Keith Johnson, Deseret News
BYU tight end Dennis Pitta makes a reception over Northern Iowa University defender De'Veon Harris in Saturday's game.

PROVO — Dennis Pitta hauled in 11 catches for 213 yards, both career highs for the Cougar junior in BYU's season-opening 41-17 win over Northern Iowa on Saturday.

And it could have been even better.

Pitta could have caught 25 passes for 300 yards and made it look easy as Northern Iowa simply could not match up with him — keeping him out of the seams in their zone defense — or find a player who could physically make him work harder for receptions.

"At times, I thought I was uncovered, just running alone," said Pitta.

On the day, Pitta averaged 19.3 yards per catch, with a long of 46 yards.

"When you put one single safety on Dennis, you aren't going to stop him," said receiver Austin Collie. "He's too good, and that's exactly what happened. He had a great game and we basically took what we could get."

Bronco Mendenhall said it was a classic defensive dilemma for Northern Iowa. They tried to clamp down on Harvey Unga out of the backfield, tried to take Collie and the other wideouts out of the game with tight coverage but left Pitta in single coverage in the zone and it cost them.

"It's impossible," said Mendenhall, of the defensive quandary of stopping all the weapons because in emphasizing some, others like Unga might break out.

"And Dennis is a quality athlete."

Offensive coordinator Robert Anae, in harmony with a teamwide effort to credit team play, put it this way: "Pitta had a really good game. On those plays, the line blocked really well and Max Hall made nice throws, even though those things end up with Pitta's name next to the stat, I was very pleased with the overall performance of the offensive line."

Northern Iowa coach Mark Farley admitted his defense had a tough time covering Unga, Collie and then Pitta. He confirmed, almost verbatim, what Mendenhall explained to the media in the post-game press conference.

"He is a good football player and then they got in that two-by-two set," said Farley. "He got in those seams on us. Unga was the player that I thought was the difference maker. We know the quarterback is a difference maker and Collie is a difference maker.

"When you start getting three of those and you throw in that tight end, you've got to pick your poison a little bit too. Ultimately, he was the one that was making the plays for them because we were trying to take away Unga and Collie."

EXTRA POINTS: Farley was not happy with the officials interpretation of two hits: one that took down his quarterback, Pat Grace (by BYU's Coleby Clawson) that resulted in no penalty, and a hit by his defender, defensive back Darrell Lloyd, on Cougar senior receiver Michael Reed that did draw a flag.

"No question," said Farley, that he was concerned.

"As I sit here right now, the hit against Pat Grace was described to me as a hit in the chest, a legal hit. That was the description to me. The description he gave me on the hit by Darrell Lloyd, the receiver in front of us, is that we can't hit that guy because he was in a defenseless position, which is exactly how you protect the quarterback, because when he's throwing the ball he's in a defenseless position.

"In my opinion, and as I watched the big screen board on both hits - they were very similar hits. But yet we were penalized in critical situations, and they weren't. And both of those were big time. It didn't surprised me that one went against us on both of them. I told our team, you don't play teams like this in games like this and expect to get a call. You have to find a way to win a game. That was their decision and that was what we'll live with."

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