All the headlines from Brigham Young University’s stunning victory over the University of Texas will go to the seemingly endless list of records broken by the Cougar offense and — by extension — the Texas defense.
But while that main storyline is compelling and exciting, there are important sub-headlines in this game that Cougar fans need to keep their eye on as they watch this team evolve and — hopefully — improve.
Lost in the “go fast, go hard” ballyhoo is the fact that when a team is pushing the century mark in plays each game, a lot of guys get valuable game experience.
That certainly manifest itself for the Cougars Saturday across the offense as a stable of linemen got playing time while the Cougar backfield was a veritable carousel of able-bodied rushers.
Jamaal Williams was stellar shouldering the majority of the running back carries out of the backfield, but Paul Lasike, Michael Alisa and Adam Hine also saw meaningful time in the game rushing and blocking.
Meanwhile, seven different players caught passes from Taysom Hill.
On a night when the run game blew the doors off the opposition, piling up more than 500 yards on the ground, there wasn’t a ton of dependency on the passing game, especially in the second half.
However, as teams start to figure out how to keep Hill from breaking to the outside, he’s going to be forced to stand in the pocket and pass or hit receivers on the run.
After a 13/40 effort and a 26.4 quarterback rating against Virginia, Hill was just 9/26 and 129 yards against Texas. But beyond the raw numbers, Hill had plenty of open receivers he consistently threw behind, and had a real hard time converting pass-plays on third down when it was needed in the first half.
Hill also needs to improve his reads and progressions in the passing game. While he’s shown great instinct and decision-making in the run-option, he must learn to look off his first option and check his progressions to find open receivers and keep the offense balanced.
The BYU defense certainly showed some vulnerability in this game, particularly in the secondary where there’s been well-documented concern.
But aside from two big plays on scoring drives, the Cougar D did a solid job of keeping the Texas offense in front of it and getting stops when necessary.
Credit that tremendous front seven — which might be the best in the country — for consistently stacking up Longhorn running backs and putting the Texas passing game in uncomfortable positions all night long.
For the record, though, even the most myopic BYU homers will agree the Cougars were the beneficiaries of some fortuitous dropped Texas passes and a couple no-calls that could easily have been flagged for pass-interference.
Don’t discount the fact that the part of the game that was awful for long stretches last season and lousy again last week against Virginia was very good against Texas.
Adam Hine had a great showing in the kick return game while JD Falslev was solid as usual on punt return.
But credit both Justin Sorensen and Scott Arellano both for stalwart efforts in the kicking and punting games, respectively.
Aside from kissing the goal-post on a field goal and kicking a ball out-of-bounds, Sorensen probably put together his best outing as a Cougar, going 4/4 on field goals and extra points while Arellano was solid netting more than 40 yards per punt.
All the defensive accolades continue to go to Kyle Van Noy and Eathyn Manumaleuna — and rightfully so. But this is a defensive front with a ton of talent across the board, and the attention being paid to Van Noy is giving those lesser-known guys a chance to shine.
BYU faithful certainly know who Bronson Kaufusi is. But Saturday night may have been a national coming-out party for the Cougar defensive lineman who might be a bigger NFL prospect than Ezekial Ansah. Kaufusi was disruptive to the Texas offense all night long. Whether he was clogging up the middle, grabbing Longhorn running backs in the lanes or pressuring the quarterback, Kaufusi was the lynchpin in BYU’s bullying defense.
Meanwhile, playing opposite to Van Noy, Alani Fua and Uani Unga showed tremendous amounts of speed and tackling prowess. For a guy with a 6-foot-5 frame, Fua demonstrated great body control and instinct on the field while the 6-foot-1 Unga seemed to be involved in every play he was on the field. Like they were to Texas, these two are likely to be a thorn in the side of Cougar opponents for the rest of the season.