PROVO — It will be easy for some to discount what BYU’s football players did Saturday evening.
After all, the opponent was Idaho.
Not exactly a powerhouse.
Nonetheless, BYU’s football team looked really sharp and focused against the Vandals in every phase of the game.
BYU’s defense dominated Idaho’s offense, the offense looked quite good when Jake Heaps took over for injured QB Riley Nelson early on and BYU’s special teams were vastly improved over two weeks ago.
The end product was a 42-7 victory and a lot for BYU to feel pretty good about.
Here’s how BYU graded:
OFFENSE: BYU’s offense did stall on the first drive of the game, and Heaps did throw one INT in the third quarter. Otherwise, BYU’s first-team offense was excellent. The Cougars had their way with Idaho — on the ground and through the air. When Nelson left the game — and was subsequently taken to the hospital with what BYU officials said was a broken rib — Heaps returned to the field and looked much better than he did during the opening month of the season. Heaps finished 15-of-20 for 185 yards and two TDs and one INT. People will be quick to point out his performance came against a low level of competition, but the way he played was nonetheless encouraging for a guy who had to be dying for confidence. Meanwhile, Cody Hoffman continued to star, as he reeled in six passes for 114 yards and two TDs, and Michael Alisa rushed for 99 yards and a TD on only 10 carries. GRADE: B+.
DEFENSE: Aside from one play, BYU’s first-string defense was awesome against Idaho. That one play — an 82-yard TD gallop by Idaho’s Princeton McCarty — came after the game’s outcome had long been decided. BYU. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy finished with 10 tackles and a sack to lead the way — what else is new? — and a bunch of other Cougar defenders made plays to dominate Idaho. GRADE: A-.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Kicker Justin Sorensen missed two field goals and Jameson Frazier gave Idaho a first down after running into the punter in the first half. However, aside from those errors, BYU’s special teams were vastly improved from their abysmal performance against TCU two weeks ago. They played with much more energy and sharpness on Saturday, and they were infinitely better than they had been. GRADE: B.
COACHING: Coaches should get plenty of credit for having their guys finally playing with crispness and sharpness. Coming off a bye week, the Cougars were locked and loaded, and the results were impressive. GRADE: A.
OVERALL: At this point, it’s all about looking forward, and to that end, Saturday was encouraging. If Nelson can’t return for awhile, it will be fascinating to see whether Heaps can build on what he did against Idaho. If nothing else, it is a start. As for BYU’s team as a whole, the Cougars will aim to play like they did Saturday in their final two regular-season games and in the bowl game. GRADE: A-.