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PROVO, Utah -- While the temperature was below freezing and snow covered the stands, the BYU football team did not disappoint its fans or senior players on senior night as they beat Idaho, 52-13.
While there is not a specific play that added a bunch of momentum or ultimately affected the outcome of the game, the first half was played cleanly and quickly. At halftime, the score was 42-7 and considered over by many.
There were many performances and plays which made the half one the team will remember for a long time.
BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said the team was excited to play after a bye week and was happy the seniors could be honored during a winning performance.
“I think they were anxious to play, they were resilient through the week of practice,” Mendenhall said. “It's nice to see the seniors come out of the tunnel and get honored in their last home game. It was a great way for us to finish up at home."
Senior quarterback Riley Nelson played one of his cleanest games in his last appearance at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Nelson finished the night 19 of 31 for 236 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. He also rushed for 49 yards.
Nelson acknowledged the team’s performance in the first half was solid and that the offense’s goal for the game was accomplished quickly.
“I was pleased with our performance in the first half, there are still some things to work on, but overall it was really good,” Nelson said. “It kind of takes the other team's wind away when you can score on them right off the bat, so that was our plan going in.”
Once again, Jamaal Williams had a stellar game while only playing during the first half. Williams rushed for 104 yards and two touchdowns. Williams has rushed for 100-yards in back-to-back games and is the first Cougar since Harvey Unga to accomplish that.
Cody Hoffman tied his career best with three touchdown receptions and 108 yards receiving.
Nelson and Hoffman have had chemistry throughout the season and this game it seemed improved from earlier this season. Hoffman credited the chemistry to working hard on the little things during practice.
“On a continuous basis we are getting better,” Hoffman said. “We work on the little things in practice and it is becoming evident in every game.”
Nelson attributes their success to Hoffman because he creates the openings needed for a successful pass.
“His route running has improved,” Nelson said. “He has always had good hands and has been physical. The separation he has created this season is definitely from his hard work and it shows on the field. It is fun for me to throw him the ball.”
While the offense played one of it’s cleaner games this season, the defense also had a fantastic game. The defense created four turnovers — two fumbles and two interceptions.
During the first quarter, Spencer Hadley scooped up a fumble on the Idaho 2-yard line and scored a touchdown for the Cougars, the first time the defense has scored a touchdown this season.
Some other defensive highlights included seniors Robbie Buckner making an interception and Simote Vea recovering a fumble.
With the Cougars comfortably ahead at the beginning of the second half, many younger players were able to play.
Senior Brandon Ogletree enjoyed watching some of the younger players perform and believes the program will continue to do well in the future.
“We did our job and got out of the game during the third quarter,” Ogletree said. “It was fun to watch and there wasn’t a big change. The future is bright.”
Mendenhall also enjoyed getting to watch some younger players perform well and see some stars in the making.
“I liked Skyler Ridley tonight,” Mendenhall said. “It seems like he's catching everything and he blocked well. I was very impressed with him and thought he did a nice job. Maybe Uani Unga, too. He's done a nice job all year of backing up Uona Kaveinga, so I would say he was another player who had a good game.”
By the end of the game, there were few fans left in the stands at LaVell Edwards Stadium, but the seniors will always remember those fans and are grateful for them.
“We appreciate all the support we can get,” Braden Brown said. “For the fans that stuck around to the very end, we really appreciate them. It helps us as a football team and we are grateful for all the support we get.”
Ashley Anderson is a senior at BYU majoring in public relations with the hope of one day having a career in sports public relations.