The Brigham Young Cougars have reached the halfway point of the season. Six games are in the books, and six games remain on the schedule. Time for some mid-term grades.
Overall, I give the first half of the 2011 season a B-.
It is easy to see how the season could be worse than it is. It is also easy to see how this season could be better. That goes for both the product on the field and the overall win-loss record.
Yards per game: 343.2
Offensive points per game: 17.3
3rd Down conversion: 43%
Turnovers: 14 (7 fumbles, 7 interceptions)
Expectations were very high coming into this year. The offense is yet to play effective for a full game. Finishing drives is problematic. Turnovers have regularly hurt the offense. The offense has scored a touchdown on 96 and 97-yard scoring drives.
Each game, the offense has a fair amount of good plays. Unfortunately, the offense has made a generous amount of poor plays. Turnovers have resulted in three immediate touchdowns for the opposition. The turnovers have also given opponents great field position on several occasions, or killed very much needed scoring drives.
Stats: 127-230 (55.2%), 1363 yards, 8 TD, 7 Int., Passer Rating: 110.4
Nelson: 27-45 (60%), 401 yards, 5 TD, 2 Int., Fum: 2, Passer Rating: 162.6
Heaps: 100-185 (54.1%), 962 yards, 3 TD, 5 Int., Fum: 2, Passer Rating: 97.7
Jake Heaps has had some good moments this year, but he has had many more bad moments. He has been unable to sustain momentum, especially after the offense has a lead. His accuracy has been particularly bad on 3rd downs.
Riley Nelson replaced Heaps in the third quarter of game five. The stats speak for themselves. Nelson has guided the offense to 41 points in less than 6 quarters, which is just 22 points less than the offense had scored in the first 18 quarters of the season. His ability to run the ball has also helped (135 yards).
Stats: 157 rushes, 604 yards, 3.8 ypr, 3 TD
Di Luigi: 56 rushes, 230 yards, 4.1 ypr, 1 TD
Quezada: 42 rushes, 142 yards, 3.4 ypr
Kariya: 40 rushes, 139 yards, 3.5 ypr, 1 TD
Alisa: 19 rushes, 93 yards, 4.9 ypr
After having three backs rush for over 500 yards a year ago, no back is on pace to reach that mark. Two rushing touchdowns against UCF and Michael Alisa’s surprising game against San Jose State are the lone bright spots this year.
Joshua Quezada has been a mystery. He will have a few carries early in the game and then disappear for two or three quarters. J.J. Di Luigi hasn’t been the spark that he was a year ago. Bryan Kariya is a solid short yardage back, but it has taken him awhile to get going this year.
The running backs had two first quarter fumbles to contribute to the debacle against Utah. They have provided little to compliment the passing game.
Stats: 60 rec., 718 yards, 5 TD
Hoffman: 19 rec., 258 yards, 13.6 ypr, 1 TD
Jacobson: 17 rec., 204 yards, 12.0 ypr, 1 TD
Apo: 16 rec., 187 yards, 11.7 ypr, 3 TD
Falslev: 8 rec., 69 yards, 8.6 ypr
The numbers say it all. BYU has no go-to receiver. Cody Hoffman has the highest yard per game average, but it is just 43 yards. That figure is even a little misleading since over 135 yards came in one game. None of the receivers average more than 14 yards per reception. That figure needs to improve.
The receiving corps has been hindered some by what appeared to be preferential treatment by Heaps for Ross Apo.
Stats: 34 rec., 407 yards, 2 TD
Mathews: 16 rec., 146 yards, 9.1 ypr, 1 TD
Holt: 8 rec., 136 yards, 17.0 ypr.
Wilson: 10 rec., 125 yards, 12.5 ypr., 1 TD
The tight ends are much improved over a year ago. Austin Holt and Richard Wilson have shown the potential to be another good, and possibly great, TE duo. They need more touches each game. They can even get open down field.
Marcus Mathews isn’t a pure tight end, but gets a fair share of reps in passing situations. He came up big with the winning touchdown against Utah State off a deflection.
QB hurries: 16
Rushing average: 3.5 yards per carry
The offensive line is where everything gets started. They have to shoulder some of the blame for the offense sputtering for significant portions of every game. Running backs can’t run unless the line opens a hole for them. Blocking hasn’t been great for the passing game either. Although they are yielding less than one sack per game, they are giving up almost three quarterback hurries.
Yards per game: 351.3
Points allowed per game: 19
3rd Down conversion: 39%
Turnovers: 10 (4 fumble recoveries, 6 interceptions)
The defense had less hype coming into the year than the offense, but the expectations were almost as high. The defense won the first game at Ole Miss for BYU. This unit played well enough for a win at Texas. Despite all the offensive miscues in the first half of the Utah game, the defense kept BYU in the game.
Once things unraveled in the second half of the Utah game, the strength of the defense has unraveled. UCF, Utah State, and San Jose State have all gained over 300 yards of offense. While BYU has won each of those games, and the defense made big plays to finish each game, the Cougars have looked susceptible to both the run and pass.
QB Hurries: 4
Forced Fumbles: 2
The defensive line has been active, as far as d-lines go. They are more than just big bodies taking up space in the middle. These guys are making plays from sideline to sideline. Hebron Fangupo has been a very nice addition. Having Eathyn Manumaleuna back from his mission has helped.
Matt Putnam missed the first five games due to academics. Having him back can only help.
More sacks and quarterback hurries are needed from these guys. They also share in some of the blame for Utah State having 284 yards rushing.
QB Hurries: 8
Forced Fumbles: 4
Fumble Recoveries: 3
Kyle Van Noy has been the best backer. From his game winning touchdown in game one to his interception in game six, he has routinely made big plays. Brandon Ogletree is the team’s leading tackler, even though he missed the Texas game. Newcomer Uona Kavainga has quietly been a force, as well.
Jadon Wagner and Spencer Hadley both filled in well for injured starters.
The concern with the linebackers is how they gave up nearly 300 rushing yards to Utah State.
Passes Broken Up: 17
The defensive backfield has been the weakest link for BYU. Before the second half turnovers, Utah used the pass to score two touchdowns to go from trailing 10-7 to leading 21-10. UCF passed for over 300 yards, and San Jose State’s short passing game was more effective than it should have been. Recently, the BYU defensive backs have extended opponents’ drives with some pass interference penalties on third downs.
The strength of the unit, however, is coming up with big plays when needed, and opponents have to settle for field goals.
Daniel Sorensen has been a pretty good addition at strong safety. Joe Sampson has made some big plays in his reserve role, including an interception inside the five-yard line to preserve a fourth quarter lead against UCF. Corby Eason is responsible for 9 of the 17 pass breakups, but some of those should have been interceptions.
50+ yards: 8 (31%)
Inside 20: 7 (27%)
Riley Stephenson has done a great job helping BYU control games through field position. He shanked a few punts early in the year, but he has been exceptional ever since. Multiple punts have been downed inside the five yard line. His longest punt of the year (67 yards) was mishandled and set up BYU’s game winning touchdown against UCF.
BYU successfully faked a punt against UCF.
FG: 9/11 (1 miss vs. Ole Miss, 1 miss vs. Utah State)
Justin Sorensen hasn’t had a chance to unleash his booming leg yet on a field goal. He has been consistent. His two misses have come in wins, so they haven’t had a huge negative impact.
Sorensen has done well on kickoffs. When he hasn’t gotten a touchback, the coverage team has been outstanding.
Punt: 11 returns, 81 yards (7.4 ypr)
Kickoff: 27 returns, 626 yards (23.4 ypr), 1 TD
Cody Hoffman returned a kickoff for a touchdown against UCF. That had not been done at BYU since 1998. Hoffman is on pace to break O’Neill Chambers' school records for most kickoff returns and most kickoff return yards in one year.
The special teams grade is hurt by JD Falslev muffing the kickoff against Utah that turned into a Utah touchdown, and by the low punt return average. It would be nice to see the punt return average be at least 10 yards.
The coaching staff deserves some of the blame for the team’s attitude and lackluster performances. All of the “playing for a national championship” talk should have never happened. Bronco Mendenhall and his staff needed to do more to keep the team focused when all of the hype and promotion of BYU’s independent status happened.
The team has displayed a complacent attitude, never being able to extend leads and put teams away. That is a reflection of the coaches and the mentality they have instilled in them.
Game planning and halftime adjustments have been other weaknesses thus far.
At the midway point, BYU has a 4-2 record. Considering that the first half of the year will probably be much tougher than the second half, this record should be satisfying. Somehow it isn’t. With better coaching BYU would definitely be at least 5-1.
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