PROVO – On a day that saw temperatures rise into the triple digits, the only thing that was hot from Saturday’s kickoff to the 2017 college football season was the weather. BYU’s was as cold as well….what it was last year. But there was no Jamaal Williams in the backfield to ignite a spark.
BYU came away with a victory on Saturday, but no one in the Cougar locker room was feeling too hot about their performance. Head coach Kalani Sitake said he had to remind his guys in the locker room that they won the game.
Let’s hand out grades by position for how the Cougars performed against the Vikings.
We’ve had three different game settings to watch Tanner Mangum in this pro-style offense. All three performances have left an empty feeling so far. Saturday’s outing was better than the Poinsettia Bowl last season and the spring game earlier this year, but 16-27 for 194 yards is still leaving a lot of room for improvement.
Running Back: B
The running backs did a nice job today. This grade might be a byproduct of the low expectations entering this opener, but Squally Canada rushing for 94 yards and a touchdown, while Kavika Fonua racked up 63 yards and an eye-popping nine yards per carry, that’s exciting for a group that didn’t receive many answers in camp.
Wide Receiver: C-
In one week, BYU is going to face a program in LSU that is considered “Cornerback U.” That’s going to be a daunting challenge for a group that couldn’t create separation against Portland State. There were flashes of great play from Talon Shumway and also Neil Pau’u (first touchdown of the season), but who is going to emerge as the playmaker in this group? They still don’t have any.
Tight End: B+
Matt Bushman had three catches for 56 yards and he lived up to the hype in his first game as a true freshman. Tanner Balderree had a catch and JJ Nwigwe was excellent in blocking packages sealing off defenders to open up holes. A lot of positives in the tight end group despite not having an injured Moroni Laulu-Pututau.
Offensive Line: C+
Too many penalties from this unit and they need to clean up the chop blocking. Portland State’s defensive front is young and the Cougars didn’t dominate the way they expected in the trenches. Kalani Sitake in the postgame said he expected more from his offensive line.
Defensive Line: A-
Sione Takitaki is an excellent pass rusher, which is no surprise there. Portland State managed to give Takitaki a decent battle at times, but he still couldn’t be stopped. Solomone Wolfgramm was a pleasant surprise, the interior guys Handsome Tanielu and Kesni Tausinga did a solid job.
Not having Butch Pau’u and Francis Bernard in the lineup affected this group. Matt Hadley is a great fit for linebacker, but the speed of the game was something he struggled with. Pau’u’s return will be welcomed next week in Houston, as the Cougar defense is not the same without him.
Troy Warner and Dayan Ghanwoloku did a solid job. Warner had a nice pass breakup and they get physical with their receivers. Chris Wilcox was the third cornerback on the day, he had a bad late hit penalty however. Solid outing overall.
Micah Hannemann was out for the first half due to a targeting penalty he earned in the Poinsettia Bowl last December. He returned to the lineup in the second half. Zayne Anderson had a nice game highlighted by a big hit on a Portland State wide receiver that broke up a pass.
Special Teams: B+
Kick coverage was excellent. Punts were great. Punt coverage was great as well. Field goals are going to be up and down with Rhett Almond and the punt return game has no threat of a return man right now that can gain yards.