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BYU football report card: Cougars’ latest win wasn’t always pretty, but that’s become standard

Washington State running back Max Borghi, left, tries to get away form BYU defensive back Kaleb Hayes.
Washington State running back Max Borghi, left, tries to get away form BYU defensive back Kaleb Hayes during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021, in Pullman, Wash.
Young Kwak, Associated Press

BYU has made a habit of winning ugly in 2021 — of its six victories, four have come by single digits and often involved stretches where the team failed to land a knockout punch prior to the game’s final minutes.

In their defense, BYU has found ways to deliver a victory by going on a clinching drive in the fourth quarter during each of those six wins.

Both of those characteristics came into play Saturday in BYU’s latest victory, a 21-19 win over Washington State in BYU’s first game ever in Pullman, Washington.

Here’s how BYU graded out in its latest win that makes them bowl eligible:

Offense

Tyler Allgeier was often Option A, B and C for BYU during the win over Washington State.

The sophomore running back had another stellar game, finishing with 191 rushing yards and two touchdowns on a career-high 32 carries, helping BYU establish its physical presence while controlling the clock at critical moments.

Case in point: Allgeier carried the ball seven straight times for 51 yards — including a 9-yard pickup on a third-and-7 — on BYU’s final drive where it ran out the clock after Washington State cut the lead to 21-19 with 4:14 to play.

Allgeier provided BYU’s two second-half touchdowns — on runs of 4 and 2 yards — and his 30-yard run on the team’s opening possession set up the Cougars’ first touchdown.

Quarterback Jaren Hall didn’t have a great passing day — he completed 15 of 20 passes for 143 yards with no interceptions or touchdowns — though he had a few nice runs, including one that picked up a third down where he showed off his shiftiness. Hall’s best passing sequence came when he completed 5 of 6 passes for 46 yards on BYU’s first touchdown drive of the second half that showed a good balance of run and pass.

Still, it would have been nice to see more out of a pass game. At least Neil Pau’u came up big, with six receptions for 70 yards, and Isaac Rex had some nice plays, with three receptions for 46 yards.

BYU’s offense could have made the final quarter less stressful, though, if it could have converted on opportunities in the second quarter.

In that quarter, BYU moved the ball into Washington State territory twice, only to come out with no points. Jake Oldroyd missed a 45-yard field goal attempt, and on the next drive, Dallin Holker was stopped for a 7-yard loss on a sweep play on a fourth-and-1 play at the Washington State 26. It was one of the most head scratching moments of the day.

BYU did iron out some of its first-half offensive issues — the teams entered halftime tied at 7 — and found enough offense to earn the win. Without Allgeier, though, BYU doesn’t win this game.

Grade: B-minus (though this one really teeters on C-plus territory)

Defense

This was a bit of a redemption game for the BYU defense after a pair of tough outings in losses to Boise State and Baylor. It wasn’t perfect, either.

BYU allowed Washington State to run for 93 yards, which was well under the 140 given up to Boise State and 303 to Baylor in back-to-back losses. Max Borghi had 83 of those rushing yards — he also scored all three rushing touchdowns for WSU — but you could see the increased effort to stop the run from BYU.

BYU also forced Washington State to punt on three straight possessions in the first half, at a point when the home team could have assumed control. During the second quarter, Washington State picked up just 49 yards on four possessions.

There was a belief that the game could turn into a shootout, with WSU quarterback Jayden de Laura playing well in the team’s three-game winning streak prior to Saturday. His 15 touchdown passes was tied for 15th nationally heading into the day.

After de Laura completed all five of his pass attempts for 51 yards on Washington State’s opening drive, one that ended with a Borghi touchdown, BYU’s defense kept de Laura out of sync for good portions the remainder of the day, though.

A key moment came when BYU’s Malik Moore intercepted de Laura near the goal line on Washington State’s second possession, after WSU had driven to the BYU 41. That disrupted de Laura’s rhythm and he completed 26 of 37 passes for 257 yards with no touchdowns and the one interception, an overall solid outing for a BYU secondary that included a walk-on, Jacob Boren, making his first career start at safety.

There’s still plenty of things to clean up: Moore dropped two very catchable interceptions on the same drive in the fourth quarter that would have, at least, flipped field position significantly for BYU. And while de Laura rarely burned the visitors, BYU only had one sack — Atunaisa Mahe had a 10-yard sack that disrupted a positive WSU drive — and just two tackles for loss

The biggest play from the defense, of course, came with just over four minutes left, when BYU kept Washington State from scoring a two-point conversion that would have tied the game. On the two-point attempt, WSU receiver Lincoln Victor took the ball on a sweep, but Boren fought through a block attempt and got pressure on Victor, who was looking to pass, and it helped cause Victor to throw a pass that fell harmlessly to the field.

While BYU would do well to shore up some things defensively for its matchup next week against Virginia, it was enough to earn the win against Washington State.

Grade: B

Special Teams

Like has been the case much of the season, BYU’s special teams didn’t play a huge factor in the final determination of the game. There were some positive plays, along with another where BYU missed a chance to score.

Ryan Rehkow boomed a 66-yard punt in the first quarter that helped flipped the field position when Washington State appeared to have the upper hand early in moving the ball. It helped keep Washington State out of seriously challenging to score through the rest of the first half.

Hobbs Nyberg also had a 21-yard punt return in the second quarter to help BYU from starting a drive deep in its own territory.

BYU’s point-after lineup also kept Washington State from capitalizing on a bobbled snap on a Washington State point-after attempt in the third quarter. Instead, WSU threw an incomplete pass on the botched attempt, and it was a point that proved costly in a game where both teams had three touchdown drives.

The most overwhelming special teams play for BYU on Saturday, though, was the miss — more specifically, Oldroyd’s missed 45-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter that could have given BYU its first lead. Oldroyd isn’t as accurate this year as he was during an extraordinary 2020 season, and it leaves a little concern on if BYU can rely on special teams to add points when BYU drives deep into the opponent’s territory in future weeks.

Grade: C