BYU football: Cougars able to play vanilla vs. South Florida Bulls

Brigham Young’s offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick toyed with South Florida’s defense on Saturday for most of the Cougars’ 50-21 victory over Tampa.

He has the luxury of size, experience, weapons and quarterback Jalen Hall. He has the ability to keep it vanilla by simply deploying his smashing nose area to run the game and occasionally flip the pass to a deep-stable receiver.

Roderick fulfilled a hitter’s dream of building the run and then embarrassing the Bulls’ defense with the pass. Hall found tight end Darling Holker and receiver Keanu Hill for touchdowns. He completed passes to 12 different receivers as the Cougars advanced for a combined 575 yards and the Bulls 293.

The three BYU running backs are more than 50 yards apart.

BYU went 38-0 and then struggled to maintain interest.

That’s catnip.

But Brigham Young has to be better at every stage next Saturday when defending Major-12 champion Baylor comes to Provo.

BYU’s defense allowed only 14 points. The Cougar screen returned and the team gave up another TD on a Jimmy Horn Jr. counterattack.

On Monday, when the 1-0 and No. 25 Cougars arrive in their respective position rooms, special team glitches, some missed assignments from USF’s third and long-running games, and the occasional lack of concentration will all be on the whiteboard.

Head coach Kalani Sitak will surely enjoy his season opener, but he will also use his “love and learn” philosophy to improve the next few days.

Puka Nacua had a pair of rushing touchdowns in the Jets sweep and Max Tooley sent the Cougars to the No. 6 pick in the first quarter for a 28-0 run.

After a two-hour delay from the storm, it was a sweet start, all Sitake could ask for. Back then, the Cougars were somber and brooding when the Bulls held a rock concert in their locker room.

The sombre team set the tone early, and that was enough.

BYU’s offensive line dominated USF at halftime, which was enough for Cal to find his rhythm with Chris Brooks.

In the second half, Brooks hit a 50-yard touchdown after Lopinikatoya softened the USF defense, and it looked like everyone was expected to fill in for the departing Tyler Algair.

This pairing set the tone for the game when Blake Freeland, Masen Wake and Brooks created a perfect crease for Nacua to bring the first game of the game to home. It’s a 76-yard dash to start the race with dirt.

On BYU’s next possession, Nacua swept the Jets to the other side, and Wake and tight end Holker led a blocking wall for another TD run.

Sitake put Brooks in first contact with freshman receivers Kody Epps, Terence Fall and Chase Roberts. They passed the appearance test.

Due to a season-ending injury last year, he got tight end Isaac Rex on the court. The big thing right now is how will Rex feel on Sunday and Monday after a lot of lows?

Then there’s Naqua.

He’s BYU’s Cadillac star.

The Washington transfer had an electric performance in the first quarter before leaving the game with a sprained ankle.

Nacua’s injury is now looming as the Cougars go home as another starting Gunner, Romney, is unavailable. Initial reports suggested that trainers were wary of Nacua, putting him in protective boots and sending him to the bench for the early-ending game.

The status of these guys is a priority check for this team at home against 10th-ranked Baylor.

BYU should have had the nation’s leading number of returning starters on the field. Hall came out and fired, looking every bit as a confident veteran, completing 25 of 32 passes for 261 yards and a pair of TDs. His first pick of the season was a forced pass into the end zone to Hill when he let Roberts open near the end zone touchline.

It was a solid opening win for BYU, but the kickoff delay was odd. It was this victory that was predicted and delivered.

The hard stuff now comes from Baylor, and a trip to an injured Oregon team that was No. 11 before Saturday’s loss to Georgia.

They are in the weeds now.

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