NEW ORLEANS — One week after playing national power Oklahoma on national television, in the national spotlight, in front of 75,000 fans at palatial Cowboys Stadium, and winning one of the biggest games in school history, No. 9 BYU traveled to play lowly Tulane at the relatively quiet, and empty, Louisiana Superdome.
Letdown? What letdown?
The Cougars earned a big, easy win in a city also known as The Big Easy, throttling the Green Wave, 54-3, in front of a crowd of 22,224 Saturday.
BYU (2-0) knew it would be important to turn in a strong effort after last week's emotional, 14-13 victory over the Sooners.
"Last week it was a huge win for us. I think sometimes it's easy to kind of let your guard down and relax a little bit," said wide receiver McKay Jacobson, who caught a 38-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. "But we came out ready to play. We came out knowing what we had to do and we did it."
"We prepared the same way this week as we did last week," said defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen. "There was no difference. The coaches were the exact same, the players were the exact same. Everything was the same."
Except that instead of a nail-biter, like a week ago, it became a laugher in the second half.
BYU exploded for 51 of its points in the final three quarters. The offense rolled up 527 yards of total offense and the defense forced four turnovers and limited Tulane to 162 yards.
"It was a very well-played football game," said coach Bronco Mendenhall. "It was clean, for the most part, on both sides of the ball."
While the Cougar offense didn't punt once on the day and scored nearly every time it had the ball, it couldn't get into the end zone on its first two possessions.
"We had to settle for field goals on the first two drives, which was a little frustrating, but I think we just kept fighting and kept moving the ball," said quarterback Max Hall, who completed 24 of 32 passes for 309 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
While running back Harvey Unga played for the first time this season, he carried the ball only three times. Still, the Cougars rushed for 206 yards as J.J. DiLuigi led the way with 71 yards and two touchdowns while Bryan Kariya gained 63 yards and a TD.
Hall spread the ball around the field, completing passes to nine different receivers, and in all, 12 Cougars caught balls.
"If I can do that, to where around eight different receivers catch the ball in a game, it makes us very hard to defend," Hall said. "It makes it to where we have so many different options that if they do key on (tight end) Dennis (Pitta), which they did a couple of times, I have other options. Things opened up big-time for some of those other guys."
Yet it was the defense that opened the floodgates for the offense.
Tulane's only drive deep into BYU territory, in the second quarter, took more than eight minutes off the clock. But it yielded only a field goal.
"When we were able to keep them out of the end zone," Jorgensen said, "it kind of swung (the momentum) back in our favor."
BYU led 13-3 late in the second quarter when linebacker Jordan Pendleton tipped a Joe Kemp pass that was intercepted by cornerback Brian Logan. Seven plays later, Kariya scored on a 12-yard touchdown pass to put the Cougars up, 20-3, at intermission.
After a Hall interception to start the second half, the defense forced the Green Wave to punt, and the Cougars then scored on three straight possessions to make it 47-3.
BYU's defense got on the scoreboard, too, when Pendleton recovered a fumble forced by linebacker Terrance Hooks and ran 12 yards for another touchdown.
"I was rushing and the quarterback threw it," Pendleton said. "I just turned around, and (Hooks) made a great hit and the ball was laying right there. Easiest thing I've ever done. All I had to do was pick it up and run it in."
Another Tulane fumble, recovered by cornerback Brandon Bradley, led to another touchdown drive led by backup quarterback Riley Nelson, who in his BYU debut, scored on a 1-yard run.
Mendenhall was satisfied with his team's overall effort against a Tulane team that has now lost 10 consecutive games, dating back to last year.
"Our approach is never to consider whom we're playing," he said. "I know the attention usually is around who we're playing, and what the interest might be, but we're interested in improving our team. The way our team prepared and handled this setting and this game, I was very pleased with."
Hall said the Cougars gleaned a lot of positives in the win.
"You saw some younger guys and play. You saw J.J. get more touches. You saw more catches on the edges and things we like to do. I thought overall, we did a great job. We were physical up front and we moved the ball like we wanted to."125 comments on this story
Though it wasn't nothing like the previous week's impressive stage, the Cougars enjoyed their day in the Superdome.
"You have this huge dome, an NFL field and not a lot of people there," Hall said. "Late in the third and fourth quarter, there wasn't a lot of emotion in the game and we were just trying to get the game over. Our fans who were here were loud and a good support for us. It was a fun atmosphere though there weren't a lot of people here."
The Cougars host Florida State next Saturday in their home-opener at LaVell Edwards Stadium.