Christian Caple’s Keys to the Game
What went right
Not a whole lot. Jeff Tuel got the offense moving a little better in the second half, though it was too little, too late and the Cougars still never put the ball in the end zone. Teondray Caldwell showed his big-play potential with a 63-yard kickoff return, and WSU did clamp down in the red zone a couple of times to force BYU to settle for field goals.
What went wrong
Pretty much everything. On defense, WSU didn’t tackle well, didn’t respond well to BYU’s fast-paced offensive attack and didn’t make plays when it needed to. Quarterback Riley Nelson was a master at converting third downs, and made the kind of plays a senior is supposed to – and the kind WSU simply couldn’t afford to allow. And the Cougars’ offense couldn’t move the ball, either, mustering just 224 yards of total offense.
Backup BYU quarterback Taysom Hill, a freshman from Pocatello who was used in red-zone situations as a wildcat-type runner, tossed an 18-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kaneakua Friel on fourth-and-1 from the WSU 18-yard line early in the second quarter to give BYU a 14-0 lead. There were no WSU defenders within 10 yards of Friel on the play. It was never close after that.
Nelson was the best player on the field. He was efficient and poised, completing 25 of 36 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns. And BYU’s offense committed zero turnovers, a byproduct of Nelson’s steady leadership and quick, accurate decision-making. Tight end Kaneakua Friel also caught six passes for 101 yards and two scores.