The BYU Cougars may be not be dead after all.
BYU played with passion and effort, the game plan was creative on both sides of the ball, the result was the end of a four game losing streak with a 24-21 win over a solid San Diego State team.
Heck, the Cougars even successfully pulled off a fake field goal.
It’s obvious that Bronco Mendenhall’s decision to remove Jamie Hill and take over as the defensive coordinator has breathed new life and energy into a program that was spiraling out of control.
The entire team rallied around Bronco this week after he inserted himself back into the center of the BYU program.
Defensively, BYU came with pressure, flew around, stuffed the run and demonstrated solid tackling for the first time since their season-opening win over Washington.
BYU held an Aztec offense that was averaging nearly 40 points and over 500 yards per game to just 273 yards of total offense and 12 first downs.
Offensively, Robert Anae answered critics by developing a solid game plan, preparing Jake Heaps very well for the 3-3-5 defense, and then calling a strong game. The Cougars rushed an-unheard-of 62 times for 271 yards, while Jake Heaps completed 15 of 22 passes (68 percent) for 126 yards.
A physical, strong effort by the offensive line made everything go for the Cougars.
They opened holes for JJ Di Luigi who rushed for 134 yards, and Bryan Kariya who added a bruising 85 yards of his own. There were no sweeps called in this game for Kariya; he was given the opportunity to do what he does best, run north and south and punch defenses in the mouth.
In a season where the Cougars have struggled mightily to sustain drives, they held the ball for an incredible 45 of the 60 minutes in this game. They converted 63 percent of their third downs (12 of 19) in the process, largely because of solid gains on first and second downs.
The Cougars still have a long way to go. A pair of costly first-half turnovers stopped BYU from stepping on the Aztecs necks, the offense line needs to stop committing ridiculous motion penalties, and punter/kicker Riley Stephenson must stop giving opponents short fields with his wildly erratic leg.
However, today was a giant leap forward for BYU. Despite a 2-4 record, this win keeps the Cougars’ hopes for a conference title and a bowl bid alive, at least for the time being.