BYU vs. UMass Postgame Notes
TEAM FLAGS: DB Matt Hadley, WR Jonah Trinnaman
ALUMNI FLAG BEARERS: Todd Watkins (‘04-‘05), Steve Clements (‘90-‘94), Dustin Rykert (’98-’02)
AMERICAN FLAG: Luke Kleinhenz (BYU Air Force ROTC)
Scoring in a quarter
With 20 points in the third quarter, BYU has scored 20 or more in a quarter four times this season. Against Toledo, BYU scored 21 in the first quarter and 20 in the fourth. At Michigan State, the Cougars scored 21 in the fourth quarter.
BYU once again went without its main workhorses Jamaal Williams and Squally Canada, but KJ Hall and Harvey Langi filled the void. Combined, the two of them rushed for 157 yards. For the sixth game this season, the Cougars totaled more rushing yards than receiving yards, 247 to 190. It was the sixth game this season that BYU rushed for more than 200 yards.
The special teams crew had three big plays in the game. At the 10:31 mark in the third quarter, Morgan Unga blocked a punt to put BYU on the 19-yard line. Also in the third quarter, Eric Takenaka recovered a fumble on the UMass punt return with 9:06 on the clock. In the fourth quarter, Hiva Lee recovered a fumble on the kickoff with 5:18 left in the game. Rhett Almond was also 3 for 3 on field goals.
The Cougar defense came up with two interceptions in the win over the Minutemen. Francis Bernard had a pick-six in the third quarter and Isaiah Armstrong picked off the quarterback in the fourth quarter. Entering the game, BYU had 16 interceptions, good for fifth in the NCAA.
BYU totaled the most sacks in a game this season with five. The previous high was four, which the Cougars reached against Arizona and Southern Utah.
Hill passed Lakei Heimuli (2,710) in career rushing yards with 81 on the ground against UMass. With 12:50 left in the fourth quarter, he reached the end zone for his 32nd career rushing touchdown. It also gave him 74 career touchdowns responsible for, tying him with Steve Young for fifth all-time at BYU. He finished the game completing 19 of 31 for 171 yards.
For the second-straight game, Hall led the team in all-purpose yards with 111. He also eclipsed 100 yards rushing with 101 for a new career high and to lead the team. He is the third BYU player to rush for over 100 yards in a game this season (Jamaal Williams and Taysom Hill).
Bernard got his third pick of the season in the third quarter. He returned it for a touchdown, the first on the defensive side of the ball for his career. He had nine total touchdowns in 2015 as a running back. He also led the team in total tackles with seven, including three solo stops.
Playing on offense for the first time this season, He finished the game with 56 yards on 14 carries for two touchdowns. Langi reached the end zone for the first time in his career with 5:22 remaining in the first half. With his second score in the third quarter, Langi joins Hill and Williams as the only players with multiple touchdowns in a game for BYU this season.
Almond made three field goals, the longest coming from 34 yards. His season total is now at 16, tying him for eighth at BYU in a single season.
FIRSTS (The following players recorded their first in a respective category)
Start: KJ Hall
Touchdown: Harvey Langi, Garrett Juergens
Blocked punt: Morgan Unga
Fumble recovery: Eric Takenaka, Hiva Lee
Pick-six: Francis Bernard
Interception: Isaiah Armstrong
Reception: Nate Sampson
BYU TEAM QUOTES
Head coach Kalani Sitake
Good win; happy with how the guys played, specifically in the second half. 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.
On it being close at the beginning
It wasn’t anything to panic about. The guys came in and they knew what they needed to get done. It wasn’t like they needed a fire lit or anything. They played well. If you evaluate the first half, we kind of screwed ourselves on some of those plays, as far as turnovers and penalties. So once we were able to settle down a bit and play our game, good things happened, and that what happened the second half. Once things started going, things just kept rolling. I was really pleased with all the points we were able to put up in the second half. It’d be nice to play like that an entire game, but we’ll take the win right now and work to get better for next week.
On injuries and switching up positions
The switch was because of the injuries, and Squally (Canada) wasn’t able to go today. Hopefully we get Jamaal (Williams) back; it’s going to be hard to get him off the field, being a senior on senior night. So, we’ll see how it goes. We felt comfortable with Butch (Pau’u) playing at middle linebacker, and the way our defensive ends played throughout the season confirmed that we were able to make that move. Algie (Brown) was kind of banged up, and with Squally not able to go, we knew going into the week that (we would move Langi). Harvey (Langi) practiced as running back on Monday. He is a natural at that position, and obviously he is really heavy, and so it is difficult to stop him, so it is a good compliment to what we have going on. If I had to guess, you’ll probably see him on both sides. KJ (Hall) is playing really well too. He is a big back for us and gives us something even we don’t have even when Jamaal is in, so we will see how we feel on Monday and go from there.
On KJ Hall's performance
I have to give a lot of credit to the O-line, how they blocked our fullbacks and tight ends. KJ is really patient. Run game is difficult—you have to be patient to stick with it when you only make one or two yards. Those plays will open up, especially when teams get tired. He was able to capitalize on a lot of his runs. KJ is really solid when it comes to his presence. We are really excited about his progress. Coach (Reno) Mahe has done a great job with that running back position.
On special teams
They have been strong all year long. Look at what Ed Lamb has done with special teams. Our cover team has been really good. I think we gave up one really bad return, but it was just one missed assignment. The guys had some really good speed and just cut it back. I don’t know if he went rouge or if it was planned, but power to him for making that play. Our guys have done a great job of covering all year long. So, hopefully we continue that. But Ed has done a great job with special teams altogether with our return teams and punt and kickoff units. Our field goals seem solid, and our holds and protections really good also, so I am really pleased with what Ed has done with them.
On Utah State
I know coach Wells and I know that program. They have done some great things, so we are honored to have them here at home and end the season with them. I just look forward to a great game. There is a lot of interest, especially in the state. I am just really excited to play.
Senior QB Taysom Hill
Starting first half slow and then came out on fire in the second half?
We were confident going into the second half. In the first half, we left some stuff out there, turned over a few drives and had a turnover in the end that killed us. We were confident going into the second half. We knew that we had everything there and that showed in the second half.
On Langi and Hall making plays
It was super Impressive to see them not get any reps throughout the season to this point and then they both come in and play and step up to the plate. I had no worries when those guys were in the play. I knew they would create positive plays and I love playing with them.
Special teams getting blocked punt
The blocked punt was a huge play. Coach Kalani gave the game ball to coach Lamb and he deserves it because he keeps firing the guys up. We kept looking at the clock during the third quarter because it was going slow, but it was because they had so many short fields and that really opened up the game for us. Scoring on the defensive side of the ball was huge and I give credit to those guys because they put up a lot of these points.
Freshman RB KJ Hall
On playing more
It was fun! The offensive line did an amazing job and the coaching staff mixed it up. Physically, we had a really good game. I think we started to hurry it up and kept mixing it up.
On connection between Hall and Langi
We were both talking each other up on the sideline. We had a goal each quarter to at least get 50 and then 100 a half. Langi hadn’t played at all this season, but he just killed it and played well today.
Senior DB Eric Takenaka
Going into any game, you have to make adjustments. At the beginning of the game, we made some assignment errors and we corrected that. We made the right adjustments and started shutting them down.
I had the opportunity because of how my teammates played. They set it up for me. All I had to do was run it straight up the line. I have to give the team the credit because they created it. You hope for that chance to make a big play in any game and am glad it came today. The season goes by so fast and you want to just take it all in and enjoy the moment.
Senior DL/RB Harvey Langi
Was it fun playing on offense today?
I just like playing football. It’s a game and I get to play it every day and every week and I love getting to play on both sides. I’m happy to play the game on either side.
Playing running back today
I started catching on as the reps went on. It was just crazy being on that side, but it was fun. I just got to practice and bust my butt for them.
Coaches’ thoughts on Langi playing running back
I got to play running back due to the coach’s request. I just go to practice and bust my butt for them and they tell me where to go. I don’t know what the future holds for me in the running back position. It would be cool to play running back again, but it doesn’t really matter to me.
To be honest, I felt like the offensive line did the job for me. If I saw a crease, I would just put my head and foot down and just ran for it. There’s a lot of improvement needed on my end; there’s a lot of responsibility as a running back on a team. I don’t feel like I have arrived yet.
Sophomore LB Francis Bernard
Chemistry with Butch
He’s been a great mentor to me. I’ve learned a lot from him and having him back at 100 percent now, it’s nice to know that he is going to sustain his gap.
It was a matter of effort and waking up. We came out taking it not too seriously. As soon as coach gave us a pep talk during halftime, we were able to turn it around because we knew what we had to do.
This will be one of the most exciting games we have ever played. Last year when we played over there, it was one of my favorite games. Any rivalry will get the fans, media, and players going. I’m looking forward to playing in this game.
UMASS TEAM QUOTES
Coach Mark Whipple
It was disappointing. We got some guys back that hadn’t played in six weeks, so we had a little energy, but I was disappointed in the discipline. We had some penalties and gave them some plays. Special teams had the five-minute segment that pained us. The defense held and did a good job. Then we get a punt block and we dropped the ball twice on kickoff, which has not happened all year.
They got a good football team. BYU is physical. They’re strong. They’re mature. We’re not very mature. And we don’t handle the things that go wrong, especially when we’re on the road. I credit BYU. They are a physical group. We thought we got a break when (Jamaal) Williams wasn’t playing, but (Taysom) Hill is a strong guy, a veteran guy. The other lines are good. They are a lot more mature. They look like my coaches than some of the freshman I’m playing. They were a solid team, which we knew going in.
On the team's second-half performance
No question it was a maturity issue and depth. We don’t have any backups. The altitude got us a little more in the second half. Those guys who haven’t played in a while were really gassed. Our guys fought, and we’ll get better. We’ve got a sophomore quarterback, a sophomore running back and a sophomore receiver. We’re already short on the line, so we’ll see what the defense will do. We played some young guys and they had good energy. But it was just those plays. We don’t handle the reset button very well. That’s a lack of some leadership we’re missing.
Experience at BYU
It’s a really good place to play and it’s pretty. It reminds me of Notre Dame a little bit. I’ll be excited to come back next year, just hopefully a little older. We’ll battle.
QB Andrew Ford
On play in the second half vs. the first half
It wasn’t so much as what they did differently – it’s what we didn’t do. We made a lot of mistakes and you’re not going to win a game against a team of that caliber with those mistakes.
On second-half mistakes
You can’t leave points on the field against a team like BYU who put points up with ease. It’s one of those things where we just shot ourselves in the foot too many times.
On the future games between BYU and UMass
It’s obviously not the experience we wanted, but coming out here, the community of Provo really opened us with welcome arms. I had a great talk with players and coaches after the game, and they are a really respectful group. I’m definitely looking forward to playing them in years to come.
LB Steve Casali
On playing BYU for the first time
We knew BYU was a physical team, and they showed that. It was a good experience, but in the second half we made too many mistakes. You can’t get a blocked punt and drop two kickoff returns and expect to win a game against a good team like them. We just beat ourselves with that.
What went wrong?
Mistakes were the biggest thing. You can’t make mistakes against a good team like BYU. If you make mistakes, they are just going to build off that and that’s what helped them.
Save the date! On Friday, March 31, Cougar fans will have the opportunity to get an early glimpse at the 2023 BYU…