BYU vs. Oregon State: Five Game Observations

The Brigham Young Cougars are starting to have an identity now after seven games. Unfortunately, it may not be the identity BYU fans want. Looking back on my pregame questions, the Cougars only answered the call on one or two of them. But, there were still some valuable lessons learned from this game that hopefully can be applied to Notre Dame next week.

1. Who will be under center for BYU? Not just to start the game but to finish it.

Riley Nelson went all the way on Saturday for the Cougars. Every time he ran the ball or took a sack, fans held their breath, but he popped up every time.

While Bronco said his quarterbacks would run the ball less after Taysom Hill and Nelson’s injuries, Nelson still ran the ball nine times, as well as taking four sacks. 

In the fourth quarter, Nelson converted a third down by running the ball. He took a good hit at the end of that play. The run gave BYU 1st and Goal at the 10-yard line. Nelson did have two bad throws immediately following. For the rest of the game, Nelson was 2 of 5 with 2 interceptions. The only passes he completed were shovel passes. The second interception was a terribly wild throw. While Nelson didn’t leave the game, maybe he was shaken up to the point that he should have.

2. How good is Oregon State?

The initial BCS rankings came out this weekend and the computers think the Beavers are better than Oregon, LSU and South Carolina. I think they are a good team who should be in the top-25 of the polls, and will likely end between 11 and 20 at the end of the season.

While I am still not sold on the Beavers being a top ten team and competing for a spot in the National Championship, they were better than I thought they would be and made me shut my mouth in a few of my pregame predictions. While their rankings in offensive and defensive statistics don’t add up to being a top-10 team, they are winning games. Backup quarterback Cody Vaz stepped up big and led the Beavers to victory. And lastly, they could very well win their next three games, being 8-0 when they head to Palo Alto to face Stanford. Even if Oregon State loses to Stanford and Oregon, they could still find their way into the Rose Bowl if the Ducks end up in the National Championship game.

I tip my hat off to you, Mike Riley. Your Beavers were better than I thought. I hope you enjoyed your In-and-Out burger in Orem after the game.

3. Can BYU keep their No. 1 ranking in run defense, and improve on its ranking in scoring defense?

With 118 yards rushing, 99 in the second half, Oregon State pushed BYU’s rushing defense up to 67.86 yards per game. That is still good enough for third in the nation. BYU trails Alabama (55.33) and Rutgers (60.83).

Thanks to BYU’s 81 rushing yards, the Cougars are still ahead of Oregon State. The Beavers are ranked fourth in rushing defense allowing 70 yards per game.

BYU is now seventh in scoring defense allowing 13.6 points per game. Alabama and Notre Dame are still numbers one and two, respectively. Just 2.1 points per game separates BYU from number three Rutgers.

As consolation, BYU dethroned Oregon State as the nation’s best defense on third down. By converting 8 of 18 third downs (44.4%), Oregon State has dropped all the way to number six. BYU has moved up to number three (25.74%) after allowing just two conversions on 11 third downs. Florida State is number one with 22.94%.

4. How much impact will the blackout have?

I thought the blackout looked good from inside the stadium. The uniforms looked intimidating, the black towels on the seats added a nice touch, the end zones and midfield added to the affect and the fans responded by being very loud. I think the blackout added to the feel of the game for the fans and the players, and helped BYU stay with the Beavers for a little longer than many thought possible. The athletic department should look into doing more promotional games like that in the future when top ranked teams come to town.

5. Will BYU pull off the upset?

I had hope, and I thought going into the second half that they would, but they fell just short. It would have been really interesting to see how the game played out if a few plays had gone a different way. Some were fluke plays (Kyle Van Noy’s batted pass being caught for a touchdown), and some were execution errors by BYU (Riley Nelson overthrowing an open JD Falslev behind the defense, two pass interference penalties). Had a couple of plays gone the other way, would we be celebrating a huge win for the team? Instead, the Cougars are 4-3 and head to South Bend to take on the No. 5 ranked Fighting Irish. It was close, but close doesn't cut it. BYU played solid for 53 minutes. But against a top ranked team, you need all 60.

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