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BYU-USU football grades: Strong finish mitigates poor Cougar start

By Staff | Sep 30, 2022

Harold Mitchell, Special to the Herald

BYU quarterback Jaren Hall eludes a tackler during the 38-26 Cougar win over Utah State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022.

BYU football beat writer Jared Lloyd gives his grades for the Cougar position units and coaches for Thursday’s game against Utah State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo:

Quarterback

Jaren Hall dealt with more pressure and wasn’t as crisp as he has been in other games. Still, he finished with decent passing numbers (17-of-27, 273 yards, three TDs) and more importantly avoided any turnovers. His cool demeanor was perhaps his biggest contribution when the Cougars weren’t playing well early.

Grade: A-

Running back

The Cougar run game had nowhere to go in the first half (minus-21 yards on the ground) but improved after the break. Led by a resurgent Chris Brooks (11 carries, 90 yards, one TD), BYU ended up with 117 yards on the ground. This group also made some key blocks in pass protection to allow Jaren Hall to extend plays.

Grade: B-

Wide receivers/tight ends

While he certainly wasn’t at his best, it was a big boost for the Cougars to get senior Gunner Romney back on the field. He had a good showing (four catches, 51 yards) but would love to have another shot at the touchdown grab that slipped away. Kody Epps also made a lot of big plays (five catches, 86 yards, one TD).

Grade: B+

Offensive line

With the number of veterans on this unit, there has to be a sense of failure to reach their own standard of success. Sure, BYU has played opponents who have put a lot of effort into stopping the run but this group should believe it can overcome that and open up holes. It also certainly wants to do better in pass protection for Jaren Hall than it did on Thursday. There is plenty of room for improvement.

Grade: C

Defensive line

Nowhere was the difference between the first half and the second half as poignant as it was for the BYU defensive line, which surrendered 147 yards on the ground in the first two quarters and just 59 the rest of the way. That’s still too many yards, but at least there was improvement. But there were also too many penalties and errors.

Grade: C+

Linebackers

A combination of undisciplined mistakes and solid successes make it tougher to grade this group. Max Tooley and Ben Bywater had interceptions (Tooley took his 34 yards for a touchdown) but Tooley also was penalized for throwing a shoe. It’s clear that this unit still hasn’t come close to playing its best football yet.

Grade: C

Secondary

Jakob Robinson had a couple of great pass breakups, while Micah Harper forced a key fumble in the first half when Utah State was driving. The passing yards allowed was pretty good (188 yards on 19-of-32 passing) but the defensive backfield did give up some big third down conversions.

Grade: B-

Special teams

This was another group that endured ups and downs but there were too many negatives. Hobbs Nyberg had a couple of nice kickoff returns and a decent punt return, but the Cougars surrendered a big punt return as well. Jake Oldroyd made on field goal but missed two others, while Ryan Rehkow was solid instead of spectacular in the punt game.

Grade: C-

Coaching

Utah State certainly had BYU’s number on both sides of the ball in the coaching chess match, getting a great start and keeping the pressure on. But the Cougars made adjustments and got the plays it needed to win, which was the end goal. Still, another slow start could dig the hole too deep against teams like Notre Dame and Arkansas (as BYU saw at Oregon), so the coaching has to find better ways to adjust.

Grade: C+

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