PROVO — The BYU offense showcased a couple of bright spots Saturday even though the Cougars ultimately lost 42-24 to Oregon State.
Their names are Cody Hoffman and Jamaal Williams.
Together, the junior receiver Hoffman and freshman running back Williams accounted for 214 of BYU’s 386 yards of offense, the three longest Cougar plays of the day and two of BYU's three touchdowns.
Hoffman finished with 10 receptions for 102 yards, including a 22-yard catch early in the fourth quarter. Cougar quarterback Riley Nelson targeted Hoffman 17 times Saturday, and Hoffman drew a pass interference penalty in addition to the catches he made.
“Cody’s got an athletic advantage against linebackers and a size advantage against cornerbacks,” Nelson said after the game. “He’s our go-to guy.”
Several factors led Nelson to look Hoffman’s way so often against Oregon State. For starters, the Beavers employed a bend-but-don’t-break defensive strategy that prevented long plays while leaving room over the middle for crossing patterns. That, combined with the fact Oregon State frequently rolled safety help away from Hoffman and toward Ross Apo, meant there always was a lot of room for the 6-foot-4 junior to run intermediate routes on the weak side of the field.
Another catalyst for Hoffman becoming an increasingly attractive target as the game wore on Saturday was the lackluster play of BYU’s tight ends. Kaneakua Friel, Devin Mahina and Richard Wilson combined for only seven receptions and 65 yards, with the usually sure-handed Friel dropped at least two passes.
“I think we took a step back today with our tight ends,” BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “We didn’t catch the ball as well — and I think Kaneakua had been playing well earlier in the season, making clutch catches etc. Today it seemed like we struggled just to catch it cleanly and move forward.”
As for Williams, BYU’s freshman running back accumulated 112 yards from scrimmage (76 receiving, 36 rushing). Although he only averaged 2.4 yards per carry, Williams scored two short-yardage touchdowns for the Cougars.
Early in the fourth quarter, Williams provided two of BYU’s most exciting plays of the night. On consecutive possessions, he hauled in short passes and then jetted up the field for gains of 30 and 31 yards, respectively.
“We’re really proud of Jamaal and the way he handled (everything), and I’m really proud of the way he played,” Nelson said. “Hopefully (him catching the ball) is one more thing defenses have to prepare for, and maybe it keeps them a little bit more honest in the pass rush.”
Jamshid Ghazi Askar is a graduate of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School and member of the Utah State Bar. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 801-236-6051.
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