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PROVO -- It took a mid-game change at quarterback to spark the BYU Cougars to a second half comeback. Riley Nelson stepped in for an ineffective Jake Heaps and sparked his teammates to a dramatic, come-from-behind victory and propelled his team into a quarterback controversy.
Here's a look at how the the Cougars performed once all was said and done.
I'm assigning separate scores as it seems like the right thing to do considering the drastic performance gap between Riley Nelson and Heaps.
Jake Heaps: C
Jake had a lot of drops that should have been caught but his grade reflects more a lack of being able to move after getting inside the 20 yard line. Poise is still an issue for Heaps who looks less comfortable than he did in game 1. Enter...
Riley Nelson: A
Running Backs/Full Backs: B
It was no Utah State Aggie backfield, but 200 yards on the ground (thank Riley Nelson) is a nice little stat line. The DiLuiggi fumble almost proved to be a death sentence with only 3:36 left in the game(and would have been were it not for Nelson). Still, the running backs were able to make the 3rd down conversion distances shorter and ultimately contributed to the win.
Wide Receivers/Tight End: B+
Sticky hands, especially at the end, give the receiving core a nice little grade to end the win for BYU. The heave setting up the eventual score was a great emergency scramble and, though it looked like chaos, is exactly what they practice in situations like that. Mathews' sure-handed tip drill snag to win was quite entertaining.
Offensive Line: B+
You didn't hear much from the offensive line tonight which is a good sign that they had a good game. Heaps had time, Riley had running lanes and the 450+ yards of offense can be attributed to open running lanes and an overall offensive production that only comes from a successful O-Line Overall Offense- (B) Still not a full game from the Cougars. Sure 27 points is the most they've scored all season but the reality is, they have not put together a full game. Think about all the points left on the field this season, even tonight with field goals or missed field goals. Too many points left on the field all season long.
Overall Offense: B+
In the end, the offense made the plays when it mattered and won the game. Nelson provided the spark the Cougars needed with his feet and arm and his hard-nosed play seemed to inspire his teammates.
Defensive Line: C
For three guys that go about 300 lbs, they got pushed around a lot by the Utah State offensive line. A lot of that can be passed off on the Aggie line's play. It opened up some biggest holes seen all season in the Y defense.
This was not the best game for the BYU linebacking corp, which continues to be by far the best unit on the team. It's the first game this season Kyle Van Noy has not made a game-changing play, though he nearly did early in the game making a break on a Chuckie Keeton pass. If he had been looking to intercept instead of deflect, it would have gone for a touchdown. Uona Kaveinga showed just how nasty he can be. He delivered some ruthless hits to Keeton and the Utah State running backs. It's the first game this season he outshined BYU's spectacular outside backers.
The lapses on pass plays came during screens that shouldn't have made it past the backfield. So the blame gets passed on to the defensive line and linebackers. The defensive backs kept Utah State's receivers in front of them essentially the entire game. Some of the plays made were simply pluses to Chuckie Keeton's reputation rather than minuses to BYU's.
Overall Defense: B-
People will look at this with Utah State rushing for 284 yards and think it's an incredibly kind grade for the BYU defense. However, there are a few things to consider. Heading in, Utah State averaged 316 yards per game on the ground (good for 5th in the nation) after games against Auburn, Weber State and Colorado State. BYU held the attack to 32 yards below its average. If you take away the first play of the game, the Y held the Aggies to 204 yards rushing on 36 carries - still a lot but more tolerable. Everybody has seen what BYU has done in stifling other solid ground attacks at Ole Miss, at Texas, for half a game against Utah, and for an entire four quarters at Central Florida. It is a solid run defense. This game, really, is proof the Aggie ground game is legit. Turbin didn't touch the ball enough, but Michael Smith and Kerwynn Williams both showed why they are good ball carriers. Chuckie Keeton was elusive and played beyond his years as a true freshman. The rest of the season should prove Utah State isn't nearly as bad as its 1-3 record full of heartbreak. Don't be surprised if the Aggies contend in the weakened WAC.
Special Teams: B-
Justin Sorensen was good from 23 and 29 and very bad from 47. Punting from Riley Stephenson was average after being outstanding last week against Central Florida. Kick and punt return coverages were once again outstanding and remain a major upgrade from last season.