The BYU Cougars didn’t start their Big 12 era with a bang Saturday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium, but they did enough to beat the Sam Houston Bearkats 14-0.
For the first five minutes it looked like the Cougars might win fairly easily, but the next 55 minutes were mostly a grueling effort as BYU ran away against a Bearkats who were playing their first ever game as an FBS program.
Here are three quick takeaways from the Cougars’ win.
BYU’s defense played well
As much as the dominant story of the game will surely be how BYU struggles offensively, its defense has acquitted itself well on the ball.
The defensive side of Ball certainly had more question marks during fall camp than the offensive side under first-year defensive coordinator Jay Hill, but the unit was clearly strong, even when it was clear that the Bearcat offense wouldn’t provide much of a challenge.
It all marked BYU’s first shutdown since 2014 (Savannah State), and FBS Discount’s first shutdown since 2012 (Hawaii).
Cornerback Jakob Robinson was the Cougars star defensively on Saturday, finishing with two interceptions, including one in the end zone that largely stopped Sam Houston’s promising possession of the night (the second was a controversial call that ultimately led to BYU’s second touchdown). .
On the evening, Sam Houston recorded just 185 yards of total offense, trailing just 2 of his 14 third downs, as Max Tully and Ben Bywater led the way in the tackles department with nine apiece.
I fought crime hard
There’s been a lot of talk that BYU’s offense can be strong this season, led by quarterback Kedon Sloves.
Early Saturday, the Cougars backed up that talk, driving 50 yards in eight plays to go up 7-0 at the 10:39 mark of the first quarter.
After that, BYU was really bad with the ball. Slovis finished with only 145 yards without a touchdown (he actually rushed for both Cougars’ touchdowns, his first career rushing touchdown).
By a wide margin, BYU’s brightest spot offensively was true freshman running back LJ Martin. In his first collegiate game, Martin saw no action in the first half, but as the Cougars faltered he entered the game in the third quarter and provided an instant spark.
Martin finished with 91 yards on 16 carries, which contrasted with 21 yards on 17 carries from the rest of the team.
Penalties and kicks
Penalties hurt BYU all night in all three stages of the game, as they finished with eight flags on it for 66 yards.
Barring a very ill-advised fake punt attempt, punter Ryan Rico was the bright spot before Martin emerged, kicking nine times for 479 yards, his longest being 65 yards (Sam Houston’s Jadon Cardell kicked 10 times for 425 yards).
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