Spiff’s Spots of Observation – Utah State
Scotten H. Whaley
Loyal. Strong. True.
EAGLE MOUNTAIN, Utah – The view from the HD home projection screen, in the comfortable Cougar Corner den, showed a cold and, at times, snowy field of play. Fans were bundled and wrapped in blankets in what looked like a futile attempt to stay warm. It was then that I knew I made the correct decision to watch the game from home instead of braving the elements.
Led by senior wide receiver Mitch Mathews (6 catches, 158 yards, 2 Touchdowns), the BYU Cougars closed out the regular season in style. They defeated the Utah State Aggies 51-28. It was one of the more complete games of the season. And one in which the Cougars not only answered the initial emotional storm of playing in Logan but also responded when it looked like all the momentum was on the Aggie sideline.
With three minutes remaining in the first half, Utah State scored on a 24-yard touchdown pass to take a 21-10 lead. BYU had gone three-and-out on its two previous possessions, while the Aggies had scored on their two. The Cougars needed an immediate response. And they got one. Mathews lined up outside with fellow senior Devon Blackmon to his inside. The two receivers ran deep routes and the Utah State safety chose to remain with Blackmon. BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum hit Mathews instead, who then streaked 72-yards for a much needed score.
Then, with just seconds remaining in the half, Aggie quarterback Chuckie Keeton inexplicably fumbled the ball backwards at his own 40-yard line. Cougar defensive lineman Tomasi Laulile scooped up the ball, broke a tackle and sprinted 37-yards, as time expired, to the end zone.
BYU found itself ahead 24-21 with all the momentum. Former Utah State defensive lineman Merlin Olsen, whose name adorns the field of Maverik Stadium, was likely rolling in his grave at the Aggies’ misfortune. Although he probably appreciated the effort and joy of Laulile in scoring.
The Cougars received the ball to start the second half and quickly drove 62 yards in three plays to extend their lead to ten points. Later in the third quarter, BYU returned a blocked field goal to the 10-yard line and scored one play later. And the rout was on.
Utah State did cut the lead back to ten points, but the Cougars sealed the win with a four-yard touchdown pass to Francis Bernard – his sixth touchdown in the last three games.
BYU will now wait for their bowl game announcement. They either play in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 18 or the Hawai’i Bowl on Dec. 24.
Spiff’s Spots of Statistical Observation
- Bronco Mendenhall improved to 10-9 (.526) against teams wearing a blue helmet. He also improved to 5-5 (.556) against teams whose primary colors were blue and grey.
- BYU won the Passing Efficiency Rating (PER) battle (176.85 to 97.14). The team with the better PER is now 10-2 (.833) this year, including nine straight and is 16-2 (.889) in the last 17 games.
- Mitch Mathews is now fifth all-time in touchdown receptions with 24. He is one behind Phil Odle for fourth place. He is also 12th in all-time receptions with 149. He needs three more to tie Todd Christensen for 11th.
- The Cougars scored 51 points. It was the second week in a row of scoring more than 50. The last time they did so in consecutive weeks was in Bronco’s first season as head coach.
- BYU had the ball for 27:02. It was the sixth straight game they failed to control the majority of possession.
- Utah State ran the ball for 202 yards. That is the most yards allowed by the Cougar defense in a victory since allowing Boise State 214 yards in a 37-20 win back in 2013.
- The Aggies missed all three of their field goal attempts. Opponents have now connected on just 11 of 19 attempts in 2015.
- BYU has thrown 14 touchdowns inside the Blue Zone. They have thrown zero interceptions.
Spiff’s Spots of Evaluation
Quarterbacks: Mangum had his first four-touchdown passing game of his career. He threw for 284 yards as well. My bold prediction this week was a 300-yard and multiple touchdown passing game for Mangum. So he just missed the yardage total. Grade: 2.75LSTs
Running Backs: Algernon Brown and Bernard have been sensational in November. They have scored ten touchdowns and accounted for 435 yards of offense on 75 touches. Against the Aggies it was 107 yards of offense and four touchdowns. Grade: 3 LSTs.
Receivers: All season long, when BYU needed a big catch, Mangum had trust in his receivers to go up and grab it. Mathews made key catches in traffic. Kurt Henderson and Blackmon each made sensational grabs between defenders. Mathews touchdowns at the end of the first half and start of the second changed the dynamic of the game and seemingly broke the will of the Aggies. Grade: 3.25 LSTs
Offensive Line: The stats may not show a great game – three sacks allowed and just 2.4 yards per carry. But when Mangum needed time or Brown and Bernard needed a hole to run through, the offensive line were up to the task. Grade: 2.5 LSTs
Defensive Line: The Aggies did gain over 200 yards rushing, but 136 of those came in the first half. Junior nose tackle Travis Tuiloma was a beast. He had nine tackles. Laulile’s scoop-and-score solidified momentum belonging to BYU. They Grade: 2.5 LSTs
Linebackers: They struggled to contain Keeton – especially early as he gained 77 yards rushing in the first half (finishing with 88 yards gained). But they made the right adjustments and severely limited the Aggie offense’s effectiveness in the second half. Grade: 2.5 LSTs
Defensive Backs: Micha Wadsworth and Kai Nacua combined for 19 tackles. As a group they closed out the game strong. Utah State completed just seven of 22 passes in the third and fourth quarters, three of which were broken up. Grade: 2.5 LSTs
Special Teams: The Cougars blocked two field goal attempts – returning one to the ten-yard line setting up an easy score. This could have been a perfect grade, but they were caught napping on a fake field goal that lead to the Aggies second touchdown. Grade: 3.75 LSTs
Coaching: BYU came ready to play in this rivalry game. They matched the emotional start to the game. Then, when the tide seemed to be turning in the Aggies’ favor, they dialed up the right plays on both sides of the ball to regain and then keep momentum. Grade: 3.25 LSTs
In game “Receiver Efficiency Rating” (RER).
The “RER” is the PER formula applied to each receiver, with the number of targets being the attempts and an interception in which they were targeted being assigned to them as well. Season RER is in parentheses. The same 135 Standard still applies.
- Francis Bernard, RB, 281.80 (206.93)
- Devon Blackmon, WR, 78.80 (128.24)
- Algernon Brown, RB, 581.20 (152.05)
- Kurt Henderson, WR, 175.87 (126.74)
- Mitchell Juergens, WR, 125.20 (135.09)
- Nick Kurtz, WR, 52.30 (151.72)
- Mitch Mathews, WR, 258.72 (141.12)
- Colby Pearson, WR, 158.80 (148.07)
- Remington Peck, TE, 158.80 (120.48)
- WR Group: 165.45 (146.05)
- RB Group: 381.60 (160.25)
Devon Blackmon Touchdown Watch
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
1:30 p.m., ABC
Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015
Sam Boyd Stadium (35,500)
Las Vegas, Nev.
6 p.m., ESPN
Thursday, Dec. 24, 2015
Aloha Stadium (50,000)