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BYU football report card: Cougars were vastly superior, sometimes sloppy in beating Idaho State

SHARE BYU football report card: Cougars were vastly superior, sometimes sloppy in beating Idaho State
Brigham Young Cougars defensive back Matthew Criddle (17) is able to come up with an interception against Idaho State.

Brigham Young Cougars defensive back Matthew Criddle (17) is able to come up with an interception on Idaho State Bengals wide receiver Shane Dailey Jr. (4) as the BYU Cougars and Idaho State Bengals play at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

In a game in which No. 15 BYU was a heavy favorite, the Cougars looked the part for the overwhelming majority of the contest, a 59-14 victory over Idaho State on Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

Still, the win left some things to clean up as BYU goes into a bye week, followed by its final two games of the regular season. 

Here’s how the Cougars graded in winning their 2021 home finale:


The Cougars’ first-team offense earned itself an A for the collective first-half effort, even with a fumble. It was BYU’s second-half offense — and a pair of turnovers, one in each half — that dropped this grade down, though.

Jaren Hall was excellent again, completing 20 of 25 passes for 298 yards and a career-best four touchdown throws in one half of work, finishing with a QB rating of 232.9.

He also rushed for 13 yards and a touchdown, just the fourth time in school history a BYU quarterback had at least four passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown in the same game, and the first since Christian Stewart did so against Savannah State in 2014. 

Puka Nacua had another 100-yard game, picking up 120 yards and a touchdown on six receptions. It was his second straight 100-yard receiving game and fourth of the year for the Cougars’ leading wide receiver.

BYU, which had 560 yards of total offense, didn’t need the services of running back Tyler Allgeier for long in this game, a good thing after the bruising back has carried the offense in recent weeks and could use some rest.

Even so, Allgeier finished with 35 rushing yards and a touchdown to go with a 46-yard reception in limited touches.

Behind Hall and the first-teamers, BYU scored touchdowns on six of its first seven possessions, and with the Cougars leading 42-7 at the break, it opened up the opportunity to give some of the younger players on the team some reps.

In the second half, though, the Cougars were relatively sloppy offensively, scoring 10 points on seven possessions (not counting kneeling out the clock on a final possession).

BYU left some points on the field in the second, particularly after Matthew Criddle intercepted an Idaho State pass inside the Bengal 25, but the Cougars turned the ball over on downs. 

In the final 30 minutes, the Cougars were just 2 of 6 on third down after going 6 of 7 in the first half. BYU had its only missed red-zone scoring opportunity in the second half (the Cougars were 7 of 8 for the game), and while guys like running backs Jackson McChesney (43 yards on 10 carries) and Hinckley Ropati (15 yards on four carries) got a few carries, the offense lost its efficiency in the second half.

One youngster who had a huge game, though, was freshman wide receiver Keanu Hill, who finished with four receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown. He added a second score in the fourth quarter when he blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone.

Grade: B


Right now, the Cougars are trying to earn all the style points they can, as they own a high national ranking — No. 15 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings — but lack a high-profile opponent until they face USC on Nov. 27.

With BYU’s defense allowing just two scores, that helps build some style points in a game the Cougars were expected to dominate.

Both of Idaho State’s touchdowns came on short drives — one after a BYU fumble in the second quarter and another in the third after the Cougar special teams gave up a long kickoff return.

The Bengals totaled just 24 yards on their two touchdown drives combined, a tough spot for the Cougar defense, though one could argue they could have done better to limit touchdowns to field-goal attempts.

Still, BYU held Idaho State to 238 yards of total offense, and 82 of those came on the Bengals’ final drive that ended with a fourth-down stop at the Cougar 5.

It was a solid bounce-back game for the BYU defense after the Cougars struggled against an explosive Virginia team last week.

BYU held Idaho State to a three-and-out on seven of its 16 possessions, and the Bengals were just 1 of 12 on third downs.

The Cougars also forced a pair of turnovers. Early in the game, defensive lineman Pepe Tanuvasa intercepted Mikey Zele at the ISU 22 and returned it to the Bengals 6, setting up a short touchdown drive.

In the third, Criddle intercepted Sagan Gronauer at the ISU 23, tipping the ball before wrestling it away from the intended receiver for his first career interception.

Those two were among the top performers for the Cougars defensively. Tanuvasa added three tackles and a sack, while Criddle finished with five tackles and added a pass breakup. Also, sophomore linebacker Jackson Kaufusi had a career-high six tackles to lead BYU.

Grade: B+

Special teams

First, the good: for the first time since 2004, BYU scored a touchdown off a blocked punt. Thanks to Hill, that long-awaited score came with 4:18 left in the game.

Then, the bad: the Cougars allowed Benjamin Omabeyu to return a second-half kickoff 89 yards, and that set up a 7-yard Idaho State touchdown on the next play.

Those two plays highlighted the special teams efforts in the game, though there were some other positives.

Hobbs Nyberg had 81 yards on six punt returns, averaging 14 yards per return and helping set up BYU with solid field position a few times. He’s been a reliable, if unspectacular, returner all year.

Ryan Rehkow also had another solid day punting. All three of his punts came in the second half, and he pinned all three inside the Idaho State 20.

He had a long of 64 yards, averaged 52 yards per punt and his final one — a 48-yarder downed at the ISU 3 — set up the Bengals in poor field position and helped set up Hill’s blocked punt for a touchdown.

Grade: C+