BYU ground game, defense, jump all over Middle Tennessee

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Daniel Sorenson intercepts a Middle Tennessee pass during the fourth quarter Friday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium. (Photo courtesy of BYU Photo)

Daniel Sorenson intercepts a Middle Tennessee pass during the fourth quarter Friday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium. (Photo courtesy of BYU Photo)

Taysom Hill accounted for 342 yards, including 165 and two touchdowns on the ground to help BYU pounce on Middle Tennessee 37–10 Friday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

In addition to Hill’s running ability, he was effective through the air, going 14–19 for 177 yards, to show the passing game’s development. But the Cougars inflicted most of the damage on the ground, as Michael Alisa, filling in for the injured Jamaal Williams, pounded in two touchdowns from one and two yards out. BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said the passing game took important strides to where they want it to be, complementing the running game.

“In general, I think our throwing game took a step forward,” he said. “It’s nice to see our players smile and have success.”

Despite the 27-point win, which qualifies for a blowout, the margin could have been much higher, but the Cougars were sloppy with the ball for the majority of the game, losing four fumbles, including two inside the five-yard line. Mendenhall said the turnovers, especially in the red zone are problems they need to fix in the coming weeks.

“Those issues made the game not as clean as I would have hoped,” Mendenhall said.

Both teams scored on their opening possessions, but the Blue Raiders managed only a field goal, while Hill scored on a 12-yard quarterback keeper, set up by Adam Hine’s kick return into the blue zone.

A lost fumble by punt returner JD Falslev inside the 20-yard line gave Middle Tennessee its only touchdown of the game — a 16-yard pass from Logan Kilgore to Marcus Henry. Falslev would fumble away a second return in the second half, but atoned for it with a 71-yard return for a touchdown in the third quarter. Regarding the two lost fumbles, Falslev said he was disappointed with his performance.

“To me, my performance today was unacceptable,” he said. “I put the defense in a bad position twice, almost three times. It won’t happen again.”

The Cougars drove the length of the field, but fumbled the ball away on the 1-yard line going in for the score. BYU still scored on the next play when Kyle Van Noy tackled running back Jordan Parker in the end zone for the safety.

Hill took the Cougar lead for good with a 50-yard dash into the end zone and Alisa added another score with 15 seconds to play in the first half to take the 23–10 lead into the break.

BYU added two more touchdowns in the third quarter, off another short touchdown run by Alisa and Falslev’s big return. The tough BYU defense did their job, holding the Middle Tennessee offense to just 212 total yards and 10 points, which are both well below its season average. Blue Raider head coach Rick Stockstill said they simply were not the better team.

“We got beat by a team that’s better than us,” Stockstill said. “Their front seven is very good. We had to earn every inch we got.”

Now, at 2–2, and after three straight home games, the Cougars will take their high-powered rushing attack and stifling defense to Logan to take on the Utah State Aggies on Oct. 4. BYU hopes to welcome back Williams, while wide receiver Cody Hoffman, who was suspended one game for breaking team rules, is expected to return to the field as well.

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Scott Hansen is covering BYU football for the second straight season. He covered the football team last year for The Universe, BYU's student-run paper. He also has covered the men's basketball team and spent this summer in Brooklyn, N.Y. covering the Brooklyn Cyclones, a minor league baseball team. He is a senior at BYU majoring in journalism.

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