BYU’s start to its 2022 season may have been delayed — the team’s opener at South Florida kicked off two and a half hours later than expected due to lightning in the area — but the Cougars didn’t let that bother them.
Here are three takeaways from the 50-21 win on Saturday:
Fast start sparks the Cougars’ offense
BYU had its way offensively during the first half, scoring on five of its first six possessions, including four touchdowns.
That set the tone for the game, as junior quarterback Jaren Hall looked the part of a seasoned offensive leader — he completed 25 of 32 passes for 261 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
BYU’s offense really got churning on the ground, as the Cougars put up 314 rushing yards — with Chris Brooks (135 yards, one touchdown), Lopini Katoa (55) and Puka Nacua (76) leading the way.
Even with Gunner Romney missing the game and Nacua leaving in the first quarter with an injury, the Cougars were able to spread the ball in the passing game, as 12 different players caught passes.
BYU finished with 575 yards of total offense, including 337 in the first half.
Defense delivers big in first half before softening in the second
While the BYU offense was busy putting up touchdowns to start the game, the Cougar defense was shutting down the South Florida attack in the first half.
BYU prevented the Bulls from entering Cougar territory on their first six drives, and by then BYU was already up 38-0. Of those six drives, three were three-and-outs, and linebacker Max Tooley turned an interception into a 33-yard pick six on another.
The Cougars had given up just 89 yards of total offense late into the first half before a 50-yard pass on a third-down play led to South Florida’s first score just before the break.
The Cougar defense and special teams gave up more big plays in the second half, including a kickoff return for a touchdown to start the third, and South Florida got some things going as the game wore on.
Despite the second-half struggles, though, the Bulls never got closer than 24 points in the second half. The Cougars also held South Florida to converting just 3 of 12 third downs.
What’s happening with the BYU wide receivers?
A big question for BYU coming out of the victory is what’s the future hold for the Cougar wide receiving group.
Questions about health surround their top two wide receivers — Nacua and Romney — so it’s fair to wonder what will happen with the group with ranked opponents Baylor and Oregon on the schedule the next two weeks.
Kody Epps, Chase Roberts and Brayden Cosper — guys on the two deep — had receptions, while Keanu Hill caught a touchdown, and gave the Cougars a look at who’s available beyond Nacua and Romney.
Tight ends Dallin Holker and Isaac Rex also made some plays, so at least for now, there’s optimism the Cougars can thrive with who’s available.