A week after losing again to rival Utah, BYU (2-2) responded in a resolute manner against Middle Tennessee (3-2). The Cougars scored 30 unanswered points to win 37-10. The Cougars were mediocre during the first quarter but picked things up the rest of the way, winning big in advance of their showdown next Friday at Utah State.
Rhett Wilkinson is a project manager for UtahPolicy.com and hails the true-blooded Aggies from Utah. The co-founder of magazine Aggie BluePrint.com, he's been an intern for the Deseret News and other publications. firstname.lastname@example.org | @wilklogan
For the second straight week, a BYU running back suffered a concussion, lying motionless on the field before being carried off. Jamaal Williams is still recovering from suffering an injury against Utah, and one of his backups, Adam Hine, will probably miss time after suffering an injury against Middle Tennessee.
Cougar signal-caller Taysom Hill had an awful 74.3 quarterback rating entering the game, but Friday, he registered a 144.4 mark after throwing 14 of 19 for 177 yards. BYU tallied 486 total yards as Hill and freshman Algernon Brown had 165 and 68 yards on the ground, respectively.
In BYU’s first three games, Hill completed just 35.1 percent of his passes — dead last in the nation. Hill also scored on a 50-yard run in the second quarter. It wasn’t his longest touchdown rush of the season — he had one for 68 yards in his big performance against Texas — but set momentum that carried his team the rest of the way.
BYU did lose two fumbles inside the Middle Tennessee 5-yard line. Cougar coach Bronco Mendenhall said that the game wouldn't have been that close had his team held onto the ball.
The Cougars performed as fans might hope against a defense that came into the game ranked just 81st in the nation in points allowed, 94th in total defense and 104th in pass defense.
The Blue Raiders indeed proved to be a mediocre team in Conference USA, as predicted. That doesn’t mean Middle Tennessee quarterback Logan Kilgore is a slouch. The senior ranks fourth on the Middle Tennessee all-time list in passing yards and second in touchdown passes.
Kilgore was limited, however, throwing just 13 of 31 for 82 yards with one touchdown and one interception. In the first quarter, Middle Tennessee tallied 80 total yards. In the second and third quarters combined, the Blue Raiders compiled 83 yards for just 212 on the evening. They were shut out in the second quarter as BYU limited the Blue Raiders far below their 31.5 points-per-game average.
Linebacker Kyle Van Noy led the Cougar D in tackles.
JD Falslev’s 71-yard punt return for a touchdown was the Cougars’ special teams highlight of the year — and it put away the game, stretching BYU’s lead to 37-10 late in the third quarter. Falslev is now fifth in Cougar history in that category.
However, Falslev fumbled away attempts to catch two other punts, resulting in revived possessions for Middle Tennessee — and making for an average grade.
Falslev’s last punt return for touchdown was a 67-yard scamper in October 2011 at TCU.
Mendenhall has had tougher challenges than this game, which was in hand by the end of the third quarter. The Cougar offense did move up the field rather fast on its first possession after intermission, a smart call that led to a score and kept BYU’s momentum going.
One must wonder why, in a four-score game, Taysom Hill was still in the contest until midway through the fourth quarter — especially since his 2012 season was lost after a pointless end-of-game run against Utah State.
BYU overcame several turnovers to at least approach the Texas game as their best collective performance of the young season — especially considering the Cougars were without Williams, star receiver Cody Hoffman (suspension) and several offensive linemen. The errors certainly give the Cougars something to work on as they prepare for the Aggies. Hill showed that he may not be as far away as thought from being an effective passer. The defense may have had its best performance in BYU’s four games.