BYU Football: Breaking down the Senior Day win

(Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)
(Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images) /

BYU Football blew out New Mexico State on Saturday, clinching bowl eligibility and winning the seniors’ final game at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

Senior Day ended much better for BYU Football in 2018 than it did in 2017.

The Cougars ran away from New Mexico State 45-10 thanks to a 24-point second quarter and a punishing running game, clinching bowl eligibility and sending the seniors off with a win in their final home game.

It wasn’t a perfect game by any means, although from the second quarter on the Cougars dominated in all aspects of the game.

Here are the biggest takeaways from the win:

Another Slow Start

It’s becoming an unwanted tradition at BYU, both for football and basketball, for the Cougars to start the game horribly before settling in.

The first quarter was dominated by New Mexico State’s offense, racking up more than 160 yards of offense in the first 15 minutes. That was more than they gained in the final three quarters combined.

If BYU can’t find a way to match Utah blow for blow early on next week they’ll dig themselves into a hole that they won’t be able to get out of. The Ute defense is too good for the Cougars to have to play catch-up.

Timely Turnovers

The Cougars were saved early on by the defense’s two timely interceptions.

At that point the Aggies were moving the ball with ease and the Cougar offense was sputtering, but those turnovers kept New Mexico State from building on their lead and set up BYU’s first two scores.

The game may have been completely different without those picks.

Running Dominance

Welcome back Lopini Katoa.

The freshman has been limited due to injury, but came back in style against the Aggies. He racked up 155 yards and scored four times on just 19 carries.

Riley Burt added 61 yards and Hadley rushed for 55 and two touchdowns as the Cougars gained 317 yards on the ground.

Hadley deserves a lot of credit. He switched positions in camp, didn’t touch the ball at running back until McNeese State, then took on a large workload from the Hawaii game on. He’s gained 319 yards and averaged 6.3 yards per carry on the season.

Shaky Passing

Zach Wilson was shaky on Saturday, starting the game with only one completion in his first eight throws. He settled down from there, completing 11 of his last 18 throws.

Tanner Mangum wasn’t any better when he got into the game, going 1/3 and throwing a pick. Of course he was playing with the backups to the backups.

Give the Defense Credit

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After a horrible start the defense settled in and manhandled the Aggies. This year the defense has been very good, although the Washington and Utah State games tend to leave a sour taste in Cougar Nation’s mouth.

But the stats don’t lie. BYU is 29th in the nation in scoring defense and 23rd in total defense. The Cougars are 33rd in pass defense, which is a giant improvement over 2017.

The first team to double-digits may win the Holy War this year.

Going Bowling

With the win the Cougars are bowl eligible, which was the biggest goal heading into the season. This season certainly didn’t play out as expected, but BYU has improved as a whole and have earned a 13th game as a result.

Now we wait to see where they’ll go and who they’ll play.