Making the Grade: Cougars Break in the Broncos

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

A stellar first half proved too much for Boise State to continue it's unbeaten streak against Division I teams in Utah.

Offense B

The offense followed up a stellar first half with a stagnant second half that led Coach Mendenhall to comment on the offense's need to play 4 quarters solidly as they did the first half. It may be the offense or maybe that Anae went too conservative in his play calling too early (2 to 1 run plays in the second half) that led to the offense's less than stellar play in the second half. However this unit continues to show improvement and ability. Back to the drawing board versus Wisconsin as the offense will need to be firing on all cylinders all 4 quarters for BYU to come away with a win in what is sure to be a dogfight in Madison.

Quarterback B+

In the first half Hill continued his hot streak as he lit up the Boise State secondary as well as running efficiently. Most improved upon in this game was Hills throws on fade routes to both Hoffman and Apo. Hill did a good job of letting them go up and get it. Also Hill continues to look more and more calm when he drops back to pass, the game is slowing down for him and he is hitting open receivers. Friday night Hill was 27/41 (66%) for 339 yards, three touchdowns and 0 interceptions. That 0 is drastic improvement from the game against Houston in which he threw three picks. Hill also was able to stretch the Bronco defense by throwing a 37 yard TD to Apo as well as a 40 yard TD to Mathews. On a very positive note Hill found his tight ends (Friel and Mahina) for 7 catches and 93 yards, something that Cougar fans everywhere have been missing.

However the offense did not continue its success into the second half as Hill accounted for 253 of the 339 yards in the first half with two touchdowns as well as a touchdown on the ground. Coach Mendenhall stressed after the game that he would like to see the offense sustain that execution throughout the game will give his offense something to really work at before heading into Madison. Because the offense looked stagnant (especially in the 3rd quarter) Hill receives a B+.

Running Backs B

The Running game proved to be potent Friday night as four BYU running backs combined for 160 yards (5 yards per carry), led by Williams 21 carry 107 yard effort. While BYU running backs did not break any long runs (longest Williams 18 yards) they were able to continually grind out chunks of yards and move the chains.

However much of the rushing yards came in the first half when BYU mixed up the offense by throwing easy passes (specifically to tight ends) and solid runs by the running backs. When BYU went to a more run oriented offense in the 3rd quarter Boise State was able to load the box more and this proved a struggle for BYU's run game. Every offense's run game is more potent when an opposing team has to respect the pass, however there will be times when the opposing defenses are shutting down the pass and the run game needs to step it up and grind it out all four quarters. Running backs were good Friday night but not explosive.

Receivers A

Cody Hoffman broke a school record with a 4 yard touchdown reception that he wrestled away from a Broncos DB bringing his current career TD's to 31. Hoffman also had a spectacular catch down the sideline that again showed why he is a spectacular receiver, displaying good hands and intense concentration. Ross Apo was also in the mix with a 37 yard TD catch. Mitch Mathews displayed his speed on a post route to the end zone for six. In all, eight BYU receivers caught 23 balls for 315 yards and 3 touchdowns. Five had over 40 yards in the game. The emergence of Friel and Mahina was welcomed by all as BYU fans rejoiced to see the tight ends back in the game.

Receivers had a great game Friday night, looking at their improvement from the first 3 games of the season this is a much improved unit that is being lead by one of the all time greats to play at BYU, Hoffman. This unit is proving to be much deeper, athletic, fast, and talented that many outside of BYU's coaching staff gave it credit. While Friday night's game did not feature a 100 yard receiver, this receiving corp was consistent. Consistency will be key when BYU goes to Wisconsin to face a tough Badger defense.

Offensive Line C+

The offensive line again featured some shaky play as the Bronco pass rush was able to get to Hill several times and also rush several other throws. Also there were several low snaps which seem to be more and more of an occurrence when Edward Fusi (#50) is the center. Those have got to be cleaned up. Also there were several false starts (not near as many as versus Houston) with Wesley again being the culprit (five false starts vs. Houston). The O-Line also did not play as smash mouth in the 2nd half as it did in the 1st. The O-Lines tenacity and ability to get a push off the ball will set the tone for the entire offense.

However BYU's offense did roll up 568 yards total offense on the Broncos (339 passing, 229 rushing) and that does not come without solid play from the O-Line. While there is much to improve upon, this offensive unit shows much potential heading into the last five games of the season as well as next year. Invading Madison will be a disaster if BYU is not able to perform well in the trenches. It will be a battle as Wisconsin always fields solid, smash mouth D-Lineman.

Defense B

The defense struggled Friday night in the second half with getting pressure to the quarterback and getting a stop to send the Bronco offense off the field. However just like the game against Houston, the defense continues to make the plays necessary to come away with the W. Against Boise, BYU's defense was able to force four turnovers as well as kept the Broncos to 2-5 on 4th down conversions.

Defensive Line B-

This unit did not perform at its best level, particularly in the second half against the Boise State run game as Jay Ajayi rolled up 23 carries for 151 yards (first 100 yard rusher vs. BYU defense this season). The way the defense plays in the run game starts up front with the defensive line. Their ability to get a good push against the offensive line and to eat up blocks goes a long way in stuffing the run.

However the D-Line did a great job of getting their hands up and batting down Boise State passes on key downs. Also good pursuit by Remington Peck led to a rumble recovery and good pursuit by the defensive contained Boise States quarterback Grant Hedrick from his ability to get out of the pocket and make big plays with his legs. The D-Line will face a good offensive line from Wisconsin that features hard nosed, gritty, smash mouth players that continue a tradition of great Wisconsin lineman. Bring your A game fellas or expect to be pounded play after play.

Linebackers B+

Biggest fault in linebacker play would also be the amount of yards that Jay Ajayi was able to rack up on the ground. Linebackers need to be making plays at the line to truly stuff the run game. Several blitzes just didn't quite get to Hedrick as he was able to slip out of tackles and get enough with his feet to escape the pass rush. Blitzes need to get to the quarterback to rattle him and help the secondary out.

Uani Unga is the man as he had 15 tackles on the game and now brings his season total to 84 (next closest is Van Noy with 46). Hadley and Fua both had double digit tackles Friday night as well, one of which was a monster hit by Fua on a Broncos receiver. While the statistics of making a lot of tackles may make the stat sheet look good it is a sign that the defense was on the field too much.

Secondary B

The secondary was again shaken up a bit with concussions to both Daniel Sorensen and Mike Hague both who had decent performances before their injuries. The Boise State passing attack was able to move the ball however was contained by a resilient secondary that yielded 285 yards through the air at an average of 6.2 yards per pass and only 1 touchdown with 1 interception. This unit has continued to do a nice job in forcing turnovers as the season has progressed, as PoVey had an interception and Bills also forced a fumble.

This unit did a good job of keeping everything in front of them as Boise's two biggest plays were 47 and 26 yards. Some times it can be frustrating how far the DB's play off but they did a good job Friday night not letting opposing receivers beating them on deep balls. However the tiny Shane Williams-Rhodes was able to be quite productive in the pass game as he had 10 catches for 95 yards. This unit will have to game plan well as they will face a great receiver in Wisconsin's Jared Abbrederis.

Special Teams C+

The special teams had a slightly below average night on Friday compared to some of their previous efforts this season. Boise State had a long return of of 39 yards on a kickoff and also a long punt return by Shane Williams-Rhodes for 40 yards. The punt team was not as effective after Sorensen went out with a concussion as two balls that should have been downed within the 10 yard line bounced into the end zone. Adam Hine and Paul Lasike were not able to spring a return free for more than 21 yards. Sorensen however was 3/4 on FG's for the night including a long of 41 yards. Also Falslev continues to look a bit rattled (ever since MTSU when he muffed a couple punts) and is not the game changer in the punt return game right now that he has the potential to be.

The special teams has proven to vital for BYU's success this years for the team to go into Wisconsin and have a repeat sub par performance like it did versus Boise State. This unit sets the tone as it is able to control field position and quickly change momentum. Field position will be key for BYU to come away from Madison with a win.

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