BYU defeats Arkansas 38-31: What we liked and what needs work

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A lot. That’s what we liked, and for good reason.

The Cougar’s thrilling 38-31 win on the road versus an SEC Conference opponent featured a complete team effort with every position group providing standout play in key moments. It also featured a lot of resilience in overcoming an early 14-0 deficit in what can easily be considered one of the best road wins in BYU football history.

What we liked

Pass rush: Since Jay Hill joined the Cougar coaching staff as its Defensive Coordinator we’ve been regaled with talk of providing pressure upfront to cause errant throws, turnovers and yes, even sacks. It’s been a facet relatively absent through the first two games played against relatively weak competition, leaving fans and media alike wondering if what was sold would ever be seen this season.

On Saturday we saw it.

Hill sent a variety of well-timed blitz packages the Razorback’s way which proved especially effective down the stretch. Of all the many things to like about Saturday’s game, the Cougar pass rush stands out as playing a huge role in securing a thrilling win on the road against an SEC opponent.

Team composure: Penalties played big in the win, with the Cougars committing seven for just 45 yards compared with the home team’s 14 committed for 125. The Cougars proved the better composed team throughout in their first road game of the year in a very tough environment.

It would have been easy to lose a lot of composure when dealt a 14-0 deficit with a full 13 minutes and change left in the first quarter, but this BYU team rallied big, made up the deficit relatively quickly and then did similar work in the second half in overcoming a 31-21 margin.

Eddie Heckard: The Weber State transfer was our defensive MVP among several other standouts. His coverage was on point, but what stood out, more than anything, was his tackling and a key sack late in the game that played huge in securing the win along with two big TFLs.

Ryan Rehkow: We’re hoping fans don’t overlook the big advantage BYU’s punt game played in mounting the comeback win — particularly in the first half. Field position played a big role in BYU’s win and a lot of that credit should go to Rehkow.

Parker Kingston: The freshman receiver was electric in the win, providing both a touchdown pass on a well-timed trick play and a touchdown reception. He also shined on special teams, recording a big kickoff return for 46 yards.

AJ Vongphachanh: The toughest name on BYU’s roster to spell led the team in the tackles with 10 while consistently stuffing key rush attempts including one attempted during a fourth-and-1 situation late in the game.

Tyler Batty: Both Blake Mangelson and Isaiah Bagnah showed well from the edge, but it was Batty who was the standout, recording 1.5 sacks and nine tackles. It’s been a long time since an edge player shined in a game, and here’s to hoping Saturday’s win was a harbinger in this regard.

Kingsley Suamataia: After slugging through two relatively disappointing efforts, Suamataia reminded everyone as to why he’s one of the top offensive tackle talents in the country in Saturday’s win. Time and again the Orem product provided key blocks throughout — often proving dominant in his assignments.

Isaac Rex: The junior tight end was utilized early and often and finished with four receptions for 57 yards which included a brilliant one-handed grab on a seam route that allowed the offense to enter the redzone and score an eventual touchdown.

LJ Martin: Martin continued to who remarkably well for a true freshman and on Saturday received almost exclusive reps in his new RB1 role. His 45-yard touchdown run jump-started BYU’s comeback effort, and while his final total yards amounted to just 88, his play was again notable and pivotal in the win.

Max Tooley: The Bountiful product had 1.5 TFLs, a sack, a big interception and several big hits laid during key moments, including helping throw back Arkansas’ fourth-and-1 attempt late in the game.

What needs work

Ill-timed and ill-conceived fake kicks: Stop it. BYU was bailed out of its relatively awful fake field goal attempt by a penalty committed, which led to Will Ferrin knocking through a 43-yard attempt. The fakes have become too predictable and gimmicky as of late with the Cougars taking disadvantages on most occasions.

Illegal touching: Three illegal touching penalties committed in three games played is something that absolutely has to be fixed. Most fans barely even understand what the penalty is, and for good reason, considering it’s almost never committed by a college football team. On Saturday, BYU’s illegal touching penalty could have proved devastating in nullifying a big Isaac Rex reception.

Slow start: Yes, BYU overcame the 14-0 deficit handed it during the first minute and a half of Saturday’s game, but that can’t be a thing the team gets used to. BYU has to show better from the get-go as it now enters Big12 Conference play beginning this coming Saturday with a game at Kansas.

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