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Cougars stopped the bleeding with win over Boise State, but are there still concerns?

An explosive offense and improved defense gives optimism for final two games vs. Utah Tech, Stanford

SHARE Cougars stopped the bleeding with win over Boise State, but are there still concerns?
BYU coach Kalani Sitake talks with his players after a Boise State touchdown Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Boise, Idaho.

BYU coach Kalani Sitake talks with his players after a Boise State touchdown Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Boise, Idaho. BYU snapped a four-game losing streak, but are there still things to correct?

Steve Conner, Associated Press

This article was first published in the Cougar Insiders newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Tuesday night.

In BYU’s season-opening win over Idaho State, the Cougars caused plenty of disruption of ISU’s basketball team, forcing turnovers and displaying defensive pressure, but there was a lot of chaos on coach Mark Pope’s own team. The Cougars defeated Idaho State on a last-second shot by junior guard Spencer Johnson. BYU, now 1-0, plays No. 19 San Diego State on the West Coast on Friday.

Cougar Insiders predictions

Question of the week: Late this season with the luxury of a bye week, how close is BYU to fixing some of its issues witnessed in a four-game losing streak after a win at Boise State?

Jay Drew: With the exception of a couple of turnovers, BYU made a marked improvement on both sides of the ball, and also on special teams, in its 31-28 win over Boise State last Saturday. The performance showed that the defensive changes made by head coach Kalani Sitake, and some fine-tuning on offense by offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick and his staff, are working. It was one of BYU’s most complete performances of the season.

Have the Cougars finally arrived? Hardly. But this was a big step in the right direction — particularly on defense as BYU got its first sack since the Utah State game, mostly shut down Boise State’s rushing attack, and came up big in the fourth quarter after Puka Nacua’s gargantuan catch.

The bye week — a couple of weeks too late, really — should help BYU heal up, but I’m hearing some of the injuries are serious and could keep guys out until at least the bowl game. Still, the Cougars should roll past Utah Tech, and then the regular season-ending contest at Stanford will be a good gauge for how far BYU has come since the October collapse.

Dick Harmon: I had BYU losing to Boise State back in August because it was a road game at the end of nine straight weeks of playing ball with expected injuries mounting, I predicted the same results before kickoff. 

What changed? Energy and effort. 

It had to be that because BYU’s defense played without starting linebackers Payton Wilgar and Max Tooley and safety Malik Moore. This team found a way to rise up and it was impressive.

One must credit Kalani Sitake for his personal focus on the defense because Boise State came in on a roll with impressive pass and run numbers. Defensively, BSU was either a paper tiger or BYU’s offense simply exploded for nearly 600 yards, scoring on every possession in the second half. A key many have heard of but fail to understand is QB Jaren Hall has not been healthy since the Utah State game. He didn’t have the zip, the control or the confidence. Once he began running as he did against BSU, it opened up everything. Nice to have Hall healthy. Wonder what a healthy Hall could have done against Notre Dame, Liberty and East Carolina.

Cougar tales

BYU’s 31-28 win at Boise State killed a lot of ugly vibes hanging around BYU’s football program including a four-game losing streak. It also highlighted career performances by Nacua, Hall and Hinckley Ropati. Here’s our coverage:

  • New hero emerges vs. Broncos (Jay Drew)
  • Why BSU meant everything to this BYU defender (Jay Drew)
  • How Sitake cooked up early Thanksgiving (Dave McCann)
  • Where does Nacua’s TD catch rank? (Jay Drew)
  • BYU’s upset came out of the blue (Jay Drew)
  • BYU shows fight in beating Broncos (Dick Harmon)

In a very disturbing women’s volleyball development this week, Pacific decided to forfeit the match with BYU in Provo citing unfounded allegations from a Duke volleyball player back in August. Here is the reaction from BYU and WCC headquarters.

From the archives

From the Twitterverse

Extra points


Comments from Deseret News readers:

This was no upset. Boise State is the caliber of Utah and it was easy knowing the Cougs would win.

No team in Utah can equal BYU in victories the past three years or can defeat three conference champions. NFL production from former Cougar players is one of many reasons they are the top football program in the state.

Cougar fans have something to hang their hats on while rascal Ute fans cling to sarcasms. It is what it is!

Go Cougs!!! You are the light on the mountain.

— Worf

I had a very low expectation for a good season of BYU basketball this year given that Pope & Company didn’t recruit any good bigs and chose to play small ball like last year. The top teams in the country don’t play small ball for quite obvious reasons, yet despite last year’s fifth-place conference finish ... here we go again! Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, San Francisco, and all the rest are probably laughing and licking their chops to play the Cougars.

Idaho State is ranked ninth preseason (of the 10 Big Sky teams) in their conference. No offense Bengals, but BYU should have run away with this home game! They didn’t and were lucky to salvage a win.

BYU’s 23 turnovers in the game were atrocious. Sloppy, sloppy play (even for a first game). Shooting 3 of 16 3-pointers (18.75%) was atrocious. Shooting 22 of 59 field goals (37.29%) was atrocious given the number of close-in (3 feet or less) shots BYU missed.

It used to be fun watching the Cougars play. Last night was hard to watch.

— Dazzle

Up next

Nov. 11 | 11 a.m. | Cross-country | NCAA Regional | @Albuquerque, New Mexico

Nov. 11 | 6 p.m. | Soccer | vs. UVU | @Provo

Nov. 11 | 7:30 p.m. | Men’s basketball | vs. San Diego State | @San Diego, California

Nov. 12 | 2 p.m. | Women’s basketball | vs. Montana State | @Provo

Nov. 12 | 3 p.m. | Women’s basketball | vs. Oklahoma | @Provo