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BYU football: Grades high across the board following the Cougars' 49-23 romp over Hawaii

Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (11) celebrates the win with teammates and fans as BYU defeats Hawaii at LaVell Edwards Stadium 49-23 in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018.
Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (11) celebrates the win with teammates and fans as BYU defeats Hawaii at LaVell Edwards Stadium 49-23 in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

PROVO — BYU played out of its two-game funk in impressive fashion on Saturday, rolling over visiting Hawaii 49-23 in a game that did well to answer a lot of the concerns after two devastating losses. As could well be imagined, the grades for all three units saw a significant bump as a result.

OFFENSE

The Cougar offense was in sore need of a boost and made some notable changes, with the start of freshman quarterback Zach Wilson far and away standing out among the rest. Wilson came out firing and did well directing the Cougars to 28 points, which included a 23-yard touchdown run by him, along with a 13-yard touchdown pass thrown to fellow true freshman Dallin Holker.

But it certainly wasn't all about Wilson, or even mostly about the young freshman.

The offensive line manhandled a porous Hawaii front, for the most part, busting open holes to the tune of 280 yards rushing. Backups Matt Hadley and Riley Burt showed the best play of their careers, as a result, with Lopini Katoa proving effective throughout.

Wilson only threw for 194 yards on the night, but not much yardage through the air was required with the running attack proving so effective. Perhaps the highlight of the run-game came in the third quarter in a drive that consisted entirely of five runs by Burt, the final one proving to be a 3-yard touchdown that gave the Cougars a 35-10 lead.

Overall the Cougar offense looked better than it has all season, and even though Hawaii is far from a stern test defensively, no one could leave complaining about 49 points and 280 yards rushing.

Grade: A

DEFENSE

Hawaii Warriors quarterback Cole McDonald (13) is sacked by Brigham Young Cougars defensive lineman Khyiris Tonga (95) as BYU and Hawaii play at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018.
Hawaii Warriors quarterback Cole McDonald (13) is sacked by Brigham Young Cougars defensive lineman Khyiris Tonga (95) as BYU and Hawaii play at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

As good as the offense proved in the first half, the Cougar defense perhaps proved even better. Holding a prolific Rainbow Warrior offense to just 116 first-half yards and three points is absolutely something to hang your hat on, with the play of every unit showing well.

Coaches made significant changes on the defense, with defensive lineman Corbin Kaufusi being lined up behind the line all night, and with Corbin's cousin, Isaiah Kaufusi, proving effective starting his first game at outside linebacker. Also providing a boost was the return of Dayan Ghanwoloku at safety, which helped limit Hawaii's passing attack considerably.

Perhaps most notable of the defensive performance was the pass rush, which had been all but absent in recent games. The Cougars were creative and aggressive in most third-down situations, with well-timed and well-executed blitzes and stunts up front leading to sacks and incompletions.

Hawaii did show some good gains in the second half, but the tone was largely set in the first half, forcing the Rainbow Warriors into a hole throughout.

Grade: A-

SPECIAL TEAMS

The special teams play didn't play a big factor in Saturday's outcome, although the Cougars lost little, if anything at all in the special teams battle. An average of 38 yards isn't ideal, but limiting Hawaii to just one punt return yard certainly is.

Grade: B

Overall

The Cougars surpassed just about everyone's expectations and showed new life, which was sorely needed on the heels of consecutive blowout losses to both Washington and Utah State.

The players came out confident and were the aggressors throughout, showing a life and enthusiasm not seen since the Cougars upset Wisconsin almost a full month ago. Schemes were tight and well thought-out, and the execution indicated good leadership and resolve to turn the season around.

Sure, Hawaii isn't the most difficult of tests, but the Cougars can take pride in surpassing just about everyone's expectations while handling a relatively weak opponent as they should at home.

Grade: A-