JJ Di Luigi led the Cougars for the second week in a row on the ground, rushing for his first-ever 100-yard rushing game. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
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Game notes and quotes from BYU's 23-17 season-opening win at Air Force on Saturday, Sept. 11, at Falcon Stadium at the United State Air Force Academy in Colorado.
BYU rushed for 221 yards on 34 carries. BYU rushed for 139 yards in the first quarter alone after gaining 140 yards total on the ground last week against Washington.
Using Your Legs
On BYU’s opening drive, BYU quarterback Riley Nelson ran five times for 47 yards, including a key conversion on fourth-and-three, as part of a 12-play, 74-yard drive. The drive resulted in a one-yard touchdown run by junior running back JJ Di Luigi on the option left. The Cougars ran nine times while passing thrice on the drive.
Run, Run, Run
JJ Di Luigi led the Cougars for the second week in a row on the ground, rushing for his first-ever 100-yard rushing game. Di Luigi ran for a career-high 103 yards on seven carries. The junior had 76 yards and a touchdown in the first half alone. He also set a new career-long rush of 43 yards in the first quarter.
Quarterback Riley Nelson also set new career highs rushing, running for 95 yards on 20 rushes with a long of 24 yards and a touchdown.
Senior and team captain Andrew Rich led BYU in tackles for the second consecutive game, finishing with a career-high 14 tackles against the Falcons after tallying nine tackles against Washington. Rich also had two tackles for loss versus Air Force, a career high, along with a forced fumble.
Cougar defenders Vic So'oto (11), Shane Hunter (10), Jordan Richardson (9), Austen Jorgensen (7), Jameson Frazier (6) and Zac Stout (3) also notched new career-high tackle marks.
Up and Coming
Freshman wide receiver Cody Hoffman improved on his career opener last week, catching three passes for 37 yards to lead all Cougar receivers. Hoffman had one catch for 14 yards last week.
Shane Hunter intercepted a Tim Jefferson pass in the middle of the third quarter for the first interception of his career. Hunter’s pick was also the first turnover caused by the BYU defense this season.
BYU did not allow a sack against Air Force, the second-straight game the Cougars have not allowed a sack.
BYU passed for less than 100 yards for the first time since totaling 43 passing yards in a 3-0 loss to Utah in 2003. The Cougars finished with 88 passing yards on the day. Air Force also held the Cougars without a touchdown pass, becoming the first team to do so since Utah in 2008.
BYU has a tradition of selecting a player before each game to run the team flag onto the field, as well as a former Cougar to carry out the alumni flag. Each member of the team has signed the team flag, while former BYU players have signed the alumni flag. Their signatures reflect their commitment to uphold the tradition, spirit and honor of the BYU football program and to be a flag bearer of the University.
Today's alumni flag bearer was Rob Morris (1993, 1997-99). Morris was an All-American and All-WAC linebacker who led BYU in tackles for two seasons, finishing his career with 268 tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks. He was drafted in the first round, 28th pick overall by the Indianapolis Colts, eventually starting for the Colts in Super Bowl XLI where he won a Super Bowl ring.
The team flag was carried out by offensive tackle Nick Alletto. A senior from Parker, Colo., Alletto is a three-year letterwinner and three-time Academic All-MWC performer who started 11 game at right tackle last season and is one of BYU's six main offensive lineman this season playing both guard and tackle.
BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall:
On your defensive preparation:
I was pretty confident in our preparation from what I saw. Air Force ran a lot less triple option and a lot more just what we call lead option and clearly the matchups of their backs and receivers against our perimeter and against our safeties. A lot of success they were having in the passing and perimeter game was really secondary support. It wasn’t until later in the game that they really started to run the ball in the middle.
On Air Force’s defense:
"I was impressed with their defense. They played well, they had a good plan and they executed soundly. They deserved to win the game. They just played assignment football and played hard. Again, their execution overall in the football game today, in week two of the season, was superior to ours."
What positives can you take from this:
"I think the positives simply are we have a great chance to teach now when things aren’t going well and to see how our players are responding positively and negatively and see how our coaches respond positively and negatively and you have a chance to move the program forward."
Did you make any corrections at halftime:
"We made quite a few corrections in the second half, whether it showed up or not. I think there were elements where we played better in the second half than we did the first. Obviously the turnovers were concerning, the ball security. It’s hard to win against Air Force when you are turning the ball over. Not being able to kick the ball or punt the ball effectively toward the end and giving them a few short fields. It was really the antithesis of last week."
Air Force Head Coach Troy Calhoun:
On going for a key fourth-down conversion:
“[There was no hesitation.] I think last season, we led the country in going for it on fourth down. It was 38 or 39 times, and the second (highest) team was 32. That’s been our approach since we’ve been here. Defensively, bring pressure in a variety of ways, and offensively, it’s ok to go for it on fourth down.”
“I just thought our defense was absolutely special today. After the initial drive, we probably played as well defensively against Brigham Young as we have maybe ever.
On the defense shutting out its opponents in the second half for the second-straight week:
“Well, it’s a group that has an opportunity to be a quality group. We had far too many penalties, probably as many penalties as we’ve had at the Air Force Academy, but they did some good things out there.”
On adjustments made after the first quarter:
“[We were] probably a little more assignment-sound and I didn’t keep so many drives alive. Yet, that’s a credit to (BYU), too. Trying to adjust to them size-wise is not easy. We did a little bit better job of it as the game went on. Frankly, they’ve had some games, at least two out of the last three years, both times when we’ve played over there, it’s a two-score game way too early in the second quarter. Today, our kids played like they weren’t going to allow that to happen, and that was huge.”