Complete domination.

That’s the only way to describe the impressive performance by the BYU football team in Monday’s season-opener at Navy, particularly in the first half.

Consider the first half drive chart for the Cougars and the Midshipmen:

  • Navy: punt, punt, punt, punt, turnover on downs, punt, end of the half.
  • BYU: Touchdown, touchdown, interception, touchdown, field goal, touchdown.

BYU built a 31-0 first-half lead, then cruised to the 55-3 victory over Navy in one of the best overall performances under head coach Kalani Sitake.

The statistics also tell the story of the game in stark detail.

The Cougars had nearly 600 total yards of offense while Navy struggled to get to 150. Maybe the biggest surprise was that it was BYU — not the renowned option attack of the Midshipmen — who churned out more than 300 yards on the ground.

It was clear from the opening possessions of the game that the Cougars came in determined to physically dominate the line of scrimmage and there wasn’t much Navy could do to stop them.

BYU’s defense took the field after the opening kickoff and stuffed a trio of Midshipmen runs to force a three-and-out.

When the Cougar offense got the ball, the BYU offensive line overpowered the Navy defensive front, opening up huge holes for Cougar running backs Lopini Katoa and Tyler Allgeier.

BYU marched 74 yards to the end zone on its opening drive, gaining all of the territory on five runs. Allgeier capped the drive with a 34-yard TD run to put the Cougars in front.

That would be the recurring theme for much of the rest of the half as BYU duplicated the results on the next possessions. The Midshipmen couldn’t even gain a yard, while the Cougars needed three plays to go 52 yards and score again, this time on a 39-yard run by Katoa.

Navy had its only real glimmer of hope of staying in the game during the next sequence.

On the first play of the next BYU drive, Cougar quarterback Zach Wilson tried to find receiver Neil Pau’u coming over the middle. Pau’u, however, had gotten his feet tangled with a Midshipman linebacker and stumbled, allowing Navy safety Evan Fochtman to intercept the pass.

The home team sent the offense out with some momentum and the ball at the BYU 33-yard line with a golden opportunity to get something going their way.

The Midshipmen went for the dagger, trying a halfback pass. But the Cougar defense didn’t lose focus and BYU linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi stripped the ball from Navy’s Chance Warren as he tried to pass.

Although the Midshipmen recovered the ball, they lost 15 yards on the play and couldn’t recover, eventually being forced to punt the ball back to BYU.

The Cougars never looked back, getting a 15-yard touchdown on a pass from Wilson to Katoa, a 22-yard field goal by BYU kicker Jake Oldroyd and a 1-yard TD plunge by Katoa right before halftime to sent the Cougars to the locker room with the insurmountable lead.

While Navy was able to do better in the second half, BYU wasn’t going to be stopped. The Cougars added a 45-yard TD pass from Wilson to receiver Gunner Romney, then tacked on a second touchdown run by Allgeier (this one going for 17 yards).

A 34-yard field goal by Oldroyd and a 9-yard scoring run by Jackson McChesney would cap the scoring for the Cougars.

The BYU defense played well the entire game but was kept from getting the shutout when Navy kick Bijan Nichols made a 48-yard field goal late in the third quarter.

Midshipman head coach Ken Niumatalolo told ESPN at halftime that he felt like his team wasn’t ready for the game and took responsibility for that on his own shoulders.

As part of efforts to keep his team healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic, Niumatalolo and the Navy staff elected to not have live contact during fall camp and the Midshipmen appeared to struggle both blocking and tackling during the game.

BYU, on the other hand, appeared completely ready.

During fall camp, Sitake credited the Cougar leadership and maturity for helping BYU thrive during the pandemic shutdowns and be ready to improve during August.

The Cougars now have nearly two weeks to prepare to take on another team that runs the option as BYU will play at Army on Sept. 19 (1:30 p.m., CBS).

Daily Herald sports reporter Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or jlloyd@heraldextra.com. Twitter: @JaredrLloyd. Instagram: @JaredrLloyd.

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