Sophomore receiver Mitch Mathews had five receptions for 112 yards to go along with his three touchdowns, all career highs. (Photo by BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)
LOGAN, Utah – Mitch Mathews had three touchdown receptions to lead BYU football to a 31-14 victory against Utah State at Romney Stadium Friday night.
"I thought our offensive balance improved," BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "I thought our execution also improved, and we took the ball away a few more times. So overall, progress and a good win."
Mathews had five receptions for 112 yards to go along with his three touchdowns, all career highs. Taysom Hill went 17 for 31 for a career-high 278 yards and a career-high three touchdown passes.
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On the first play of the game, Kyle Van Noy intercepted Chuckie Keeton and ran it back for a touchdown to give the Cougars an early 7-0 lead. With the ball on the 18-yard line, Van Noy read the play, jumped up at the line of scrimmage and snatched the ball out of the air, beating everyone to the goal line.
After forcing a Hill fumble on the Cougars’ 15-yard line, Utah State scored to tie the game at 7-7 with just under 11 minutes left in the first quarter.
On the following drive, BYU drove methodically down the field to set up a 27-yard field goal by Justin Sorensen to take the lead again at 10-7 with seven minutes left in the opening quarter. On the drive, Hill went four for five including a 28-yard pass to Mathews before the field goal.
Utah State quarterback Keeton was injured in the first quarter of the game on a scramble play. Keaton finished 4 for 10 for 26 yards and a touchdown.
The Cougars extended their lead in the second quarter when Hill found Mathews on a post for a 30-yard touchdown to bring the advantage to 17-7. With the BYU offense facing a third down on its own 26-yard line, Jamaal Williams busted off a 44-yard run to keep the drive alive. On the next play, Hill hit Mathews for the score.
With its next possesion, Utah State drove the ball 45 yards to set up a 47-yard field goal. Daniel Sorensen cut through on the left side and blocked the kick.
Hill found Mathews in the end zone for the second time of the game to increase the BYU lead to 24-7 with just over 12 minutes left in the third quarter. Hill completed passes to three different receivers on the drive, including a 20-yard strike to Cody Hoffman on the right sideline. With the catch, Hoffman has caught a pass in 35-straight games.
Six minutes later, Hill and Mathews hooked up for the third time in the game to push the Cougars' lead to 31-7. The 43-yard bomb culminated a four-play, 71-yard drive in which the offense scored in just over a minute.
Late in the fourth quarter, Utah State added a touchdown pass for the final score of the game, 31-14.
Uani ' Unga led the defensive attack with a career-high 17 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. His 17 tackles tie an official school record of tackles in a game with current linebackers coach Kelly Poppinga who had 17 against TCU in 2007. The NCAA began officially tracking defensive statistics in the year 2000. Robertson Daniel joined him in double-digit stops with a career-high 10. Craig Bills had five tackles and a fumble recovery, and Daniel Sorensen recorded nine tackles and forced a fumble.
The defense held Utah State to 397 yards of total offense, holding the Aggies to an average of 24 yards per drive while forcing four three-and-outs.
BYU returns to action Oct. 12 for its homecoming game against Georgia Tech at 5 p.m. MDT. The game will be broadcast live on ESPNU.