BYU vs. Utah State: 10 Things We Learned from the Cougars' Win
The BYU Cougars improve to 3-2 on the season after their 31-14 win over Utah State. It wasn't a pretty win, but that's been the story this year for BYU. The defense continued to play at a high level, while the offense surprisingly pounded out more than 400 total yards.
But what did this game teach us?
Well, besides Utah State's quarterback Chuckie Keeton getting hurt and the Aggies' season possibly bursting into blames, there were a lot of takeaways.
BYU should be on the radar for double-digit wins, a receiver has introduced himself to the college football world and a backup running back is out for the season.
Taysom Hill Is Beginning to Blossom
Still not sold on Taysom Hill?
You may want to reconsider.
Instead of running around like a chicken with his head cut off, the sophomore actually led the offense with his arm this time. He only ran the ball nine times. Instead, he completed 17 of 31 passes for 278 yards and three touchdowns.
Utah State dared him to throw the ball, and he made the plays when they counted most. This is his second straight game where he made solid decisions and enough plays for BYU to win. While there's still work to be done, he's finally starting to look like he's a real quarterback.
Jamaal Williams Is Back
Jamaal Williams returned after missing last week with a concussion. His presence was needed in an injured backfield, and his production was greatly appreciated by BYU fans.
While he only rushed for 79 yards, he did average close to six yards a carry and caught two passes for 14 yards. He had a pair of nice runs between the tackles, including a run of 44 yards, and he did a nice job of making plays when the rest of the offense was struggling.
Williams started the season off with two consecutive 100-yard rushing performances, and this game was a glimpse of him starting to turn the corner and return to that level. It's critical he continues to produce for this offense.
Michael Alisa Is Out for the Year
One of the reasons Williams must step it up is because Michael Alisa is out for the season. Before kickoff, head coach Bronco Mendenhall announced that the senior will be sidelined for the rest of the year due to a groin injury, according to Jeff Call of the Deseret News.
Freshman Algernon Brown will now be the main backup behind Williams. Alisa does have a redshirt available, but that doesn't help a BYU backfield this season that was already banged up before this news.
Alisa finished the season with 99 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
BYU's Offense Could Still Improve
A total of 438 yards? Thirty-one points?
BYU's offense finally figured it out!
Not so fast, my friends.
While the overall numbers look good, there were still way too many three-and-outs and sloppy play that this offense needs to fix. The Cougars converted only five of 18 third-down attempts and did turn the ball over twice. That's now seven turnovers in the past two games, which isn't exactly the recipe for winning football.
Drives end too quickly, and it puts the defense in a tough spot. BYU must start establishing more consistently offensively if this season is going to end the right way.
Kyle Van Noy Is a Flat-Out Stud
It's games on Friday night that allow you to watch certain players and remember just how dominant they truly are.
Kyle Van Noy is one of the best in college football.
He has a knack for the big play and proved it yet again. The first play of the game was a 17-yard interception return for a touchdown. He later made a tackle in the backfield by reading the read-option perfectly and blowing up the running back. Utah State went for it on fourth down, and Van Noy batted the pass down before it even had a chance.
It's about time Van Noy starts getting mentioned with the Jadeveon Clowneys of the world.
Mitch Mathews Has Arrived
Mitch Mathews may be the best wide receiver for BYU. OK, that may be going a little too far; however, he did haul in three touchdown passes in the Cougars' victory. He caught everything thrown his way and finished the game with 112 receiving yards. His performance was quite eye-opening considering he only had 10 receptions in his career coming into this game.
While Hoffman is still the go-to receiver, Mathews proved that he can be a reliable target when needed. That certainly helps an offense that struggles to find anything easy.
Chuckie Keeton Is Out
Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton injured his knee in the first quarter and could be down for the remainder of the season. While the results of the MRI have yet to be released, the play didn't look good, and he did return to the field on crutches with his knee heavily wrapped.
This is devastating news for a Utah State team that had its eyes set on a MWC Championship. He was the playmaker behind it all, completing a high percentage of his passes and making plays with both his arm and legs.
He had an outside shot at a Heisman and was going to carry the Aggies as far as he could. Now, the team's future is in doubt.
Craig Harrison Needs to Learn on the Fly
With the injury to Keeton, Craig Harrison is the next guy up for Utah State. He completed 18 of 41 passes for 185 yards and a touchdown. He looked uneasy in the pocket in the beginning, but he did do a nice job of settling down and making decent throws as the game played out.
It should be noted that some of his receivers didn't do a good job of helping him.
Harrison doesn't have much experience. He's a junior who came into this game with only 14 career pass attempts under his belt. It's safe to say that there are going to be growing pains if he is going to take over as the starting quarterback the rest of the way.
Utah State Is Still a Tough Out
Even with the injury and the loss, don't write off Utah State just yet. Yes, the chances of winning a conference title take a drastic hit and may actually be tossed out of the window. However, this is clearly a team that is well-coached and won't give up.
Although BYU had a commanding lead early in the third quarter, the Aggies continued to fight on both sides of the ball and actually earned a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Most teams pack it in when the scoreboard is well decided, but Utah State tried its best to make plays and didn't quit until the final whistle blew.
That's the type of team that is scary to play down the stretch. This team has heart and won't go down quietly.
BYU Can Win 10 Games
Without a conference affiliation and already two losses, a BCS bowl berth is still a little unrealistic to think about. But 10 wins for the second time in three seasons is now a goal that the coaching staff should have their eyes set on.
There are still a few hurdles this team must overcome. The offense isn't great, and a schedule that still includes Georgia Tech, Boise State, Wisconsin and Notre Dame isn't easy. But BYU's defense will keep this squad in every game the rest of the way and has proved that time and time again. The offense is still painful to watch but is making turtle-stepped strides with the improvement of Taysom Hill.
BYU doesn't play flashy football, but it finds ways to win. At the end of the day, that's really all that matters. Every game the rest of the way is winnable for the Cougars.