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BYU football report card: Cougars picked a good time to return to their explosive offensive roots

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Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Samson Nacua celebrates a touchdown catch.

Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Samson Nacua (45) celebrates a touchdown catch as BYU and Virginia play at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The numbers were head-spinning. 

In a game full of storylines that included former BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall returning to Provo, the Cougars’ explosive offensive game took the spotlight in a wild, back-and-forth 66-49 victory over Virginia on Saturday.

Just how crazy was BYU’s fifth win over a Power Five opponent this season? The two teams combined for 1,322 yards of total offense, and the 115 points scored were the most in a single game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in school history.

Here’s how BYU graded out in the performance:

Offense

Talk about a perfect time to have your best offensive game of the season. BYU went into Saturday night averaging 26 points per game, and its season-high in scoring in a game was a 35-point effort in a win over South Florida. 

The Cougars surpassed that scoring number by halftime. BYU scored 17 or more points in three of the four quarters against Virginia, and that included scoring 21 points each in the first and fourth quarters.

BYU’s 734 yards of total offense was the sixth-highest single-game total in school history.

There were two main stars in that effort — running back Tyler Allgeier and quarterback Jaren Hall — though several players had big nights.

Allgeier set a career-high by rushing for 266 yards and five touchdowns (tying a school record) against the Cavaliers, his second 200-yard rushing game of the season. That included 192 yards in the second half, and TD runs of 49 and 31 yards to go along with three short scores.

Allgeier also averaged 9.2 yards on 29 carries and surpassed 1,000 rushing yards on the season — he’s now at 1,127 on the year.

Hall also had a memorable night, throwing for a career-best 349 yards and three touchdowns to go with 42 rushing yards and one touchdown. On BYU’s first possession, Hall completed 3 of 3 passes for 81 yards and ended the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run. He had a 165.4 QB rating as well and helped the Cougars convert 6 of 11 third downs.

The Nacua brothers were the main beneficiaries of a strong passing game. Samson Nacua’s breakout game as a Cougar came with three receptions for 107 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown catch late in the first half.

Puka Nacua also had 107 receiving yards and a touchdown, with his yards coming on eight receptions.

It was the type of effort BYU needed with an explosive Virginia team coming to Provo, and the Cougars delivered throughout the night.

Grade: A-

Defense

This was an F grade at halftime after BYU allowed Virginia to score touchdowns on six straight possessions, including five in the second quarter alone. That included scores of 40, 70, 49, 30 and 12 yards as the Cavaliers put up 367 of their 588 yards in the second quarter.

The 35 points the Cougars gave up in the second was the most since the 2015 Las Vegas Bowl in, ironically enough, Mendenhall’s final game as BYU’s head coach.

The Cougars made some key second-half adjustments, though, and they worked wonders, as BYU dropped eight and bottled up Virginia, giving up just one scoring drive in the second half.

Several timely plays helped improve the grade for the Cougars, in the form of turnovers. Early in the game, Payton Wilgar, who had a team-high 11 tackles, intercepted Virginia’s Brennan Armstrong, setting up a short field for a touchdown that gave BYU an early 14-0 edge.

Then early in the fourth quarter after BYU regained the lead at 52-49, the Cougars forced turnovers on back-to-back possessions, and by scoring touchdowns off both of them effectively ended the game.

Uriah Leiataua forced a fumble from Virginia’s Wayne Taulapapa, and Leiataua recovered the ball at the Virginia 31. That led to an Allgeier 31-yard TD run. 

Drew Jensen then intercepted Armstrong on Virginia’s next drive after the Cavaliers had moved the ball to midfield. Allgeier’s final touchdown, a 4-yarder, put BYU up 17.

Armstrong, who went into the game as the nation’s leader in passing yards, did throw for 337 yards and four touchdowns while also rushing for 94 yards and two more scores. Keytaon Thompson also had nine receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown for Virginia.

The Cougar defense, however, deserves credit for some timely stops, including forcing punts on two of Virginia’s first three possessions that helped BYU build an early 21-0 lead.  

Grade: C-

Special teams

There’s not much to talk about special-teams wise from this one. The Cougars didn’t need to rely on special teams in the shootout, though they certainly could have been better in that aspect.

Jake Oldroyd went 1-for-2 on field-goal attempts, hitting a 32-yarder in the second quarter while missing a 33-yarder in the third that bounced off the right upright. He was 9 of 9 on point-after attempts, though. At the time, Oldroyd’s third-quarter field goal miss looked like it could be a big deal, with BYU nursing a three-point lead, but the Cougars were able to add three more touchdowns after that to secure the win.

Ryan Rehkow was called on twice to punt, and he averaged 42 yards per punt in a solid if unspectacular effort.

Neither team was able to do anything in the return game.

Grade: C