
Special Teams. Ugh...as in ugly. Justin Sorensen had his lone FG attempt blocked, and Riley Stephenson had his lone PAT also failed. Utah State's Josh Thompson was 1/2 on the night, with the potential game-tying field goal sailing wide in the 4th quarter. I would be happy if we never attempt another FG or PAT all year. Bronco, you go for 2 buddy. Just go for 2.
Bronco D. Coming into this game, the Aggies had been averaging 454 total offensive yards (261 passing and 193 rushing) and 28 points per game. Against the Bronco D, the Aggies only managed 243 total yards (202 passing and 41 rushing) and 3 points. Ziggy was an absolute monster on the defensive line. His favorite move appears to be the one where he grabs your shoulders and slams you to the ground. Kyle Van Noy also had a great night. My favorite play from Van Noy was when he caused a false start by faking a little jump toward the Aggie O-line. That's intimidation.
What we know about Utah State (4-2)
Chuckie Keeton is a special player, and the Aggies are a solid team. They will recover from their run-in with the BYU defense and go on to a great season. They're heading into the heart of their WAC schedule next week, as they take on San Jose State. Probably the only real challenge game left on the Aggies' schedule is at Louisiana Tech on November 17th. The Bulldogs are currently 5-0. UTSA is also 5-0, but against a significantly weaker schedule to this point.
What we know about BYU (4-2)
There is no question in my mind that this 2012 BYU defense was good enough for a BCS run. I'd take this defense against any offense in the country, but a defense can only do so much. The Cougar offense made strides this week, putting up good passing and rushing numbers while moving the ball effectively against a tough Utah State defense. But scoring is going to have to improve if the Cougars are to get wins against ranked foes Oregon State and Notre Dame in the next two weeks.
As we await official updates regarding Taysom Hill's knee, I have two thoughts. First, the draw play was a really stupid call to make, when all that was needed was a QB kneel, there being less than two minutes remaining in the game. Second, if Hill really is out, the offense next week will only be as good as Riley is healthy. Let's hope he is.