HONOLULU – Brigham Young had to fight to pull away from an inspired Hawaii team. But once they fought, the Cougars did so in dominant fashion, moving to 9-3 with a 41-20 win over the Warriors (6-7).
Here are five keys to BYU's victory:
1. Shutting Hawaii down after halftime
After forging to a 13-10 halftime lead and playing BYU to a virtual draw statistically-speaking, Hawaii's offense hit the skids.
Whatever second-half adjustments the Cougars made were effective. The Warriors totaled 211 total yards in the first half but fumbled then punted four straight times in their first five possessions of the second half. Following the fumble, all four of those possessions resulted in three-and-out situations for Hawaii and netted only 10 yards for the home team.
After BYU scored 31 straight points, the Warriors put together a drive late in the fourth quarter to put more points on the board and yards on the stat sheet, but it was too little, too late.
2. BYU receiver Ross Apo
The freshman wideout is clearly Jake Heaps' favorite target, but with Riley Nelson returning from lung and rib injuries, he and the junior quarterback connected against Hawaii.
Apo made a nice adjustment on his first touchdown grab (a 22-yarder) then overpowered the Hawaii defense on a 12-yard scoring reception.
Finishing the game with 55 yards on four catches, Apo now has five touchdowns in the last three games, and has totaled nine scores for the season.
3. Hoffman and company
Apo wasn't the only BYU wide receiver that had a good game. In fact, a handful of Cougars came away from the islands happy.
Cody Hoffman was simply too big and strong for Hawaii's defensive secondary players, as he piled up 123 yards and a scoring catch on seven receptions. He also averaged 30 yards (with a long of 41 yards) on two kickoff returns.
Wideout JD Falslev and tight end Marcus Mathews got into the act, as well. Both Falslev (five catches) and Mathews (four catches) totaled 80 yards.
4. Nelson can pass the ball, too
Averaging more than 70 yards rushing in his starts this season, Nelson has proven to be a problem on the ground for opposing defenses. But in his return to the starting role, Nelson went to the air more – perhaps trying to protect those lungs and ribs – and it paid off.
He finished with a career-high 363 yards and three touchdowns, as part of a 25-of-37 performance.
5. The big giveaway
Hawaii and BYU played almost 36 minutes of turnover-free football. The score was tight the entire time, with both teams taking turns leading.
That prompted a feeling that when the game's first turnover came, the team that committed it would pay dearly, and conversely, the opposing team would benefit greatly.
That was the case when, with BYU holding a slim 17-13 lead, Warriors running back Joey Iosefa coughed it up after a short reception. Uona Kaveinga and Matt Putnam forced the fumble, and Joe Sampson scooped up the ball and ran it in 26 yards to put the Cougars up by 11.
It was part of a 28-point BYU scoring outburst, something that the Warriors never recovered from after previously playing an even game.
Chris, who has been covering sports ranging from high school preps to professional teams for almost 20 years, feels that football season is the best time of the year. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.