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OXFORD, Miss. - BYU scored 14 fourth quarter points to come from behind and beat Ole Miss 14-13 in SEC country. How did the offense, defense and special teams do? Here are our grades.
Jake Heaps was noticeably inaccurate in the first half unable to hit his receivers and running backs in any consistent fashion. While this inaccuracy was annoying it didn't turn into any first half turnovers, which was important. His first half was unproductive but not terrible. Second half, one might want to just focus on the pick-6 but Heaps' accuracy was much better and the TD toss to Ross Apo was the climax of his 23/37 224 performance. One TD, one pick-6.
Running Backs/Full Backs: B
Found the holes the big guys upfront were finding for them. Don't pay too much attention to the yards per carry average.
Wide Receiver/Tight End: C+
As the quarterback goes, so go the WRs/TEs. A lot of guys catching balls but not a lot of great production. Particularly quiet - Cody Hoffman.
Offensive Line: A-
As if you even noticed that the OL had a fantastic day. I know you forgot about these guys but they had every hole (especially in the second half) opened up for wide running lanes for the RBs.
Overall Offense: C
Not enough production and they had to rely on the defense to bail them out on this one. Anytime a BYU offense doesn't get above 350 yards of total offense, something is amiss.
Defensive line: A-
Romney Fuga stood out, making several plays pushing Ole Miss running backs backward. The Ole Miss line was one of the best in the country - 5 returning starters averaging about 6'6" 330 lbs. Running backs Brandon Bolden, Jeff Scott and Enrique Davis are all very good. Bolden left with an injury, but BYU held the run game to 64 yards on 29 carries. That's 2.2 yards per run. Ole Miss had a hard time pushing through the line. Hebron Fangupo also got into the backfield several times for the Cougars.
This unit lived up to every bit of the hype it received in fall camp. Kyle Van Noy gets the game ball. Forced the fumble in the 4th Quarter, then ended up recovering it in the endzone. On top of that , he was a menace. He delivered hard hits, and showed the ability to close on offensive skill players coming clear from the other side of the field. He looked like a future All-American. Jordan Pendleton also unleashed several vicious hits. Uona Kaveinga seemed to be around the ball constantly. The linebackers looked like a Top 10 unit nationally.
Defensive Backs: B+
Less remarkable than the front seven, but solid. The Cougars only got beat over the top once - a deep ball lobbed by Stoudt into the endzone. The receiver, fortunately for BYU, dropped the football. Corby Eason a few times was caught on camera a few steps behind his receiver. He did close fast, and he also had a crucial pass breakup. Otherwise, BYU played very well against a talented, tall and fast receiving corp.
Overall Defense: A-
The Cougars forced two turnovers, recorded a defensive touchdown, and ultimately saved the day for BYU. That's about as good as you can expect, especially in a difficult SEC environ. Kyle Van Noy looked like an All-American. The secondary was generally solid.
Special Teams: B-
One punt return where a tackle was nearly made at the three made it to midfield. Oops. Also of concern, Justin Sorensen continued his erratic kicking from fall camp, missing a 31-yarder. Good news is, he has length. Next one, no doubt, he will boot through the uprights from 57. Punting also was an adventure at times, including Riley Stephenson's 11-yard boot in the first quarter. It gave Ole Miss the ball at the BYU 28. A fumble ultimately saved the day. Still, kick coverage was generally good on both sides of the ball. That helps raise the grade here. Michael Alisa made a shoe-string tackle that left Ole Miss with the ball on its own 12 on one possession.
Overall Team: B-
The defense earned an A- and was mostly stellar. It is much faster and more athletic than last year's edition, and will clearly win games for BYU this season - as it did against Ole Miss. The BYU offense had its moments, but seemed to struggle with continuity - especially in the first half. It started to catch its stride in the second half, but still had a costly pick-6 and missed on some key plays. Part of the struggles could be chalked up to the new offensive coordinator learning on the job, as well as some first game jitters and Ole Miss' defensive speed and athleticism. The overall grade suffers because of the offense, but this still was a strong win on the road in the SEC. It was a great way to start BYU's era of independence.