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Sunday morning quarterback: Stars and stats from BYU's big win over Michigan State

Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Taysom Hill (7) scores against the Michigan State Spartans  in East Lansing, MI on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016. BYU won 31-14.
Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Taysom Hill (7) scores against the Michigan State Spartans in East Lansing, MI on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016. BYU won 31-14.
Jeffrey D. Allred,

The BYU Cougars used a fantastic defensive performance to knock off the Michigan State Spartans 31-14 in East Lansing, Michigan, on Saturday afternoon.

The Cougars had their most complete half of football in a long time, outscoring the Spartans 28-7 in the second half to come home with the win.

Scoring recap

Michigan State got on the board first when Gerald Holmes found the end zone from 8 yards out to cap off a 15-play, 72-yard drive for the 7-0 lead. One of the plays to set up the score came when Tyler O'Connor found Donnie Corley for a 5-yard pass on fourth and 2 to move the chains.

BYU cut the deficit to four on the last play of the first half with a 35-yard field goal from Rhett Almond. Jamaal Williams came through on the drive with a 1-yard run on a fourth and 1.

After a defensive stop, The Cougars took their first lead on the game when Taysom Hill found Colby Pearson for a 4-yard touchdown. Nick Kurtz came up with a big reception tto keep the drive going with an 18-yard catch from Hill.

BYU pushed the lead to 17-7 on a 12-yard touchdown run from Hill. Quin Ficklin came up with a key play on the drive with a tough 2-yard reception on fourth and 1. Squally Canada also made an impact on the possession with three carries for 25 yards, including a 14-yard run.

The Cougars found the end zone for the third straight time when Williams scored from 8 yards out for the 24-7 lead. The defense gave BYU the great field position thanks to a Michael Davis interception that he returned to the Michigan State 32-yard line.

The Spartans got back in the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown run from Damion Terry to make it a 24-14 game. Michigan State came through with a pair of big third-down conversions, including a 13-yard Terry run.

BYU finished off the scoring when Williams scored from 1-yard out for the 31-14 lead. Williams also provided the biggest play on the possession with a 62-yard run.

Three stars

3. Taysom Hill

His stats weren't huge, but Hill made plenty of big plays to help the Cougars to the big road win. He completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 138 yards and a touchdown while carrying the ball eight times for 47 yards and another score.

2. Jamaal Williams

Williams had a big afternoon on the ground with 30 carries for 163 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

1. The defense

The defense had its best game of the season, holding the Spartans to 206 yards of total offense and 14 points. They were especially stout stopping the run limiting Michigan State to just 2.7 yards a carry on 32 attempts.

Analyzing the stats

The Cougars dominated in just about every phase of the game. They outgained the Spartans 398-206, while winning the turnover battle (1-0), time of possession (34:34-25:26) and first downs (24-13).

Jamaal Williams had more than 160 yards rushing in a game for the sixth time in his BYU career, including the fourth time in six games this season. His 866 yards rushing are second in the nation.

The BYU defense held Michigan State to season lows in passing yards, total yards and first downs.

The Cougars 260 yards rushing was the most by a Michigan State opponent in the last 16 games.

The 206 yards of offense by the Spartans was their lowest total since 2011 when they gained less than 200 yards in a 24-3 loss to Nebraska.

Up next

The Cougars return home to face Mississippi State on Friday night.

The Bulldogs come into Provo with a 2-3 record after a 38-14 loss to the Auburn Tigers. Their other two losses are to LSU and South Alabama while their two wins are over Massachusetts and South Carolina.

Nick Fitzgerald leads a very balanced offense that averages 208.6 yards through the air and 196.2 yards on the ground. He has passed for 784 yards and seven touchdowns. He is also the team-leader in rushing with 390 yards.

His favorite targets in the passing game are Fred Ross and Donald Gray. Ross leads the way with 29 receptions for 317 yards and five touchdowns while Gray has managed 18 catches for 258 yards and a score.

Linebacker Richie Brown leads the Bulldog defense with 42 tackles, including two and a half tackles for loss while defensive lineman A.J. Jefferson leads the team with three sacks and nine tackles for loss.

Jay Yeomans is a sports writer for DeseretNews.com. Contact him at jyeomans@deseretdigital.com.