Four things stood out in BYU's step out of league play to 'rassle around with Eastern Washington on Saturday, a 42-7 win.
1. Harvey Unga. The big freshman pistol-whipped the Eagles just like he did UNLV.
2. BYU's defense. Getting turnovers, three of them, all picks.
3. The crowd. A bad-weather sellout of 64,522 for Eastern Washington? Really?
4. Non-progress: The Cougar offense yearns for a bottle of polish.
The latter may be the biggest item on the agenda as the Cougars head to San Diego next week alone atop the MWC.
"We still have work to do to clean up things," said BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall.
"Precision and execution," said the coach, "just doing the little things exactly right in terms of the communication, to the ball being snapped correctly, to blocks being finished, to all the communication and checks being made properly, just all the execution and precision of playing the game is what I'd say at this point."
Somebody remind me, wasn't this Game 7?
"J.C. team, Division II team, Division I team a win's a win, and I'll take it," said Unga.
Bottom line, he's right. Folks expected BYU to win 50-0. It won 42-7.
Mendenhall wanted his team to improve, to progress Saturday, albeit against the Eagles from the Big Sky. He got that on defense and was especially pleased with special teams. But in trying to tweak the passing game in the first half against the Eagles, the Cougars failed.
When BYU turned to the run, the Cougars dominated. But it wasn't because of O-line blocking. Unga mostly did his own dirty work, broke tackles and found his own way. He ran out of dead ends on the line, scouted holes and where his receivers were standing in front of tacklers. And it wasn't lost on Mendenhall.
"A lot of Harvey Unga's yards weren't blocked. He simply had great vision and wouldn't go down," said Mendenhall. "I wasn't crediting the holes that we opened, and I wasn't crediting the execution of the run game, but he specifically is to be credited."
Said Unga of being his own engineer sans an O-line: "That's not for me to say. If I did, they would beat me up."
Imagine what the 240-pound Unga could do if he had consistent help up front. And Saturday, the Cougar hogs had about 30 more pounds per man on the hoof than their visitors.
"We have an awesome running game," said Hall.
The quarterback went a stretch in the first half with an uncharacteristic seven straight incompletions and threw an interception, his ninth of the season. Half of those miscues were drops, but the other half were timing issues where he didn't get the ball in the right place, throws that have been easy and routine for Hall through six games. Like tosses to the backs in the flats.
When Austin Collie pushed off and still dropped a touchdown pass in the second quarter, you knew offensive coordinator Robert Anae was finished trying to polish the pass, and he went for the grease and oil, the plow horse Unga.
Leading 14-7, Unga bulled his way through the Eagle defense, often making his own way because the Cougar offensive line was not blowing up Eastern Washington at the point of attack. On his 13-yard touchdown gaunt with 1:35 to play in the first half, Unga broke five tackles before diving in the end zone with tacklers trying to find a handle on the freshman.
Unga finished the half with 114 yards on 18 carries and BYU's only two offensive touchdowns for a 21-7 advantage. He finished with 145 yards on 21 carries. His combined offense was a whopping 202 yards.
The Cougar defense did OK, scoring on a 39-yard interception by Corby Hodgkiss on EWU's first possession. But it was the offense that needed Mendenhall's requisite spit and shine.
"Our best games are still ahead of us, and we'll play our best in weeks to come," said Hall.
They'd better, if the Cougs are to remain on top of the league standings.
BYU got 21 of its 42 points on Corby Hodgkiss' interception return for a score, Bryan Kehl's interception return inside EWU's 10 and a 60-yard kickoff return by Bryce Mahuika. Gimme stuff.
The rest was Unga.The Lone Ranger.