PROVO, Utah – Behind a strong rushing attack and second half takeaways on defense and special teams, BYU defeated Massachusetts 51-9 on Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
The Cougars (7-4) were dominant on the ground, rushing for 247 yards and amassing 437 yards of total offense, while holding the Minutemen (2-9) to just 40 rushing yards on 20 attempts.
"I was happy with how the guys played, specifically in the second half," head coach Kalani Sitake said. "We got off to kind of a slow start, but when we started sticking to our game plan and communicating better as a team, good things started to happen, especially with special teams. They really gave us that spark. I was pleased with how the game went and definitely happy with the score."
KJ Hall rushed for 101 yards on 18 carries and senior Harvey Langi gained 56 yards on 14 carries on his first game on offense this season. Senior quarterback Taysom Hill passed for 165 yards and rushed for 81 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
On the defensive side of the ball, sophomore Francis Bernard recorded seven tackles and returned an interception for a touchdown. BYU’s special teams forced two fumbles with Hiva Lee and Eric Takenaka each recovering fumbles to set up BYU scores.
Despite falling behind early in the first half, the Cougars scored 44 unanswered points and dominated in the second half thanks to four turnovers and a blocked punt.
UMass quarterback Andrew Ford connected with Bernard Davis for a 70-yard touchdown pass and the Minutemen took a 6-0 lead after a missed PAT attempt with at the 3:27 mark in the first quarter.
The Cougars began the next drive on the 25-yard line and drove 75 yards in 10 plays for their first score of the game. Hall scored on an 11-yard run and the Cougars took a 7-6 lead with 14:53 remaining in the second quarter.
The Minutemen answered quickly with a 50-yard kickoff return that resulted in a 44-yard field goal and UMass took a 9-7 lead with 12:58 remaining in the first half.
To cap off an 86-yard drive for the Cougars, Langi scampered into the endzone from five yards out with 5:22 remaining in the half to help BYU retake the lead with the score 14-9.
The Minuteman threatened to score again driving to the Cougars’ 35-yard line, but a third down sack by Logan Taele pushed UMass out of field goal range, forcing a punt.
To open the second half, BYU drove 53 yards in 11 plays and finished the drive with a 33-yard field goal from Rhett Almond. The score extended the Cougars’ lead to eight and BYU led 17-9 at the 11:30 mark in the third quarter.
On the next Minutemen possession, linebacker Morgan Unga reached the UMass punter in time to block the punt and BYU took over on the UMass 19-yard line. Almond tacked on another field goal, this time from 34 yards, and BYU led 20-9 with 9:13 left in the third.
On the ensuing kickoff, BYU’s Takenaka forced and recovered a fumble to give BYU possession on the UMass 17-yard line. Facing a long third down, Hill bulldozed several UMass defenders for an 11-yard rush that moved the ball to the two yard line and Langi scored his second touchdown of the afternoon on a 2-yard rush to make the score 27-9 in favor of BYU.
Three plays into the next UMass drive, Bernard picked off Ford and returned the interception 39 yards for the score to put the Cougars ahead, 34-9.
BYU’s next scoring drive featured a fourth down conversion with Hill finding receiver Mitchell Juergens for a first down. After advancing the ball to the 5-yard line, Hill scrambled to the left side of the field for another score to make it 41-9.
With 7:56 remaining in the fourth quarter, BYU forced another turnover with Isaiah Armstrong getting an interception on the UMass 36-yard line. Tanner Mangum found Garrett Juergens in the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown pass to make the score 48-9. It was the first career touchdown for Juergens.
The following kickoff bounced off the hands of the UMass returner and Lee recovered the ball on the UMass 8-yard line. Almond added a 21-yard field goal with 3:05 remaining in the game and BYU held on to win by a final score of 51-9.
BYU closes out its regular season against Utah State at 8:15 p.m. MST at LaVell Edwards Stadium. The game will be televised on either ESPN2 or ESPNU with the radio broadcast on the Cougar IMG Network, KSL (1160 AM/102.7 FM) and BYU Radio (XM 143).
PROVO, Utah – Continuing the homestand, BYU football will face off against fellow FBS Independent UMass on Saturday at noon MST in Provo on BYUtv and simulcast on ESPN3, WatchESPN and the ESPN App.
BYUtv will provide pregame and postgame coverage of the matchup, beginning with Countdown to Kickoff starting at 11 a.m. MST. Postgame coverage runs for half an hour after the game on BYUtv.
Live coverage from LaVell Edwards Stadium will be on the Cougar IMG Sports Network with Greg Wrubell, which can also be found on Sirius XM 143, 1160 AM, 102.7 FM and BYUcougars.com. IMG’s radio coverage will begin at 10 a.m. MST.
BYU (6-4) vs. UMass (2-8)
Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016
Kickoff: 12:06 p.m. MST
LaVell Edwards Stadium (63,470)
SERIES HISTORY. BYU and the UMass Minutemen have never met in football. The two teams are scheduled to meet three more times as part of a four-game series with one more game in Provo and two at Gillette Stadium.
INDEPENDENCE. UMass, like BYU, is currently playing as an FBS Independent. Since going independent, BYU has only matched up with one other independent school, Notre Dame.
GOING BOWLING. After the 37-7 win over Southern Utah, BYU accepted a bowl invitation to the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. BYU is one of 10 teams that will go to a bowl game for a 12th consecutive season. Alabama, Boise State, Clemson, Florida State, Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin, Georgia and LSU are the other nine programs that extended their streak to 12 or more this season. The Cougars went to a program-record 17 bowl games in row from 1978 to 1994.
NOVEMBER GAMES. BYU is 33-6 in the month of November over the past 10 seasons, including a perfect 17-0 at home during that time. The Cougars have not lost at home in November since 2005 when they fell 41-34 to Utah.
ACADEMICS. Taysom Hill was named a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy in addition to being named one of 12 National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athletes. With a 3.45 GPA, Hill graduated in the spring and will receive an $18,000 post-graduate scholarship. The winner of the Campbell Trophy will be announced Dec. 6. Wide receiver Nick Kurtz and defensive lineman Logan Taele were also both named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District Team.
BYU head coach Kalani Sitake
On today’s practice and Saturday’s game
We had a good practice and a good lift. We saw a lot of good things on film and a lot of things to build on. I think we got better as a team and although we made some mistakes, that’s expected every game. It’s nothing that we can’t overcome. Young guys took advantage of their reps, and we’re really pleased with how the team is working right now. We’re looking forward to our game on Saturday.
On the running back situation and the injuries
We’ll see how Algie (Brown) and Squally (Canada) progress during the week. KJ (Hall) has done really well. We’ll see where we need to go if our depth isn’t working well and how Jamaal (Williams) progresses too. It’s too early to tell right now. We try to take advantage of recovery time. Algie’s injury happened pretty early, and he just kept trying to go through it, but he wasn’t able to finish it. It just happens. I don’t think it’s anything too alarming, but I think Algie and Squally will be fine.
On Butch Pau’u coming back
He’s been pretty banged up the past few since trying to come back. I don’t think that’s helped him get healthy and better at being 100 percent. I don’t know why we keep doing it. Same thing with Troy (Warner). It stops their progression at getting to 100 percent and we need to make a decision and hopefully we get them back this week.
On the performance of the defensive line
They are a lot better now. We feel really good with the players that are in there. It was unfortunate with some of the injuries we had, especially with Travis (Tuiloma). Just seeing these guys buy into the technique we’re asking them to do is starting to become a lot more comfortable for them. You see that in the way they are closing the gaps in the running game. Now it’s become a natural thing for them.
On playing UMass
They’ve been inconsistent a lot of the season. We’ve seen them play some close games. They’ve been able to score some points. They play some good teams. They’ve had an extra week to prepare for us, and that’s always dangerous, dealing with gadgets and trick plays. But they’ve got nothing to lose. They’re coming to our place and playing at our home. We’ll have to be ready and expect their best shot. We’re focusing on the little things, like tackling better and blocking better. I’m just really happy with the passing game. The routes are a lot crisper and the timing and throws are a lot better. I like where we’re sitting right now.
Senior DB Eric Takenaka
On his one-handed interception against Southern Utah
It’s great to be able to celebrate with my teammates. It’s a great feeling to be in the right spot at the right time.
Practice this morning
I feel like the team is really confident and there is a good chemistry going on right now. We feel good about the rest of the season. We’re preparing one week at a time, preparing for UMass.
Not losing motivation
A lot of the players push each other and we keep each motivated. If someone is slacking at one practice, we’ll get on them to pick it up. We stay on each other that way.
Problems against SUU
Tackling. You can always focus on the technicalities and tightening your technique up, fixing missed coverage and things like that. There is always room for improvement.
It’s nice. I think we’re really fresh in the safety area because of that. We’ve played some really great teams and because of that rotation, we’ve kept everybody healthy. Kai (Nacua) is healthy, Micah (Hannemann) is healthy, Matt Hadley and I are pretty healthy. I think it helps keep guys fresh and lets us play more man coverage and more aggressive.
Sophomore DL Corbin Kaufusi
Blocking shots in basketball and kicks in football
It has a lot to do with height. But I think we have a lot of good interior guys that get a good push, and so it helps a lot for me.
Learning the timing
I’ve definitely had to learn the timing. At first, I thought I would just jump. And then you realize there is a lot more to it—you have to get a good three seconds of push before you raise up a little bit.
Assessing his own overall football play coming back
I think it’s been a good transition. There have been a lot of bumps in the road, trying to learn things. I’m happy but at the same time, I’m not satisfied. There are a lot things I have to learn still.
Looking forward to basketball?
Right now, I’m so focused on football. I’m excited for the basketball season, but I know this is where I’m supposed to be right now. I don’t want to regret any of the moments I have with football.
Senior WR Colby Pearson
On the passing game against SUU
It felt good. We felt like we’ve had this thing on our back, so it felt good to get out there and catch some balls and spread the ball around a little bit.
On his touchdown
It was actually kind of a messed-up play scramble drill. The corner blitzed, so I converted to a hitch then did a scramble drill when I saw Taysom (Hill) try to take off. Luckily I was able to tap my foot in, so it was good. It’s hard because you have to focus on catching the ball first and you lose track of where your feet even are. I knew I was close so I just tried to tap it, and luckily it was in.
Biggest takeaway from Saturday
I think we did well exposing if they were in a zone. We did a good job of getting in the holes and aligning our quarterbacks to make a play. When broken plays happened, like my touchdown, we were able to do pretty well in the scramble drill.
On the bowl game
It’s always exciting to get to play in the post season and get that extra game. Bowl games are awesome and a lot of fun. That will be the final stamp and the last hurrah of BYU football for me. I’m looking forward to it.
Relationship between wide receivers
It’s awesome. Our relationship in there is tight and we’re close. It’s never been a competition like past years. Through the struggles we’ve become closer. We’re all happy for each other when we make plays, and it’s been a lot of fun this year. I think the receiver room will get stronger here in the near future.