BYU looked more like the successful teams of old on Saturday night as the Cougars fought off UNLV 31-21.
Unlike last week where the Cougars just couldn't make the big play, BYU found a way to win behind a fourth-string QB and with an injury-plagued backfield. The defense, while burned a bit too often, also made several big plays to come out of Vegas with the victory.
Here are BYU's grades in their win over UNLV:
Squally Canada had the game of his career as he ran wild over the Rebels defense for 213 yards, including a big 54-yard rush that led to him rushing it in from two yards out right after. The offensive line also deserves plenty of credit as they opened up holes for Canada and Austin Kafentzis, who picked up a touchdown out of the Wildcat as well.
Joe Critchlow's first career start went well, considering that he's a freshman and was the fourth-string QB coming into the season. While his numbers weren't massive with 160 yards passing and one touchdown, he threw a fantastic touchdown pass to Aleva Hifo and made no interceptions. You can't ask for much more from someone who was not expected to play in 2017. Besides, BYU didn't need to depend on Critchlow's arm with Canada, Kafentzis and the offensive line getting the job done.
It was a solid performance from an offense that has floundered for much of the season. Here's hoping this leads to better things for the rest of the season and for seasons to come.
The defense made some monster plays in this game that took points off the board for UNLV. Corbin Kaufusi made a big sack that led to a missed field goal. Zayne Anderson made an interception in the end zone which ended a UNLV drive in the red zone. And Fred Warner made a pick to seal the deal at the end of the game.
But it wasn't exactly a flawless performance. The Cougars couldn't stop a Lexington Thomas fueled touchdown drive. They also gave up way too many big passing plays, including a fourth-and-11 conversion that led to a UNLV touchdown and a 50-yard completion from Johnny Stanton to Drew Tejchman to name a couple.
Ultimately, the defense made enough big plays to win the game, and that is what matters in the end.
Special teams let UNLV back into the game as Kaufusi picked up a costly holding penalty on a field goal attempt that negated a 34-yard make and turned it into a 44-yard miss. The Rebels rode that momentum and went on a touchdown drive to cut BYU's lead to seven when they could have gone up 17.
Otherwise it was a good night for special teams. All three of Jonny Linehan's punts were downed inside the 20, including a nice 52-yard kick. BYU's special teams defense did a solid job once again holding the Rebels to just 16.0 yards per kickoff return. But that big holding penalty was costly enough to take the grade down a bit.
Ty Detmer has taken a lot of flack this season, and there's been plenty to question about his decisions over the course of 2017. That said, Detmer and the offensive staff put together a solid game plan that centered around the fourth-string QB and a backfield decimated by injury. You have to give credit where it is due, and Detmer did a great job given the circumstances headed into this game.
Many fans have asked if BYU has anything left to play for now that they've been eliminated from the postseason. Kalani Sitake has his Cougars still fighting and got the win Friday night.
You wouldn't be able to tell that BYU was having its worst season in about half a century by the way the Cougars played tonight, which is a big win in and of itself. While not flawless by any means, this was perhaps the most complete game BYU has played in 2017. Here's hoping that the Cougars can build on this momentum and keep moving forward over the last couple games of the season.