BYU easily handed Mike Leach and Washington State a lopsided loss last Thursday, and despite stellar performances on both sides of the ball, there are several lessons to be learned.
The Cougar defense looked sharp, and Riley Nelson did a great job of gaining yards on the other side of the ball, but there is still room for improvement. Several newcomers and unexpected playmakers also had a great game, and could become key components of BYU's team.
So, here are five lessons that I learned from the opener.
Cody Hoffman was forced to leave the game in the first quarter after receiving a minor injury, so all of the other receivers had to step up. Among those were Ross Apo and JD Falslev, and perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the night, Skyler Ridley.
Ridley finished with six receptions for 54 yards and a touchdown, and although these numbers aren't incredibly flashy, he is tough as nails.
In the second quarter, he took a hit to the helmet that probably would've cost the defensive player dozens of thousands of dollars in the NFL. Although Ridley probably could've sustained a concussion from the hit, he stood up and lined up for the next play.
Apo and Falslev finished with 31 and 55 yards.
You know a quarterback is special when they march into their first college game, and on their first play, they call an audible and throw an 18-yard touchdown.
Although this sounds like a fantasy, this is exactly what happened to third-string freshman quarterback Taysom Hill. A transfer from Stanford, he finished the game with only one pass, which was that touchdown and six rushing yards.
Famed quarterback Steve Young didn't even throw a touchdown until his sophomore year.
I had the wonderful opportunity to attend Thursday's game, and sat a few rows up from BYU's sideline.
I had never really noticed how feisty a guy Riley Nelson was until, after a uneventful drive, he sprinted off the field, ripped off his helmet, and threw it on the ground. The gentleman sitting beside me took that time to say something along the lines of, "I love seeing that. We haven't had a quarterback that plays with that fire since, well, Jim McMahon, I guess."
Another reason that all of Nelson's teammates love him is not his flowing hair, nor his body-builder abs, but his selflessness. After Taysom Hill threw a touchdown to Kaneakua Friel, instead of being sad because he could've thrown that pass, Nelson was the first one on the field and celebrated with Hill.
You may have already noticed these aspects of Riley Nelson's game, but I had never really comprehended them until now.
BYU is known for their tight end tradition, producing legends such as Gordon Hudson, Chad Lewis and Byron Rex.
But ever since Dennis Pitta moved on in 2009, the position has never been the same. But that may change soon.
Kaneakua Friel, known as "Kahe" by his teammates, led all Cougar receivers with six receptions for 101 yards and two touchdowns. Standing at 6'5" and 244 pounds, the Hawai'i native also knows how to lay hits. In the second quarter, Friel caught an incredible pass from Riley Nelson, but before reaching the endzone, he laid out a WSU defender at the goal line.
If Friel can continue to impress for the rest of the season, he could be another great tight end.
Perhaps the brightest spot of the game on Thursday was no, not the huge video boards, but the stellar defense. The Cougars (of BYU) held Mike Leach's "Air Raid" offense to only 229 yards passing and no touchdowns, which was only the third time in Leach's career that he has failed to score a TD. Along with the great pass defense, WSU had minus-five yards rushing.
"Anytime you hold a team to negative yards rushing, that's a huge accomplishment," senior linebacker Brandon Ogletree said, via the Deseret News. "That's a dominant performance in our book. We did really well against the run. The great part about our team right now is we're not happy about letting them score six points. I think that's scary if you're an opposing offense because we've got guys in there that are ticked that we gave up six points."
That shows how aggressive BYU's defense is, and should be great for the remainder of the year.