BYU Football: Mid-Season Grades

The Brigham Young Cougars have reached the halfway point of the 2012 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 C+. 

BYU is 4-2 and even spent some time in the AP Top 25. However, this team can and should be better.  

Yards per game: 398.3
Offensive points per game: 25.8
3rd Down conversion: 43%
Turnovers: 11 (4 fumbles, 7 interceptions)

The total yards per game is 55 higher than a year ago, and the points per game is 7 points more. For the first half of 2012, BYU is converting the same percentage of third downs as in 2011. The number of turnovers has decreased by three.

Although the numbers are, for the most part, better, there is still a feeling of underachievement due to inconsistency and the level of competition. If BYU had really had 400 yards of total offense in every game, the Cougars would be undefeated. The 398.3 YPG is just 73rd in the nation.

It also doesn’t help that BYU has scored single digits in two of the six games. The turnovers are still high, and directly resulted in one of the team’s two losses.

Grade: C

Stats: 115-195 (59%), 1256 yards, 10 TD, 7 Int., Passer Rating: 122.8
Nelson: 64-109 (58.7%), 754 yards, 5 TD, 5 Int., Passer Rating: 122.8
Hill: 42-71 (59.2%), 425 yards, 4 TD, 2 Int., Passer Rating: 122.4
Lark: 9-12 (75%), 77 yards, 1 TD, 0 Int., Passer Rating: 156.4

The quarterbacks started the season really well. Led by Riley Nelson, BYU passed for over 300 yards in the first two games. It equaled the number of games that BYU passed for over 300 yards in all of 2011, and it was the first time since 2009 that BYU had back-to-back 300 yard passing games. Both Taysom Hill and James Lark showed well in the second half of game two against Weber State leading the offense to multiple scores.

The quarterbacks have had significant struggles as well. BYU has had less than 100 yards passing in one game this season and less than 150 in another. The pass efficiency rating is better than the last two years, but still far below BYU standards. The quarterback play is directly responsible for BYU losing to Boise State. Had it been just a little better against Utah, that game could have been a win as well.  

The quarterbacks have combined for 428 rushing yards with 5 touchdowns. Hill is the team’s leading rusher with 336 yards.

Grade: C-

Running Back
Stats: 165 rushes, 706 yards, 4.3 ypr, 6 TD
Williams: 50 rushes, 309 yards, 6.2 ypr, 3 TD
Alisa: 58 rushes, 222 yards, 3.8 ypr, 1 TD

BYU is running the ball better than a year ago. The running backs are averaging 117.7 rushing yards per game, but about 250 came against Hawaii (the team rushed for almost 400, but 143 yards were from a quarterback). Without the Hawaii game, BYU running backs are rushing for just 91 yards per game.

Freshman Jamaal Williams has showed well all year. His touches were limited the first four games. After Michael Alisa broke his arm in the Hawaii game, he has seen a lot more action, which has correlated in a significant spike in production. His 155 yards rushing against Hawaii broke a string of 17 games without a running back eclipsing 100 yards in a game.

Alisa has been a bit of a disappointment. Excuses can only go so far. He has not had more than 56 yards rushing in any game this season, and his 3.8 yards per rush is not acceptable.

The running backs need to be more reliable and consistent. The two quarterback injuries might not have happened if the running backs were playing better.

Grade: B

Wide Receivers
Stats: 68 rec., 741 yards, 5 TD
Hoffman: 31 rec., 432 yards, 13.9 ypr, 2 TD
Falslev: 16 rec., 124 yards, 7.8 ypr, 1 TD
Apo: 10 rec., 71 yards, 7.1 ypr, 1 TD
Ridley: 7 rec., 63 yards, 9.0 ypr, 1 TD
Kuresa: 4 rec., 51 yards, 12.8 ypr

Cody Hoffman has continued his high level of play. He has three 100-yard receiving games. His numbers would be even higher if he had not bruised his quadriceps in the season opener. His first eight receptions were either a touchdown or a first down. Hoffman made a 47-yard reception at the end of the Utah game to give BYU one last chance to put the game into overtime.

One man does not make a receiving corps. BYU needs more from the rest of the receivers. Skyler Ridley played very well in Hoffman’s absence against Washington State, and Alex Kuresa had some big receptions the first two weeks. However, these two have disappeared since the first two games. BYU must get more from Ross Apo. It is a disgrace that he has only 71 yards receiving. He did miss the Weber State game nursing a hamstring injury, but that should not have derailed his season.  

BYU needs more of a down field passing game. The 10.9 yards per reception is absolutely miserable.

Grade: C+

Tight Ends
Stats: 28 rec., 369 yards, 5 TD 
Friel: 20 rec., 248 yards, 12.4 ypr, 4 TD
Wilson: 3 rec., 62 yards, 20.7 ypr.
Mahina: 3 rec., 37 yards, 12.3 ypr., 1 TD
Holt: 2 rec., 22 yards, 11.0 ypr.

The emergence of Kaneakua Friel has really helped BYU. While Austin Holt and Richard Wilson have been limited as they finish recovering from their knee injuries, Friel has done a great job, not just filling the void, but making the tight end relevant again. His 6 receptions for 101 yards and 2 touchdowns against Washington State were a huge reason why BYU won that game.

The biggest stat here is the five touchdowns. That is half of all touchdown passes for BYU.

Devin Mahina has started to carve a niche for himself in the offense lately with some big catching, including his touchdown.

Grade: B+

Offensive Line
Sacks: 14
QB hurries: 4
Rushing average: 4.3 yards per carry

The offensive line has been horrendous. The low number of quarterback hurries is surprising. The fact that Taysom Hill and Riley Nelson run the ball as often as they do may explain this. However, the 14 sacks exposes the offensive line. BYU allowed 17 sacks all of last season.

The offensive line has also been responsible for several drive killing penalties. Whether they have been false starts or holding penalties, they have almost always been costly. Both the Utah and Boise State games could have been very different if not for offensive line mental issues.

The offensive line was playing so poorly that the starting lineup had to be changed. That is never a good sign.

Grade: D

Yards per game: 229.3 (National Rank: 5)
Rushing yards per game: 59.5 (National Rank: 1)
Passing yards per game: 169.8 (National Rank: 12)

Points allowed per game: 8.8 (National Rank: 3)
3rd Down conversion: 27% (National Rank: 6)
Turnovers: 9 (5 fumble recoveries, 4 interceptions)

The Cougar defense has been phenomenal. There is no other way to say it. The stats above speak for themselves. This very well could be the best BYU defense in Cougar history. They have already recorded one official shutout. The only score Boise State got came off a turnover by the offense. The last three opponents have not scored a touchdown, and four of six overall.

If opponents points scored off of turnovers were excluded, the true points per game allowed by the defense is 6.5, which would be first in the nation.

The defense has not allowed over 300 yards of total offense yet this season. They have already recorded 20 sacks, which is 83% of the total from all of 2011.  

Grade: A

Defensive Line
Tackles: 78
Tackles-for-loss: 16
Sacks: 7.5
QB Hurries: 6
Forced Fumbles: 1
Fumble Recoveries: 2
Pass Breakups: 4

Ezekiel Ansah has changed the identity of the defensive line compared to years past. He has NFL scouts drooling, and offensive linemen shaking in their cleats. He has over half (8.5) of the unit’s TFL, three of the four pass breakups, half of the quarterback hurries.

Bronson Kaufusi has also been a nice addition. He isn’t getting many plays, but he has been effective and shown great potential for the future.

Grade: A

Tackles: 156
Tackles-for-loss: 29
Sacks: 11.5
QB Hurries: 9
Interceptions: 1
Forced Fumbles: 4
Fumble Recoveries: 2

Kyle Van Noy has excelled despite opposing offensive coordinators trying to avoid him. While his tackles are down, he is on pace to have more tackles for loss, sacks, and quarterback hurries than he did a year ago. Forcing fumbles while sacking the quarterback has become his trademark. Just Van Noy’s presence on the field has allowed Spencer Hadley to fly under the radar and make several big plays.

Brandon Ogletree is still a beast. He is the leading tackler on the team with 49.  

Grade: A+

Defensive Backs
Tackles: 137
Interceptions: 3
Passes Broken Up: 16

The only complaint that can be made about the defense this year is that they gave up a 39-yard touchdown pass against Utah. The defensive secondary has been much improved over last year. A year of experience has made a big difference for Daniel Sorensen and Preston Hadley. Joe Sampson is an upgrade from Travis Uale, and Jordan Johnson’s natural abilities make him a rare specimen in Provo.

Preston Hadley’s first career interception was crucial to the outcome of the Utah State game.  

Grade: A-

Special Teams
Average: 46.0
50+ yards: 15 (50%)
Inside 20: 14 (47%) 

Riley Stephenson had been a little inconsistent this first three seasons. He has been great as a senior. He is fifth in the nation with a 46.5 yards per punt average.  

Place kicking
FG: 4/8 (50%)
Extra Points: 17/20 (85%)

Place kicking has become a joke, in more ways than one. It is not just that BYU suddenly can’t make an extra point or a field goal, but they are getting blocked at an alarming frequency.  

Punt: 11 returns, 117 yards (10.6 ypr)
Kickoff: 9 returns, 231 yards (25.7 ypr)

The average yards per kickoff return is up from last year even though BYU hasn’t had one long return for a touchdown. It is also impressive that the average is higher with kickoffs being made at the 35-yard line. Opponents have five less yards to cover.

JD Falslev has had a few punt returns at key moments to help set up scoring drives. His 10.6 yard average is very satisfactory.

BYU has gave up a couple of big punt returns to Utah that proved to be crippling. They led to the only two touchdowns scored by the Utah offense.  

Grade: B-

Criticism of the coaching staff is at an all-time high. The way the quarterbacks have been managed, as well as the place kicking, are very big eyesores. The offensive line troubles can’t be placed fully on the players.

While there is a lot of debate about how well Bronco Mendenhall has done as head coach, it is impossible to deny the great work he has done with the defense.

It is not unreasonable to think that this team could be 6-0 with just a little better decision making from the BYU coaching staff.
Grade: C-

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