BYU’s home finale ended the way it was expected to, with the Cougars earning a 52-26 victory over FCS opponent Utah Tech.
The Trailblazers, though, kept the game close for perhaps longer than many expected before BYU put the game away in the second half.
Here are three takeaways from the Cougars’ sixth win of the season, which clinched bowl eligibility for them.
It wasn’t always clean, but it was enough
Utah Tech spent a good portion of the first half with a lead before BYU went ahead for good with just over five minutes until halftime. Even then, it was a one-score game midway through the third quarter.
But the Cougars scored 31 straight points at one point to finally put the game away, and they relied on their passing game to fuel their offense until late in the second half, when their rush attack started putting up yards.
BYU finished with 676 yards of total offense, including a career-best 456 passing yards from Jaren Hall. Hall, who went over 3,000 passing yards on the season with Saturday’s effort, accounted for six total touchdowns — five passing and one rushing — to go with one interception.
His main target was Keanu Hill, who had six receptions for 137 yards and a career-high three TD receptions, all in the first half.
Chris Brooks had 102 rushing yards on Senior Day, with all but 1 yard coming in the second half.
The Cougars were sloppy at times — BYU finished with 11 penalties for 132 yards, and that included four penalties for 55 yards on a 55-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter.
BYU also didn’t get too many of its younger players on offense, such as quarterback Jacob Conover, some valuable reps, as the team was trying to find a rhythm deep into the second half.
Still, the effort was enough to earn a win — something not to take for granted in an up-and-down season.
BYU’s defense shut things down after a wobbly first half
The halftime stats for Utah Tech looked scary for the BYU defense: The Trailblazers had 277 yards of total offense in the first two quarters, including 208 passing yards from Victor Gabalis.
Utah Tech had benefited from long passes of 54 yards and 80 yards (a touchdown) when the Cougars’ secondary suffered breakdowns in coverage.
That all led to a 28-20 game, with BYU leading, when the two teams went into the half.
Utah Tech led by six three different times in the first half.
In the second half, though, the Cougars finally put the clamps on a high-scoring Utah Tech offense that helped the Trailblazers enter Provo on a three-game winning streak.
BYU forced Utah Tech to punt on six straight possessions in the second half — that included four three-and-outs — before the Trailblazers scored a late touchdown with the game well in hand.
There are things to fix for sure: Utah Tech had 420 yards of total offense, including 350 yards passing from Gabalis, who finished with three touchdowns and one interception.
The Cougars gave up two 100-yard receivers — Deven Osborne had three catches for 138 yards and a touchdown, while Joey Hobert added 11 receptions for 100 yards and two scores.
BYU also had another game in which it failed to register a sack, and the Cougars struggled getting pressure on the QB for too much of the day.
BYU allowed Utah Tech to convert just 4 of 16 third downs, though, and gave up just 3.8 yards per carry.
After a scary first half, the second half at least gave some hope for BYU’s final two games of the season.
BYU is bowl eligible
It was closer than expected for a good portion of the game, but BYU got to bowl eligibility with its sixth win of the season and second straight.
Getting bowl eligible didn’t seem like a certainty during the program’s four-game losing streak in October.
The extra practices afforded for bowl prep will be beneficial for the Cougars as they prepare to join the Big 12 Conference next season.
BYU will wrap up the regular season with a game at the Pac-12’s Stanford, and going into the day, the Cougars were a slight favorite for that matchup, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.