BYU football: For Cougars, a good ending to a rough season
Senior punter Riley Stephenson also turned in a tremendous performance, kicking eight punts inside the SDSU 20-yard line, including several inside the five.
"I don't know who got the most valuable player, but I thought the most valuable player was their punter," said Aztec coach Rocky Long. "He put the ball inside the 5-yard line at least five or six times. Field position made it tough on the offense."
On the offensive side for BYU, senior quarterback James Lark made his second career start and finished 2-0 as a starter.
Lark was spelled for one series in the second quarter by senior Riley Nelson, who threw a pass that was deflected and intercepted. Nelson did not return to the game.
"I thought we were sluggish and flattening out after the first three series or so and I trust Riley and wanted to give him an opportunity to have a fantastic finish to his senior season and he earned the chance to play and I was hoping to play him more," Mendenhall explained. "With the turnover that happened, I just felt like the momentum shifted a little bit and we ought to go back to James. So I take full responsibility for the decision and I'm happy for James but also I just love Riley and I really appreciate all the hard work and who he is and I respect him as much or more than anyone I've coached."
Wide receiver Cody Hoffman, who caught 10 passes for 114 yards against SDSU, moved into fifth all-time at BYU with 2,178 career yards and fourth all-time with 203 career receptions. He also became the third player in school history to record 100 receptions in a season and the fourth to have more than 200 receptions for his career. If Hoffman stays for his senior year, he will likely become the most prolific receiver in school history.
"The season didn't go the way we planned with the tough losses," Hoffman said, "but it felt good to come out and close with a win."
Jamaal Williams, who became the most prolific true freshman running back ever at BYU, is eager for his sophomore season.
"I'm very excited," Williams said. "My first year, to come out and finish it with a bowl win is pretty good. I have a lot of motivation to come back next year and do the same thing."
But first comes the long offseason.
Coach Mendenhall announced after the game that longtime assistant Lance Reynolds is retiring. It's likely there will be other changes on the offensive staff. Answers are expected to come in the coming weeks.
Yet immediately after the game, Mendenhall didn't want to think about losing a large group of seniors, or the possibility of losing a talented underclassman like Van Noy. He simply wanted to enjoy the moment — a satisfying ending to an unsatisfactory season.
"What I've come to understand is BYU football is bigger than myself as the head coach and it's bigger than any single player," he said. "There are strong core values and a strong organization that's in place and anyone that's lucky enough to join the program I think we'll get the most out of them and the program will continue to grow, but it will provide a unique challenge. I'm not interested in looking ahead, I'm looking forward to celebrating with our seniors and the players on this team."
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