BYU vs. Washington State: Five Game Observations

Just as Blue Cougar Football will preview each game this season with five things to watch for, we will review each game with our five game observations. In these observations, we will review the questions we posed in our five things to watch for article and evaluate our predictions.

Question No. 1: Will Jeff Tuel control the game for WAZZU, or will his once promising career continue to decline?

During Tuel’s first drive, it looked as if he was back to form, and maybe even better than two years ago before his injuries. He went 8-9 on the first drive, completing passes to seven different receivers. Brigham Young had no answer for Tuel and the way he was orchestrating the offense. Then on 3rd and 11, Tuel scrambled to his right while being chased out of pocket and threw on the run. His pass was tipped by Daniel Sorensen and intercepted by Uona Kaveinga. Later in the game, as Tuel tried to lead a comeback, he made another big mistake while trying to hit star wide receiver Marquess Wilson and was picked off by Jordan Johnson.

Overall, Tuel was 30-45 with 229 yards. While those numbers aren’t terrible, he couldn’t get the team in the end zone. ESPN’s Ted Miller wrote, “It will be interesting to see if Leach takes a serious look at backup Connor Halliday.” If Tuel gets pulled as the starter, there will be a lot of fans in Pullman thinking what could have been.

Question No. 2: Can BYU Defenders match up with Marquess Wilson?

Making his first start, Jordan Johnson was brilliant against the bigger, stronger Wilson. Wilson was held to just four catches and 61 yards. Johnson even picked off a pass intended for Wilson. The only time Wilson clearly won the battle between the two was on a jump ball in the end zone at the end of the second quarter. Wilson skied above two defenders and pulled it down, just getting his feet in bounds. It did not count, however, as Washington State was called for holding.

Turns out Bronco Mendenhall was right in saying this is the most athletic defensive secondary he has had since coaching. A one-time weakness at Brigham Young could become a strength this season.

Question No. 3: Who will be the difference maker in the game?

On offense, I took the easy way out and predicted Riley Nelson. Nelson was great, going 25-36 with 285 yards and two touchdowns. But the difference maker on offense was that Nelson had a big target to throw to.

Tight end Kaneakua Friel caught six passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns, becoming the first Brigham Young tight end to eclipse 100 yards in a game and score two touchdowns since Dennis Pitta in 2009. Friel’s contribution was huge, especially considering the injury to Cody Hoffman early in the game.

On defense, I predicted Daniel Sorenson to be the difference maker. Sorenson did play a huge part in shifting momentum onto Brigham Young’s side early in the game when he tipped Tuel’s pass into the hands of Kaveinga.

For the game, the difference maker has to be Jordan Johnson. Getting an interception and holding Wilson to just four catches in his first start gives Brigham Young fans something to be excited about in the future.

Question No. 4: How will the players look after the diet and offseason conditioning?

I don’t know if I have seen Brigham Young look better to start the season. They outran, outmuscled, and out endured a good team. Looking up and down Washington State’s roster, you can see that they have some very good athletes. Brigham Young however made them mediocre, and even poor at times. If this game is a sign of things to come, Brigham Young could muscle its way to a few unexpected wins.

Question No. 5: Will the fans show up like they can?

I will be honest, I was skeptical on how the whiteout would go, especially when it started raining two hours before the game. But the fans showed up big. LaVell Edwards stadium never looked so good, so in unison. The first game energy, plus the whiteout added some excitement for Brigham Young and probably was a little intimidating for Washington State, who plays its home games in a 32,000 seat stadium.

Another observation I had from the game was Kyle Van Noy looks good. Really good.

We knew he would be good since his freshman year, when he came on so strong at the end of the season. Then last year, he anchored the linebackers and saved the day in the opening game against Ole Miss. His second sack last night showed his speed and strength. Opposing lineman and running backs are going to have a hard time blocking him this year with all the work he put in this offseason.

My final observation from last night is Taysom Hill is going to be a star.

The backup quarterback came in on a big fourth down when the game was still tight and wasn’t even fazed. He threw a bullet for a touchdown, much to the pleasure of starting quarterback Riley Nelson. Whenever a team has a senior quarterback, in the back of everyone’s mind is the question, “who will lead us next year?” After yesterday’s performance, I believe fans will be screaming for Hill’s name in 2013.

Once again, feel free to add your observations to those I made, or add your take on the questions I posed before the game.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at