PROVO, Utah - With a dominant BYU defense holding Washington State to 224 total yards, the BYU football team opened its 2012 season with a 30-6 win over WSU at LaVell Edwards Stadium Thursday night.
Thursday marks the seventh-consecutive game BYU (1-0) has held its opponent to under 300 yards. BYU also held WSU to under negative rushing yards at minus-5. The last time BYU held an opponent to negative rushing yards was against UTEP in 2010.
"I thought they gave a really great effort," BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "I thought our team played hard and physical. I liked the competitive nature of our team, and I liked the tempo. It was a nice way to start the season and to kick off the 2012 season. It was a cool atmosphere with the fans, and it was just a cool, cool night for our players to play football."
Nelson finished 25 for 36 for 285 yards and two touchdowns. Michael Alisa led the rushing attack with 54 yards on 13 attempts. Tight end Kaneakua Friel led receivers in the game with six catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns.
Friel’s two touchdown receptions in a single game are the first by a BYU tight end since Dennis Pitta in 2009. Friel notched his sixth catch in the third quarter for 23 yards to give him 101 for the game, also the first time since Pitta in 2009.
For more pictures of the game, check out BYU football's facebook page.
BYU’s defense went to work early after WSU marched down the field 60 yards in its opening drive. Ezekiel Anash had his first career tackle for loss to force a 3rd and 11 situation. Daniel Sorensen then deflected WSU’s Jeff Tuel’s pass before Kaveinga came up with the ball at BYU’s 20-yard line for his first interception as a Cougar.
BYU’s defensive stop sparked its offense that struggled in its opening drive. Cody Hoffman kicked off the 80-yard touchdown drive with a 28-yard reception to bring the ball to midfield. Sporting a hurry-up offense, Nelson strung together a sequence of completions for three consecutive first downs in as many plays. Skyler Ridley made his first career reception, a 7-yard grab on his toes to keep the ball in back of the end zone and to put the home Cougars up 7-0 with 1:36 left in the first quarter.
"Riley [Nelson] is competitive and so tough," Mendenhall said. "He has great leadership and that suits him really well. He demands respect, and when it's hurry up, he gets everyone to the line and pushes the ball forward."
BYU posted points early in the second quarter. Facing a 4th and 1 on WSU’s 18-yard line, Taysom Hill entered the game for BYU and in his first collegiate play found Friel for an 18-yard touchdown to put BYU up 14-0.
Washington State started its next drive pinned at the 8-yard line before Carl Winston gave WSU room to move with a 28-yard grab. After two BYU penalties, WSU’s Andrew Furney knocked in a 47-yard field goal to end the possibility of a shutout, 14-3.
In the ensuing drive, Nelson found his footing on 3rd and 5 with a 9-yard rush. Alisa ran to the outside for a 14-yard gain for another BYU third-down conversion. The drive resulted in a 28-yard field goal by Stephenson to extend BYU’s lead to 17-3.
Following the score, BYU’s defense held Washington State to a three and out thanks to a Van Noy sack, setting up BYU with good field position and 2:55 to play. With a pair of passes to Ridley and Alisa pushing through for a first down, Nelson connected with Friel for a 25-yard touchdown after just four plays and 1:12.
With 14 seconds left in the half, WSU found the endzone but was called back on a holding penalty. Washington State settled with a 41-yard field goal to close the gap to 24-6 heading into halftime.
The second half was calm, with back-to-back field goals by BYU’s Stephenson to pad the home Cougars’ lead to 30-6. Defensively, Johnson returned his interception 64 yards while David Foote blocked a WSU punt.
Up next, BYU will face Weber State Sept. 8. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. MDT and will be broadcast live on BYUtv.
Coach Mendenhall post-practice comments - Washington State
Head coach Bronco Mendenhall
Were there any tough calls on personnel?
There was enough volume of work. You never know where your team is for sure until you play. We haven’t always been perfect in our choices as coaches but we’ve had so much volume that I think we have a really good idea.
Why are there so many “or’s” between one and two on the depth chart regarding the offensive line?
This is probably the most depth that we’ve ever had, and that’s a good thing. Not only at the one’s and two’s but the number of scout team scholarship players has never really happened before. It’s kind of reflective of the depth of the program.
Does this opener carry any more relevance than others in the past?
I don’t think so. Your first game is always one you’d love to win and play well in. I don’t see any more intrigue or anything else. This is just another good opponent in our opener. So that’s what we’re preparing for.
What concerns you the most as you’re going up against Coach Leach’s air-raid offense?
The number of times the ball goes in the air, the number of snaps that you have to defend, sometimes the tempo that you’re defending it and now the field is spread with really good athletes and a really experienced and successful coach at moving the football. I’m not sure where you could point to and say where he hasn’t had success offensively or struggled. I think they’ll be good even though it’s the first game.
How important is it to you that you don’t have a “cream-puff” traditionally to start the season, and you have a good opponent?
I think it’s important. We’re still looking for as much balance as we can get on the schedule but we also would like good opponents to come to Provo and play. More of them are willing to come earlier than later to play so that helps.
As far as the fan experience, how important is that to you?
I take it really seriously. I want them to fill our stadium because of the experience of not only watching the game, the game day experience, but also why we’re playing the game. We continue to try to make LaVell Edwards Stadium a fantastic experience. Now there are brand new scoreboards and a new tailgating section open up at the Marriott Center. We’re trying to do everything we can. It’s progress.
What does it mean to you to be on the opening day of college football?
I don’t think it’s random. I don’t think it’s by accident. I don’t think they had a blind folded executive at ESPN that threw a dart at the 123 teams and happened to hit BYU. I think it was well thought out and planned and that’s an honor.
Senior QB Riley Nelson
Do you feel you’re ready for Thursday?
We’ve got two more days of preparation and we’re going to take full advantage of those. We’re excited; it’s gong to be a fun game on Thursday night.
What do you think your emotions will be Thursday night?
Hopefully I can just stay calm and within myself and not make it any bigger than it is. I recognize that it’s my senior year and home opener and our first game of the year against a Pac-12 opponent. But if I can just stay calm that will give me the best chance to play well. I’m best when I’m cool, calm and collected.
Is this game any more important Thursday with your opponent being from the Pac-12?
Coach Mendenhall would have us approach it as just another game. That’s what it is. We’re focusing on what we can do. Obviously we respect our opponent and are studying them and preparing the best we can for them. Go out there focus on what we can do and execute.