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.
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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.