Game Recap: BYU Cougars 23, Washington Huskies 17

Bronco Mendenhall rotated Riley Nelson and Jake Heaps every series in the Brigham Young Cougars season opener. This two quarterback system produced 408 yards total offense and 23 points, which was good enough for a win against the Washington Huskies. Each quarterback directed two scoring drives. Two touchdowns for Nelson; two field goals for Heaps. They both benefited from the services of J.J. Di Luigi. The junior running back was the team's leading rusher and receiver.

The new BYU defensive front made a good first impression. Up against the very athletic and hyped Jake Locker, they limited Locker to 29 yards rushing on 11 carries. The secondary played well also. Locker only completed 54% of his 37 passes for 266 yards. Washington running back Chris Polk was able to rush for 92 yards on 16 carries.

BYU also benefited from a safety as a result of a bad snap over the punters head in the first quarter, and from not turning the ball over.

PLAY OF THE GAME: Riley Nelson to J.J. Di Luigi 48-yard touchdown pass for the winning score.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: J.J. Di Luigi, 13 carries, 69 yards (5.3 yards per carry); 4 receptions, 83 yards, 1 TD (152 total yards)

As for what I was watching for, this is what I saw:

  1. How will BYU's two quarterbacks play? Riley Nelson had a very good game. His pass efficiency was 168.26. He completed 64.7% of his passes and added 45 yards rushing on 8 carries. Nelson also scored on a two-point conversion. Jake Heaps looked very good on his first scoring drive. Overall you can't ask for much more from a true freshman. His numbers weren't as good as Nelson's, but some perfectly thrown passes were dropped by receivers. The two quarterback system passed its first test. The offense does need better rhythm, but I couldn't tell if the changing of quarterbacks hurt the offenses rhythm or if it was just that this was a season opener with new players at the skill positions.
  2. Will the defensive front seven contain Jake Locker? Yes. His longest run was 9 yards and he only averaged 2.6 yards per carry. They did force Locker to beat BYU with the pass, and he was not able to do it. 
  3. Is having a great offensive line all it is cracked up to be? It was for this game. For the offense to amass 408 yards of total offense with new quarterbacks and running backs, the offensive line deserves a lot of credit. BYU averaged 4.4 yards per carry, and Washington never sacked the quarterback. 
  4. How many freshman will see the field? My count was 10. Jake Heaps, Kyle Van Noy, Joshua Quezada, Cody Hoffman, JD Falslev, Richard Wilson, Austin Holt, Zac Stout, Marcus Mathews, Mike Muehlmann.
  5. Will the announcement this week that BYU football will go independent next year affect this game? No, and I didn't expect it to. It isn't really the type of thing that 18-24 year olds get wrapped up in. They would much rather play a game then pontificate about future scenarios. 
  6. Will Bronco Mendenhall get win number 50? Bronco won game number 50 only 65 games into his career. Needless to say, that is the fastest any BYU coach has reached number 50, and brings his winning percentage to 77%.
Here are some other things I saw:

  • O'Neill Chambers is still fumble prone. Chambers has a lot of positives, which is why he has been on the field a lot since he was a true freshman. He only has one drawback, really, but it is a big one. While Washington didn't recover a Chambers fumble tonight, it is like playing with fire. Eventually, you will get burned.
  • BYU missed a field goal early, before the safety. This is important because it shows that the safety wasn't a momentum changer that explains how BYU won. The offense already showed that it could move the ball and BYU didn't need a fluke play to play on the same level as Washington.
  • Brian Logan dropped a sure interception late in the second quarter. The next play Washington kicked a 54-yard field goal as the half expired. I have noticed a trend over the last several years that whenever a BYU defensive player drops a possible interception the opposing team scores a touchdown on that same possession. Had it not been for the half ending, I would expect Washington to score 6. Mechanically, the difference between the player making the interception and dropping the ball is very small, but the end result in huge.
  • The defense held Washington scoreless in the second half. Replacing 6 of the defensive front 7 has been overshadowed by the offense replacing the entire backfield, but the new defensive players are just as important to the team success this year as the offensive replacements. The scoreless second half is a very good sign that this defense will be very good, and that they are adapting well. 
NEXT: at Air Force
DATE: September 11, 2010
TIME: 2:00 PM (MDT)


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