PROVO — The BYU Cougars hosted the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors to LaVell Edwards Stadium Saturday night following two straight blowout losses to Washington and Utah State. The Cougars offense was anemic and had only managed 7 points in the first quarter all year long.
The defense also looked lethargic in those losses giving up 80 combined points in two games.
The Rainbow Warriors have been averaging over 40 points a game and nearly 500 yards of total offense. Long story short, BYU was sitting at 3-3 coming off some rough games and Hawai’i was riding high at 5-1 with all the confidence in the world.
The BYU coaching staff decided to make a change at QB for the game, replacing senior Tanner Mangum with true freshman Zach Wilson and the decision seemed to pay off. Both offense and defense played with a spark we haven’t seen for sometime and the Cougars cruised past the Rainbow Warriors 49-23.
The Cougars taught us a few things in their bounce-back win, most of them good. Here are three lessons from BYU’s win over Hawai’i:
The offense has playmakers
BYU’s offense has been less than impressive this year. In their wins they did just enough to get the job done, relying heavily on the defense and in their losses they have looked pretty terrible at times. On Saturday, that all seemed to change, at least for one night.
New starting quarterback Wilson seemed to give the entire team, on both offense and defense, a spark they’d been missing. I’m not sure we can give Wilson all the credit, but his presence and ability, coinciding with a new look and attitude from the entire team, doesn’t seem like a coincidence.
Wilson had some freshman mistakes, but overall had a fantastic game accounting for 194 yards through the air, along with three touchdowns as well as another 16 yards on the ground and another touchdown with his feet. His rushing yards would have been much higher if it weren’t for some sacks and QB hurries out of bounds. Wilson’s attitude and performance apparently raised the level of play for a lot of players.
Former linebacker Matt Hadley switched over to running back for this game with Squally Canada out due to injury. Hadley became a weapon Saturday night running for 91 yards and a touchdown. Lopini Katoa contributed another 83 yards on the ground and another touchdown as did Riley Burt. The ground game was on point gaining more than 280 rushing yards behind an offensive line that looked inspired and moved the pile at will.
Receivers stepped up their game as well with Aleva Hifo, Gunner Romney and Dallin Holker all scoring TD’s. All in all nine different players caught balls on Saturday night accounting for 194 yards and three touchdowns.
The Cougars scored 49 points on the night, that’s 19 more than their previous season high, which came against FCS McNeese State.
Saturday night showed us that BYU has real talent and playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, but they needed the right spark to get them going and hopefully that’s Wilson and that fire will continue to burn.
Good things happen when you pressure the quarter back
This has come up in multiple “Saturday Morning QB” articles this season and the defense finally did it: good things happen when you pressure the quarter back.
The BYU defense has struggled to apply pressure to any opposing QB this season. Both Washington’s Jake Browning and Utah State’s Jordan Love had all day to throw in their games against BYU. Even in BYU’s wins opposing QB’s had only been sacked a total of six times all season. A lack of pressure gave receivers more time to get open and quarterback’s just bided their time waiting for the secondary to crack. BYU’s defense weren’t running many stunts and the defensive line was getting stood up. All that changed on Saturday night.
The Cougars put pressure on Hawai’i’s quarterback, Cole McDonald, all night. McDonald was boasting some of college football’s best numbers when it came to passing coming into Saturday’s matchup in Provo, but the BYU defense kept he and the rest of the Rainbow Warriors in check and held the passing attack to just 248 yards. May sound like a lot, but this was a team that was throwing for well over 300 yards nearly every game this season. The pressure from the defense threw off McDonald’s rhythm and it lead to great things for BYU.
The Cougars owned the line of scrimmage on the defensive side of the ball allowing just 63 rushing yards and 311 yards of total offense, well below Hawai’i’s average. The BYU defense also recorded four sacks, nearly as many as they have had all season, and had another four tackles for loss.
BYU ran blitz packages all night and got to the quarterback and into the backfield disrupting the opposing offense and controlling the game. We’ll see if the Cougars can continue to do that for the rest of the season.
The schedule is changing
This is a good win for BYU coming off of two really bad wins. It’s great for their confidence and a solid game to head into the bye week with. But while it was a solid W, it’s important to remember that BYU’s schedule has started to drastically change.
Going into Saturday night’s game BYU had played one of the countries toughest schedules and were no doubt exhausted. They played two top ten teams on the road and out of their six games had faced four power five teams. Hawai’i marks the beginning of a much different schedule for BYU. They still have tough games ahead of them against Boise State and Utah, but the rest of the year looks nothing like what they’ve already gone through.
This is not to take away what BYU did in Provo against the Rainbow Warriors, but rather to illustrate the point that while the Cougars look improved, they’re playing a much different schedule in the second half of the season.
BYU will now head into a bye week before facing Northern Illinois on Oct. 27th. NIU has a solid defense that held Utah to just 17 points. The hope is with Wilson as the starter and getting the reps in practice for the next two weeks and the team getting a much deserved week off that the Cougars can come back strong against the Huskies and carry the momentum gained from the Hawai’i game.
John has grown up around movies and annoys friends and family with his movie facts and knowledge. John also has a passion for sports and pretty much anything awesome and it just so happens that these are the three things he writes about.