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BYU football report card: Cougars’ all-business approach results in another lopsided victory

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Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Neil Pau’u (2) hauls in a touchdown over North Alabama Lions defensive back Gerrell Green (28) during a game in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News

On a day when the college football world’s attention was on more high-profile games around the country, No. 8 BYU quietly went about its business in an easy 66-14 victory over FCS North Alabama on Saturday.

The win moved the Cougars to 9-0 on the year just days before the first College Football Playoff rankings are unveiled next Tuesday.  

Offense

Junior quarterback Zach Wilson played just two quarters against the Lions, and he made the most of those limited snaps, leading the Cougars to six first-half touchdowns and a 42-7 lead at the break. Wilson completed 10 of 16 passes for 212 yards and four touchdowns, while adding an impressive 33-yard run after nearly getting sacked for a safety.

BYU showed off its most balanced offensive attack of the season (by the closeness of numbers, anyway), rolling up 555 yards with 277 passing and 278 rushing. The Cougars could have been better on third down — they were 3 of 7 — but still averaged 9.4 yards per play and 10.2 yards on first-down plays, with a pair of 50-yard passes and three 30-yard runs. 

Tyler Allgeier paced the rushing attack, going for 141 yards and two touchdowns on just 13 carries. Dax Milne had another solid — if not quiet — receiving day, with four catches for 101 yards, and four Cougars scored twice — that included Isaac Rex, Kavika Fonua and Miles Davis, in addition to Allgeier. 

The Cougars punted twice in the second half with reserves in the game, but other than that, BYU did what it wanted offensively.

Grade: A

Defense

A look over the stat sheet shows that the BYU defense kept North Alabama largely in check, even if the Cougars bent a bit at times. BYU allowed the Lions to pass for 305 yards, and the visitors had 21 first downs while holding a nearly seven-minute edge in time of possession.

Still, the Cougars rarely let North Alabama get near scoring position: the Lions had just one red-zone visit, scoring a touchdown. BYU forced three North Alabama turnovers, and the Cougars turned each one into a touchdown.

That included a forced fumble from Payton Wilgar that fellow linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi picked up and returned 50 yards to set up a first-and-goal for the BYU offense in the second quarter. Malik Moore had his second career interception, and first of the season, while Micah Harper recovered a fumble late.

Like the offense, the defense was able to play well into its depth chart, and one highlight that led to was junior defensive lineman Earl Tuioti-Mariner making the first two sacks of his career, on back-to-back plays no less, including the latter on a fourth-down play in BYU territory. 

Yes, the Cougars would have looked more impressive if they shut out the FCS opponent. And yes, the BYU defense gave up too many passing yards. For the fourth straight time, though, the Cougars held an opponent to 17 points or less. 

Grade:

Special teams

Jake Oldroyd continues to deliver perfection in the field-goal kicking area, hitting a 53-yarder late in the fourth quarter. He’s now 10-for-10 on the year on field-goal attempts, and this one was just one yard short of his season (and career) best.

In limited work yet again, freshman punter Ryan Rehkow had a solid day, booting two punts for a 53.5-yard average, with a long of 58 while dropping one inside the 20. 

There’s not much to grade on here, though BYU did get called for a pair of penalties on Lions punts during the first half, the only real blemish on an otherwise good day.

Grade: A- 

Overall

It was all about taking care of business and staying healthy for BYU on Saturday, and the Cougars did that. With its next scheduled game not for three games — Dec. 12 against San Diego State — and BYU unsure whether it can find an opponent between now and then, the game against the Lions served as a reminder just to be grateful when football is being played during a pandemic.

While it won’t go down as a classic in the BYU history books, Saturday’s win was another display of efficiency for the Cougars.

Grade: A-