After a tremendous 2020 season in which they went 11-1, the BYU Cougars opened officially what could be considered a new era on Saturday night.

In their 24-16 win over the Arizona Wildcats at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, the Cougars were very good in some areas but, like always and especially after a season opener, they have some things they need to get better at in order to be successful the rest of the season.

Here are the grades from the Cougars’ win.

Offense

This was the area of most intrigue for BYU heading into the season, as it had the task of replacing the second pick in the 2021 NFL draft, quarterback Zach Wilson.

All in all, Jaren Hall was very good in that role on Saturday night. He started out rather shaky, going just 2 of 7 early, but then he definitely settled into a groove as the first half went on.

At halftime, Hall was 10 of 16 for 148 yards with a touchdown. He slowed down in the second half but still finished a solid 18 of 28 for 198 yards with two touchdowns. Important context to that is the fact that he was without receivers Puka and Samson Nacua, and Gunner Romney left early with an injury.

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Hall found an especially good connection with Neil Pau’u, who finished with eight catches for 126 yards with two touchdowns.

In the run game, Tyler Allgeier was also solid with 94 yards on 17 carries with a touchdown, and the offensive line was good.

The Cougars will surely have to get more explosive if they want to have success this season, but that should happen if they can get their top receivers back. For now, it was a good start.

Grade: B

Defense

Look, Arizona’s offense is probably not going to be very good this season, so it should be taken with a little grain of salt that BYU allowed just 16 points. Helping that was also the fact that Arizona missed two field goal attempts.

That being said, the Cougars were successful at getting pressure on Wildcats quarterback Gunner Cruz, and that often came at crucial times. Total stats are one thing, but making plays when they need to be made is another, and the BYU defense did that for the most part.

That being said, the Cougars ultimately gave up 426 yards of offense, including 345 passing yards. There were coverage issues and a bunch of missed tackles. Additionally, Arizona went 3 for 3 on fourth down.

In essence, BYU bended at times but didn’t break, although the group will have to be better moving forward, especially after a second half in which it surrendered 254 yards of offense.

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Grade: C+

Special teams

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In a game that saw special teams be a pretty significant factor, The Cougars were good for the most part.

Most notably, Justen Smith filled in for star Jake Oldroyd and made an important 40-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. On punts, Ryan Rehkow averaged 48 yards on five boots. On returns, BYU didn’t allow much in the punt variety but did on kickoffs.

An Arizona punt that went to the 1 yard-line is a play that changed the complexion of the contest in the second half before the Cougars closed things out.

Grade: A-

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