RENO, Nev. — BYU overcame a terrible and uninspired start to win a hard-fought road game against Nevada on Saturday, 28-23. The Cougars looked like a completely different team in the second half — particularly on offense — to wrap up the regular season with an 8-4 record.
Grades are in for each position group and the coaching staff for how they performed in the victory.
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The Cougars couldn't have started much worse on offense, but found their groove in the second half to the tune of 28 points and 311 total yards.
The first half produced a goose egg and just 150 yards against a porous Wolf Pack defense that gave up 35 points and a little more than 500 yards per game prior to Saturday's contest.
BYU's offensive line was perhaps the biggest culprit for the team's completely uninspired first-half performance, but improved drastically in the second half. Running back Jamaal Williams was the biggest beneficiary of the offensive front's second-half resurgence. For the game, he finished with 219 yards on just 15 carries.
Quarterback Taysom Hill added 154 yards on 26 carries, but did almost nothing threw the air to beat Nevada's suspect pass defense. He ultimately finished with 14-18 passing for just 98 yards. All-time leading receiver Cody Hoffman played no factor with just two receptions for 14 yards.
The defense came out shockingly bad — giving up large chunks of yardage and a long touchdown drive on Nevada's first possession. Things appeared to get worse from there, with starting nose tackle Eathyn Manumaleuna leaving the game with a shoulder injury.
Typical to form, BYU's defense adjusted to the opening barrage — and to key injuries to both Manumaleuna and cornerback Robertson Daniel — to stand up to the challenge and limit Nevada's otherwise potent attack.
Reserve tackle Marques Johnson deserves special mention for his increased role in the wake of Manumaleuna's injury. He put together one of his better games and made several key plays to hold the Wolf Pack short of the end zone.
The defense did incur some dumb, if not questionable, penalties late in the game to keep it closer than it otherwise should have been. All in all, it was a good effort by BYU's defense, holding Nevada to 363 yards and just 104 yards rushing.
It was a bit of a mixed bag for the Cougar special teams. Logan Taele contributed a key blocked field goal attempt, but Hoffman muffed a punt early that could have really put the Cougars in a hole if not for the defense.
Punter Scott Arrellano was productive, averaging 45.4 yards on five attempts. The cover and return teams played little to no factor in the ultimate outcome.
The team looked surprisingly unprepared at the start of the game for the second week in a row. Nevada did what it wanted offensively for much of the first quarter, while the offense sputtered at every opportunity.
Defensive coaches adjusted nicely after being hit in the mouth by Nevada's attack while supplementing for the losses to Manumaleuna and Daniel effectively.
One has to wonder about the first-half game plan on offense that included zero points and just three rushing attempts by Williams. Offensive coordinator Robert Anae made Williams the focal point in the second half, but it's a wonder why it took an entire half to feature his top running back.
BYU didn't have much to play for against Nevada and that showed during the game's first half. It was surprising to see a Bronco Mendenhall-coached team come out so uninspired before figuring things out in the second half.
Nevada is an average team at best and certainly not a team BYU should struggle against on the road. At the end of the day, a win is a win, although it was surprising to see the Cougars struggle as much as they did in earning it.