POSTGAME NOTES & QUOTES: BYU vs. Nevada

McKay Jacobson had a season-high 44 yards off four receptions against Nevada (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

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Game notes from BYU's 27-13 loss versus Nevada on Saturday, Sept. 25, at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah.

The Z Man

Strong safety Zeke Mendenhall, starting for the first time in his career, caused a key fumble in the first half that the Cougar offense turned into a touchdown.

Rich Ties Career High

Senior free safety Andrew Rich flew all over the field against Nevada, earning seven tackles in the first quarter alone on his way to 14 total tackles, tying a career high. Rich also recovered a fumble, his first fumble recovery of the season.

Almost a Record

BYU senior kicker Mitch Payne converted his fourth and fifth field goals of the season against Nevada, giving him field goals of 22, 29, 28, 27 and 29 yards this season. Payne has never missed a field goal of 30 yards or under in his career, converting all 20 of his attempts.

Payne also has 161 career PAT conversions and is one conversion away from passing Kurt Gunther (1980-82) for first all-time in BYU history.

Heaps’ First Start

In his first career start at BYU, freshman quarterback Jake Heaps threw 24-for-44 for 229 yards, all career highs. Heaps is now fourth in passing yards (489) and fourth in passing completions (54) all-time by a BYU freshman quarterback.

Di Luigi All The Time

Through the 8:19 mark of the second quarter, running back JJ Di Luigi accounted for all 57 yards of total offense for BYU, rushing nine times for 36 yards and catching three passes for 21 yards. Marcus Mathews broke the streak, catching an 18-yard pass up the middle.

Di Luigi finished with eight receptions, a career high, for 56 yards in addition to 67 yards on 15 rushes.

Blue Zone Streak Ends

BYU’s perfect mark inside the blue zone ended in the third quarter after a turnover on downs by the Cougars at the Nevada 13-yard line. BYU had previously converted 9-for-9 opportunities, including twice (touchdown, field goal) against the Wolf Pack. Overall, the Cougars have put points on the scoreboard on 10-of-12 possessions inside the 20 this year. BYU converted a touchdown and two field goals and drove 75 yards to the 20-yard line as the game ended on its other blue zone possessions against the Wolf Pack.

Top Ranked Coverage

BYU ranks No. 1 in the nation in kick return coverage. The Cougars yield only 10.25 yards per return to opponents after Saturday's game. BYU held Nevada to an average of 16 yards per return. The Wolf Pack entered the game averaging 25 yards per return. The Cougars entered the game averaging 19.7 yards on their kick returns this season but exceeded that average significantly with a 34.3 average return against the Wolf Pack.

Three in a Row

Nevada’s 27-13 defeat of BYU gives the Cougars their first three-game losing streak in a single season under head coach Bronco Mendenhall and the first such losing streak since 2004.

Fantastic Fans

Today’s attendance was 61,471, ending BYU’s home sell-out streak at 19 games. Due to additional wheelchair access placed inside the stadium this season, Edwards Stadium’s official capacity was reduced 320 seats from 64,045 to a capacity of 63,275.

Flag Bearers

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, 1981 all-conference wide receiver Danny Plater carried out the alumni flag. A native of Reno, Nevada, Plater (1978-80) is one of 29 football Academic All-Americans to come out of BYU. He was drafted in the fourth round of the 1982 NFL draft by the Denver Broncos. Carrying the team flag was junior wide receiver McKay Jacobson, an Academic All-Mountain West Conference honoree.

BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall

"I think we are improving. I was pleased with Jake’s first start and his effort. I thought we ran the ball effectively also. Our defense played well and gave us a chance to stay in the game."

"There is no question the team played hard today, with the adjustments we made and our staff battled. We made adjustments and executed well."

"They look like a very good football team that scores a lot of points and has for the last few years. I would feel a lot different if they weren’t held to just three points in the second half. We just didn’t want the big momentum swings in the second half. We had to tighten down in the second half and not give up the big plays."

"The players that did play played hard and at a higher level than the last two weeks. Our team was closer and played more as a complete team today."

"The decision making, it’s not nearly as sporadic as getting half the reps. (Heaps') performance was a bright spot and a work in progress. The standards I’m measuring are week to week, regardless of the measure today, he did a nice job."

"Blue zone still needs focus and work. Coming to the right player and with the right design is something we’ve been good at but we still have work to do. That’s the best way to explain it."

"Any time you face adversity it’s difficult. One thing I took away is the support of this team battling together to improve. Regardless of the outcome that’s the biggest thing to take away. They played to the end and that’s a great start. It is not to the level we need to be at, but there is improvement. Don’t take my comments as satisfied but there is improvement."

"It was enough to score 24 in the first half then the adjustments to just three in the second half. I judge things by points. It was a tale of two halves."

"I like the direction they are going and that they are going to be hungrier week by week. It’s continuing to bring them together. I like our team but we have a ways to go."

BYU Quarterback Jake Heaps

"Obviously there was lots of improvement on both sides of football today. We made lots of plays and there are lots of good things to take away from this game. We are excited we are moving in right direction and have things to move forward."

"There were times in game we needed to make some plays and finish on drives. If we finish on those drives the game is very different."

"The only finger you can point is at me. I had opportunities and plays I could make and throws I just didn’t make. Offensively we battled and made some great plays. We drove the field and had our way with the defense but just couldn’t finish."

"There were a few throws I would like to have back. It was one of those things you look back on games and can only reflect. You have to take them and learn and move on to Utah State."

"I think as we improve, and as improvements are made, this team is so close. We drove the ball down and our defense played phenomenal. And when we can’t reward them it’s a tough one."

"I think offensively it was a problem for us. We drove pretty well but a couple moments we had three and out but for the most part we drove down the field."

"It was different, it is an opportunity to lead and go and get better each and every play. It was an opportunity to go and play every down and lead the team. I really enjoyed it and felt like I really improved."