This game ended up being exactly what it was expected to be. BYU's defense continues to be aggressive, nasty, and absolutely dominating. This was the first shutout by the defense since blanking Wyoming 52-0 in 2009. The offense looked better than it had in weeks--partly due to the opponent, but also because BYU finally played with a healthy quarterback.
Here's a look back at my keys to the game, to see what worked and didn't work for the Cougars.
Quarterback Quandary. The coaches finally made the right decision by not playing an injured Riley Nelson. And while Taysom Hill wasn't necessarily impressive in his passing performance, it was more than enough against Hawaii. Hill threw 12/21 for 112 yards, 2 TDs and an INT. My favorite pass was the touchdown to Ross Apo, who looked visibly relieved to finally get the ball and score. It's nice to know someone can get the ball to him.
James Lark and even Jason Munns got to take some reps in the end. Lark led the Cougars on two touchdown drives, which mostly consisted of hand-offs to Paul Lasike and David Foote. Munns didn't throw a pass, but got to lead the final drive, which made it 43 yards before being turned over on downs.
While the coaches did make the right decision in this game to go with Hill as the starter, two things stuck out to me as being really weird. First, Riley was there on the sideline, with full pads and a helmet on for much of the game. I understand that he wants to play, but at some point, especially when the starter decision has been made, it's time to show up without pads.
The other weird thing were Bronco's comments. Despite Taysom showing good play and capable leadership, Bronco held that Riley Nelson is still the team's starter. I have no problem with that, because I do think a healthy Riley Nelson is better than Taysom Hill. What I do have a problem with the reason given: "There isn't as much history between [Taysom] and I like there is between Riley and I." Seriously?? It's just a bewildering comment, and sounds weird coming from the master of performance and execution.
The Rush Attack. Michael Alisa broke his arm early in the game, so it was up to others to get the job done, and the game turned into the Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams coming-out party. Now you have to take all of this with a Hawaiian-sized grain of salt, but he and Williams were unstoppable out there. Williams carried the ball 15 times for 155 yards and 2 TDs, and Hill also rushed 15 times for 143 yards and a TD. Between the two of them, that's an average of nearly 10 yards per carry. If Hill's passing wasn't impressive, his running absolutely was. His touchdown run was 68 yards. When's the last time a BYU quarterback did that?
Special Teams. Falslev had three punt returns, and many fair catches. He had one 13 yard return. Hawaii attempted a fake punt, which the Cougars snuffed out. Probably the biggest stat was that BYU was 5/7 on PATs in the game, which got me thinking that maybe there was more behind the call to go for two against Boise State than we realized. PATs are supposed to be automatic, right?
Bronco D. These guys just continue to impress. Hawaii was held to 1/12 on 3rd down conversions, and 0/2 on 4th down. They only managed 108 passing yards and 41 rushing. We finally had a game where the Cougars won the turnover battle, as the defense recovered two fumbles and had an interception. My favorite defensive moment came in Hawaii's opening drive of the third quarter. On 2nd and 10, Kyle Van Noy and Ziggy clobbered Hawaii QB Sean Schroeder, who fumbled the ball. The ball was recovered by Spencer Hadley at the Hawaii 3 yard line, where he appeared to fumble it, and Ziggy recovered it in the endzone. Hadley was ruled down with possession at the 3, but it was a really exciting play to watch. Check it out.
What we know about Hawaii (1-3)
The Warriors are really bad. They ended last season 6-7, just missing out on bowl eligibility with a final regular season loss to BYU. This year, it's hard to imagine even 3 more wins will come their way. Next week the Warriors will face the San Diego State Aztecs as they get into the heart of their MWC schedule.
What we know about BYU (3-2)
We absolutely know what our defense will bring every week. As it stands right now, BYU is 6th overall in points against. The biggest questions are still on offense. The young Cougars (Hill and Williams) looked really good out there against Hawaii, but that was Hawaii. BYU is heading into a tough four week stretch that includes Utah State, Oregon State, Notre Dame, and Georgia Tech. Michael Alisa is out. Williams, Lasike, and Foote all looked good on Friday, but will they be able to keep it up against stronger competition? Will Bronco play Riley before he's fully recovered? It could make for an interesting Utah State game next week. What if a struggling Riley has to be pulled so the game can be saved by Taysom Hill? Sounds familiar.