BYU did just enough on the offensive side of the ball to come away with a season-opening 20-6 win over the Portland State Vikings at LaVell Edwards Stadium Saturday afternoon.
The Cougars scored through the air and on the ground while putting up 365 yards of total offense to secure their first win of the season. They also came away with a big defensive effort as they limited the Vikings to just 220 yards of total offense while recording eight tackles for loss, including three sacks.
Neil Pau'u got the Cougars on the board late in the first quarter as he caught a pass from Tanner Mangum and took it 28 yards to paydirt for the early lead. The touchdown capped off a four-play, 64-yard drive that included a 36-yard completion to tight end Matt Bushman to move the ball into Viking territory.
BYU pushed the lead to 14-0 when Squally Canada punched it in from 1 yard out midway through the second quarter. Talon Shumway came up big on the drive as he made an acrobatic 33-yard catch to put the Cougars just inches from the Portland State goal line.
The Vikings answered the BYU score on their next possession as Darnell Adams scored from 4 yards out on a pass from Jalani Eason. Charlie Taumoepeau played a massive role in the 87-yard drive as made receptions of 12, 13 and 14 yards to keep the chains moving.
Rhett Almond gave the Cougars an 11-point lead early in the fourth quarter as he converted on a 27-yard field goal. Canada made his presence felt on the drive as he totaled 57 yards on four carries and a reception, including a 34-yard scamper to put the Cougars into the red zone.
Almond closed the scoring for the Cougars as he drilled a 35-yard kick in the final three minutes to give BYU a 20-6 lead. It was a score set up by the Cougar defense, which forced a turnover when Zayne Anderson intercepted Eason and returned it 27 yards to the Portland 23-yard line.
3. Squally Canada
He didn't exactly make Cougar fans forget the exploits of the departed Jamaal Williams, but Canada had a nice showing as he totaled 98 yards rushing and a touchdown on 16 carries while adding a 4-yard reception.
2. Fred Warner
Warner started out his senior season with a bang as he led the team with 10 total tackles, including seven solo stops and a tackle for loss.
1. Sione Takitaki
Takitaki had a monstrous performance for the Cougars in his return to the field after missing the 2016 season. He finished second on the team with seven total tackles while contributing a team-high three tackles for loss and a pair of sacks.
Analyzing the stats
While the Cougars came away with the two-score win, it was the Vikings who had more first downs (14-13), were more efficient on third and fourth down and won the time of possession battle (30:21-29:39).
The 20 points scored against the Vikings were the fewest by the Cougars against an FCS opponent in the last decade. The previous low came in 2016 when they scored 37 against Southern Utah.
The 14-point win was the smallest margin of victory against those eight FCS teams. The previous low came in 2008 when the Cougars beat Northern Iowa 41-17.
Tight end Matt Bushman led the Cougars with 56 yards receiving. The last time a BYU tight end led the team in receiving yards came in a 2014 loss to Central Florida when Devin Mahina totaled 46 yards on four receptions.
Tanner Mangum completed 16 of 27 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown, making it the ninth time in 14 games that the Cougar starter passed for less than 200 yards.
The Cougars travel to Houston to face off against SEC power LSU. The Tigers are a perennial top 25 team who are expected to have another big year. They are led by first-year head coach Ed Orgeron, who spent time as the team's defensive line coach before taking over for Les Miles after four games in 2016. It is Orgeron's third stint as a head coach after spending three years at Mississippi and part of the 2013 season as the interim head coach at USC.
Some players to watch from LSU will be senior signal caller Danny Etling and junior running back Derrius Guice.
Etling is a fifth-year senior who transferred to LSU from Purdue following the 2014 campaign. He took the majority of the snaps for the Tigers in 2016 and completed 59.5 percent of his passes for 2,123 yards and 11 touchdowns.
His best weapon is Guice, who is coming off a sophomore year in which he led the SEC in rushing with 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also led one of the nation's toughest conferences in yards per carry with 7.6 yards per attempt.