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BYU football: BYU's offense still a work in progress

Published: Sunday, Oct. 16 2011 11:42 p.m. MDT

Oregon State's Anthony Watkins (3) tries to push BYU's Michael Alisa (42) out of bounds as Alisa scores during BYU's win. NCAA college football game in Corvallis, Ore., Saturday Oct. 15, 2011.

Associated Press

PROVO — Just prior to kickoff last Saturday in Corvallis, Ore., BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe made a statement of sorts regarding the Big 12 and conference realignment.

Then the Cougars made a statement of sorts on the road against a struggling Pac-12 opponent with a 38-28 victory over Oregon State.

In a secluded corridor of the press box at Reser Stadium, Holmoe told reporters that BYU has not received an invitation to join the Big 12. Prior to Saturday, school officials had remained quiet despite rampant speculation that the Cougars were regarded as the leading candidate to become the league's 10th member. TCU jumped to the Big 12 earlier this month.

Holmoe explained that he and the administration are working hard to position BYU for the future.

"It is important to know we plan on doing the very best we can for BYU. We are very competitive," he said. "BYU has played football for a long time and been competitive and done very well. We have no intentions of not being with the big boys. We want to be able to play at the highest level and have done so for a long time."

Holmoe declined to talk about any specifics regarding conversations with the Big 12.

BYU didn't always play at the highest level against OSU, a team that has won only one game this season, but it did score a season-high 38 points. The Cougars and Beavers were tied 14-14 at halftime before BYU outscored OSU 24-7 to grab a commanding 38-21 lead with 3:37 remaining in the game.

"I liked the way our team responded, especially in the second half," said coach Bronco Mendenhall. "The offense was moving the football and the defense was creating turnovers. It was just a solid win."

The Cougars (5-2), who are riding a four-game winning streak, host Idaho State (2-5) of the Big Sky Conference Saturday (1 p.m., BYUtv). The Bengals fell to Weber State, 39-12, last Saturday.

Against OSU, BYU rolled up 499 yards of total offense, though it had exactly 500 yards before quarterback Riley Nelson took a knee on the game's final play. Left tackle Matt Reynolds said it was "refreshing" to see his team amass that amount of yardage — the most since 514-yard performance against UTEP in last year's New Mexico Bowl.

The Cougars gained 282 rushing yards against the Beavers, marking their third-straight game with more than 200 yards on the ground. Sophomore running back Michael Alisa put together his second strong outing in a row, rushing 20 times for 84 yards and a touchdown.

Wide receiver Cody Hoffman turned in a career-best performance, catching nine passes for 162 yards and a TD.

With Hoffman's big plays, Nelson's ability to engineer sustained drives, and a more consistent running game, the Cougars are starting to establish an identity that was missing through the first 4 1/2 contests of the season.

"I think we're still defining it. Right now, it's getting the job done when it needs to be," Reynolds said. "We're doing it on the ground and we're doing in the air. We have a really balanced attack. The efficiency in which we're doing that is really fun and really impressive. The three words that (offensive coordinator Brandon) Doman has tried to help us focus on are unity, efficiency and fundamentals. Those are the things we've tried to work on."

The Cougars did surrender a pair of turnovers — an Alisa fumble in BYU territory, followed by Nelson's pick-six late in the first half.

Since scoring only 10 points in a 54-10 debacle against Utah, BYU has increased its point production in every game since (24 vs. Central Florida, 27 vs. Utah State, 29 vs. San Jose State, and 38 vs. OSU).

"It's a work in progress," Nelson said of the offense. "It's getting better every week."

The Cougar defense, meanwhile, caused four turnovers, three of which came on three consecutive Beaver drives in the third quarter.

Linebacker Brandon Ogletree had an interception off a tipped pass by defensive lineman Matt Putnam, and Ogletree forced a pair of fumbles, one recovered by Uona Kaveinga and the other by Putnam.

Linebacker Kyle Van Noy's 43-yard interception return was big because OSU had driven to the BYU 10-yard line early in the second quarter and was poised to tie the game at 7-7. The Cougar offense took over at midfield after Van Noy's pick and wound up scoring a touchdown that put BYU up 14-0.

Cornerback Preston Hadley recorded a team-high 11 tackles and had three pass breakups. Linebacker Jordan Pendleton had a sack and three tackles-for-loss.

Cougars on the air

Idaho State (2-5) at BYU (5-2)

Saturday, 1 p.m. MT

LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo

TV: BYUtv

Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM

Email: jeffc@desnews.com

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