Believe it or not, you can learn things even in an ugly victory. BYU knocked off Middle Tennessee 37-10 Friday, but the margin of victory doesn't mean that the win came easy. The Cougars couldn't get out of their own way by turning the ball over five times.
Still, BYU did what it was supposed to do by winning the home game against a mediocre opponent. The Blue Raiders fought hard but didn't have nearly enough horses to make the game competitive.
What did we learn from BYU's second win of the season?
If you didn't know it by now, it's time you did.
BYU's defense could go toe-to-toe with any in the country. Nobody wants to hear that it was just Middle Tennessee. The Cougars are a feisty group of guys who fly to the football and don't give up anything cheap. They hit hard, cover the receivers well and are ridiculous in stuffing the run. The Blue Raiders came into the game averaging close to 200 rushing yards and were held to just 2.6 yards per carry.
This group is the reason BYU has a chance to accomplish anything this season as it continues to force three-and-outs. Most would consider Florida or Alabama to have the nation's top defense, but it's about time BYU's squad starts getting mentioned in the same breath.
Wide receiver Marcus Henry was one of the few bright spots for Middle Tennessee. He led the offense with three receptions, 28 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown reception was an incredible catch over a BYU defender, and the junior showed remarkable footwork by getting both of his feet in bounds.
Not to mention, he jumped out of the stadium to make the catch.
Henry is a junior college transfer who is starting to play with a little more consistency. He now has three receptions in three of the first five games this season. It would be nice to see what he could accomplish with a little improvement from the quarterback.
While Henry won't get much attention the rest of the season with Middle Tennessee's schedule, he is somebody who could make a splash the rest of the way.
There was terrific special teams play from both sides in this game. In fact, a 50-yard return by Kenneth Gilstrap on the opening kick helped Middle Tennessee score a field goal, and a 90-yard return by Adam Hine helped BYU respond with a touchdown.
BYU averaged 36 yards on kickoffs, and Middle Tennessee averaged 26.8 yards per return. There was also a 71-yard touchdown punt return by JD Falslev that sealed the game for BYU. Both punters also did a great job pinning a combined three punts in the opponent's 20-yard line.
It's likely to go unnoticed by many, but special teams play was huge in this game.
When breaking down games, you'll often hear that time of possession is so key for a team to win the game.
Middle Tennessee had the football for 33 minutes and 48 seconds. That includes dominating the time of possession in the first half, as the Blue Raiders had the football for a solid 19 minutes and change. They had absolutely nothing to show for it.
It's not how long a team has the football, it's what that team is able to do with that time. Middle Tennessee was just eating seconds off the clock, BYU was busy running no-huddles and scoring touchdowns. Time of possession is overrated.
It seems like BYU is trying to outdo each performance by playing even sloppier than the last game. Teams aren't supposed to win games when turning the ball over five times and committing nine penalties for 80 yards. Last week against Utah, BYU had two turnovers and seven penalties.
Tough to win when you're constantly shooting yourself in the foot.
The Cougars are lucky they weren't playing Utah State, Georgia Tech or Wisconsin. Instead, they were able to overcome the constant mistakes with a clearly more talented football team. If the sloppiness continues in the heart of the schedule, BYU can kiss goodbye a chance to qualify for a BCS bowl game.
Cody Hoffman was suspended for this game after violating team rules. Boy, did BYU have a few receivers who stepped up big in his absence.
Seven different receivers caught at least one pass for a combination of 177 yards. Mitch Mathews led the way with 47 yards, while Ross Apo hauled in four passes. Guys were finding the holes in the defense and did a nice job of holding onto the football. This hasn't been the case this season, as Hoffman is often the only receiver making plays downfield.
BYU can't afford to be without its star receiver much longer, but it was nice to see other guys making plays for a change.
There isn't a quarterback on the planet who likes defensive players breathing down his neck, but it's part of the game. Quarterbacks must be able to adjust to pressure, and Logan Kilgore wasn't able to do that Friday night.
He was constantly scrambling and moving around when there wasn't pressure around him. He also had happy feet and threw off his back foot at times. This led to inaccurate throws and dozens of passes that landed in the third row of the stands.
Give the receiver a chance!
Granted, BYU did get to Kilgore quite a bit, but there were many of opportunities for the senior to deliver a strong pass. He must work on this moving forward.
Not only did running back Jamaal Williams miss the game with an injury, but backup Adam Hine left the game with a concussion. Until either of those players can get back on the field, Michael Alisa is sure to get the bulk of the carries.
Don't worry—this isn't a bad thing.
The senior finished the game with 16 carries, 55 yards and two touchdowns. He displays great power at 6'1", 222 pounds and usually always falls forward for extra yardage. The depth isn't pretty at the moment, but BYU should be able to get by until Williams and Hine patch up their injuries.
Is there anything Kyle Van Noy can't do?
It seems like every game, he's in on the action making the key plays that help the Cougars win. Even if he isn't doing anything that adds to the box score, he's freeing up his teammates to make plays.
But the senior made possibly the biggest play of the game in second quarter, as he tackled running back Jordan Parker in the end zone for a safety. This play not only brought BYU within one point, but it changed the momentum of the game and help started the beatdown.
BYU fans wish Van Noy could stay in college forever.
Taysom Hill gets a ton of criticism for not being able to throw the football actually. OK, maybe he isn't Peyton Manning, but he is a wonderful playmaker and is capable of making a defense pay when the offense opens up the playbook.
Friday night, he rushed for 165 yards and two touchdowns while completing 14 of 19 passes for 177 yards. Yes, it was against Middle Tennessee, but the coaching staff allowed Hill to be himself. He wasn't handcuffed to the pocket like he was last week against Utah. He seemed more comfortable and wasn't hesitant to make plays with his legs.
It doesn't matter about his arm. If Hill can continue to move the chains and make plays like he did Friday night, BYU's offense will be just fine.