It took a half of play for BYU to warm up, but the No. 19 Cougars successfully retained the Old Wagon Wheel with a 38-26 victory over Utah State on Thursday night.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
BYU’s Jaren Hall led a second-half resurgence
For one half, Utah State was able to contain BYU junior quarterback Jaren Hall and the Cougar offense.
Hall went into the locker room at halftime with a rather mundane stat line — 7 of 12 for 128 yards and one touchdown, with 65 of the yards and the score coming on BYU’s first two plays.
Worse yet, the Cougars had minus-21 yards rushing through two quarters.
Hall, though, put the BYU offense in control in the second half, as the Cougars scored touchdowns on three of their first four possessions after the break, turning the momentum in the game.
While the Cougars had three drives in which they drove deep into USU territory in the second half and didn’t score, it was more than enough to win.
Hall completed 17 of 27 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns for the game.
BYU finally got its running game in the second half and finished with 117 yards on the ground.
Chris Brooks had 90 rushing yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, while Miles Davis had 39 yards on the ground — though it was odd he had just one carry in the first half.
Utah State showed heart, especially with a new quarterback
The Aggies had been outscored 124-31 in their previous three games — all losses — but Utah State made this matchup much more competitive for a good portion of the night.
USU did so with a new quarterback: Cooper Legas started in place of Logan Bonner, who missed the game with a reported leg injury.
Legas showed some good things that should make Aggie fans hopeful despite a four-game losing streak.
The junior quarterback completed 19 of 31 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns, though he also threw two interceptions, one of them a pick-six.
He also brought balance to the team’s rushing attack, finishing with 57 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
With Legas in charge, the Aggies had nearly as many total offensive yards as BYU — 397 to 392. USU finished with 204 rushing yards.
The Utah State defense also had some positives, too, before wearing down in the second half.
The Aggies finished with five tackles for loss — including two sacks — and allowed BYU to convert just 4 of 12 third-down attempts.
That’s something to build on as USU continues Mountain West Conference play next week against Air Force.
BYU still has a major problem with slow starts
The first half stats were incredibly lopsided in favor of the Aggies, making it a wonder how BYU had the game tied 17-all at halftime.
Utah State had a 21:21 to 8:39 edge in time of possession at the break, and the Aggies also had 246 yards of total offense to 107 for the Cougars.
While it didn’t cost BYU the win Thursday night, that kind of a slow start is likely to doom the Cougars in their upcoming matchups with Notre Dame and Arkansas.
BYU eventually got its running game going and started to slow the USU rushing attack in the second half, but the Aggies had the clear edge in the run game in the first half, with 147 rushing yards at halftime.
Over its past three games, BYU has been outrushed by an average of 122.3 yards to 18 in the first half — including a loss at Oregon and a win over Wyoming.