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PROVO, Utah (AP) - BYU showed a side of its personality that has been rarely seen this season, overwhelming Idaho State on both sides of the ball during a 56-3 victory Saturday.
Riley Nelson passed for 215 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 62 yards and another score. He completed 11 of 17 passes and led the Cougars to touchdowns on five of their first six possessions.
It was a stark contrast to the anemic offense the team exhibited early in the season in losses to Texas and Utah. BYU (6-2) extended its winning streak to five games and, for an afternoon, resembled the explosive high-scoring Cougar teams from past seasons.
"It's a big turnaround coming off those two hard losses," said Cody Hoffman, who caught a pair of touchdown passes and had five receptions for 71 yards. "Now we're finally building up the momentum and being able to make plays and put points on the board."
BYU got it done through the air and on the ground, passing for 282 yards and running for 290 yards and four touchdowns.
Michael Alisa rushed for 66 yards on eight carries, including a 42-yard run to give the Cougars a 14-3 lead late in the first quarter. JJ Di Luigi added a 12-yard TD run and Nelson scrambled in from 16 yards out to make it 28-3. BYU led 35-3 lead at halftime after Nelson drove the team 99 yards in nine plays and capped the drive with a 7-yard TD pass to Hoffman.
"We came in with high expectations and I think, in most aspects, we met those expectations," Nelson said.
Aggressive play on defense and special teams set the tone early for BYU. The Cougars took a 7-0 lead when Nelson connected with Ross Apo for a 15-yard touchdown pass. BYU started in Bengal territory after Kyle Van Noy blocked an Idaho State punt and returned it to the ISU 15.
It was one highlight among many for Van Noy, who had a pair of sacks and three tackles for losses.
"We're taught to basically be animals by Coach (Bronco) Mendenhall and it starts in practice," Van Noy said. "We're always going to be aggressive no matter what."
Idaho State (2-6) got its only points after converting a pair of fourth downs during a 19-play, 63-yard drive in the first quarter that resulted in a 34-yard field goal by Brendon Garcia.
The Bengals have now lost 16 straight games to FBS opponents. Kevin Yost completed 26 of 46 passes for 174 yards, and Roderick Rumble had 10 catches for 88 yards.
In the third quarter, Nelson and Hoffman hooked up again on an 18-yard TD, and Daniel Sorenson returned an interception 30 yards to extend BYU's lead to 49-3.
Mendenhall praised Nelson's leadership and elusiveness for making things happen on offense.
"Once you get him moving, that seems to be when the bigger plays start to happen," Mendenhall said. "With that, it changes a defense's mindset. You have one more player to defend. Then when he pulls it down to run it, you don't have enough guys. It's very frustrating for an opponent. He has an ability to create that is just inherent to who he is."
Jake Heaps saw his first action since being benched in favor of Nelson last month. He completed 8 of 10 passes for 67 yards and an interception while playing most of the second half.
Mendenhall has not publicly committed to making Nelson the permanent starter, but Nelson said he is fine with proving himself week after week.
"That's who I am. I never take anything for granted," Nelson said. "That's what fuels me. I appreciate coach doing that for me. It keeps me from getting complacent."
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)