BYU Football earned an overall passing grade against the BearKats in their first game of the season.
Everyone take a deep breath. The initial reaction to the first game of the season for BYU Football is to think that the sky is falling and this will be a long and tough year. However, it was just one game. Would BYU have lost to Tennessee (the original opponent) by three scores or more? Probably. But that is not the reality we are living in.
At the end of the day, BYU is 1-0 and is five wins away from being bowl-eligible, a final goal that I think almost every fan can accept, especially this season.
Every week, I'll be giving out a report card for all three phases of the game, and then an overall final grade. Just as in high school, not every grade is created equal. The offense and defense account for 40% each, while the special teams will account for 20% overall.
Kedon Slovis looked more like the Pitt version of himself than the USC version. Before you start trying to figuratively stone me with negative comments, let's look at the facts: stats. Slovis finished 20-33 for 145 yards and a 97.5 QB rating. To give some perspective, Jaren Hall's worst game last year was against Liberty when he posted a 112.7 rating. In other words, not a great outing.
The running backs started the game pretty flat. Highly praised transfer Aidan Robbins and Deion Smith combined for ten carries and only 21 yards, or 2.1 yards per rush. Late in the third quarter, freshman LJ Martin was given a chance and made the best of it, going 91 yards on 16 carries, or 5.7 yards per rush. That average was even higher before BYU gave him a few late runs meant to just burn the clock.
Chase Roberts and Darius Lassiter each had decent games, going for 42 and 43 yards, respectively, and Mason Fakahua had a nice debut, bringing in four catches on four targets. However, no other receiver or tight end registered more than two catches. In fact, Isaac Rex and Keelan Marion were targeted 11 times but only came down with three catches and 18 yards. Sure, not of all those passes were drops, but a 28% catch rate is concerning.
Finally, the offensive line was not as advertised. Slovis wasn't under a huge amount of pressure, however, he did seem not to have time to get through all of his reads. The running backs struggled to get through big enough running lanes, and there were too many penalties for this experienced and veteran line.
Overall, regardless of how good of a defense Sam Houston State has, they are still a new FBS program and clearly do not have the same resources when it comes to recruiting, brand, coaching, and NIL. This offense should have had no problem putting up 24 points+.
Had you told me that BYU was only going to score 14 points, I would have said that there was a good chance that the Cougars would have lost the game, even against this team. We all hoped that this defense would be better; however, with so many new starters, and a new scheme, it really was a mystery.
The Cougars delivered.
BYU's secondary played extremely well. Jakob Robinson was a lockdown corner bringing down two interceptions, including one in the end zone that, if caught as a touchdown, could have made the game really weird. On the other side of the field, Eddie Heckard also had a nice game, pulling down an interception and registering a pass break up.
The linebackers continued to be the star of the defense. While they didn't make interceptions or register sacks, the linebackers constantly made plays. Ben Bywater and Max Tooley each registered nine tackles and AJ Vongphachanh added another five tackles and QB hurry.
Finally, the defensive line played better than they did last year. While the numbers may not be flashy, they made life really tough on Keegan Shoemaker and their running backs. The Bearkats only rushed for 38 yards on 24 attempts and were tackled for a loss six times. I would have liked to see a bit more pressure, however, compared to last season, it was an improvement.
BYU's defense did something they haven't done in a decade: shutting out an FBS opponent. In fact, in 2022, the Cougars didn't hold a single team below 20 points! I don't care who the opponent is; keeping an opponent from even a field goal attempt in 60 minutes is impressive.
Holy Ryan Rehkow! Averaging 53.2 yards on nine punts, Rehkow literally flipped the field every time he punted. What's even crazier is that the wind or lucky bounces didn't aid these punts, many of the 55+ yard punts were fair caught, which also says a lot about BYU's coverage. Rehkow's performance earned him the Co-Special Teams Player of the Week for the Big XII conference, even with the failed fake punt we won't discuss anymore.
Aside from the spectacular punting, the special teams were nothing to celebrate. Hobbs Nyberg played right, returning five kicks for 22 yards. He didn't make any costly mistakes, but it certainly did look like he could have broken a few of his returns wide open with a better cut or angle.
There were no field goals attempted. The one that was attempted resulted in an offsides penalty that was so obvious, I'm surprised they didn't blow the play dead.
Overall, it was a decent night, but still a lot of questions about the place-kicking