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Defense leads BYU to win over UMass 35-16
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – A dominant defense helped the BYU football team record a road victory against UMass 35-16 Saturday afternoon at Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots.
Despite going down 10-0 early thanks to a turnover on BYU's first offensive play, the Cougars (5-5) rattled off 35 unanswered points and stymied the Minutemen (4-7) offense the rest of the game.
BYU's defense held UMass to season lows in total yards (285), passing yards (183), yards per play (4.13) and yards per attempt (5.5). The Cougars also tied their own season high with 4.0 sacks.
Sione Takitaki and Isaiah Kaufusi led the BYU defense both recording career highs of 14 total tackles. Rhett Sandlin recorded his first career sacks with two and Corbin Kaufusi and Bracken El-Bakri both recorded one sack apiece.
Quarterback Zach Wilson went 14 of 22 for 167 passing yards and touchdowns, both going to Talon Shumway. Neil Pau’u recorded two receptions for a total of 62 yards and a career long of 40. Aleva Hifo also added his first two rushing touchdowns of his career in the win.
BYU outplayed UMass on the ground totaling 222 rushing yards to the Minutemen’s 102, holding them to just five rushing yards in the second half.
First Quarter Review
UMass started the scoring out early putting up three points with a field goal on their first drive of the game. BYU came out for their first drive of the game but Hifo fumbled the ball giving the ball back to the Minutemen. Eight plays later, UMass found the end zone taking an early lead with the first touchdown of the day going up 10-0 with 4:12 left in the first quarter.
However, the Cougars would quickly answered back with a touchdown of its own after a 36-yard run from Wilson and a 25-yard reception from Dallin Holker put BYU in the red zone. A four-yard pass to Talon Shumway put BYU on the board making the score 10-7 at the 2:33 mark.
- Zach Wilson recorded his longest rush of his career (36 yards)
Second Quarter Review
The Cougars took its first lead of the game as Shumway recorded his second touchdown of the day. A rush from Matt Hadley for 26 yards put the Cougars in the red zone and two plays later Wilson threw a 15-yard pass to Shumway making the score 14-10 to go into halftime.
- Corbin Kaufusi recorded a sack, giving him 8.5 for the season
- Talon Shumway tallied his first multi-touchdown game of his career with four-yard and 15-yard receptions in the end zone.
Third Quarter Review
A flee flicker play from Matt Hadley to Zach Wilson resulted in a 40-yard completed pass to a double-covered Neil Pau’u. It put the Cougars in the red zone in the third quarter. Two plays later Matt Hadley ran two yards into the end zone increasing BYU’s lead to 21-10 with 8:08 left in the quarter.
Two drives later Pau’u made another big catch for 22 yards from Wilson. The pass set the Cougars up to score its fourth touchdown as Aleva Hifo ran for three yards out, making the score 28-10 with 2:03 to go in the third quarter.
- Rhett Sandlin recorded his first career sack
- Neil Pau’u recorded the longest reception of his career at 40 yards
- Aleva Hifo tallied his first career rushing touchdown for three yards in the third quarter
Fourth Quarter Review
Only minutes into the fourth quarter, Hifo scored his second rushing touchdown of the game, running for 10 yards to push the lead to 35-10 at the 12:47 mark.
The Minutemen answered back with its first touchdown since the first quarter. A 23-yard pass to Andy Isabella put UMass on BYU’s 5 yard-line and quarterback Ross Comis would run the football into the end zone on the next play. After a failed two-point conversion the score stood at 35-16 with 5:16 left in the game. BYU got the ball back and ran out the clock to end the game with a victory 35-16.
BYU returns home for the final home game of the season and senior day to take on New Mexico State on Nov. 17. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:15 p.m. at LaVell Edwards Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN2 with radio coverage on BYU Radio Sirius XM 143/89.1 FM HD2, BYU Sports Network and KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM.
BYU to face UMass at Gillette Stadium
PROVO, Utah – BYU football plays UMass at Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots on Saturday at 12 p.m. EST. The game will be televised on the Eleven Sports Network, NESN and BYUtv.
Live radio coverage can be found on the BYU Sports Network two hours prior to kickoff with Greg Wrubell, which will be broadcast on BYU Radio Sirius XM 143/89.1 FM HD2, KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYUCougars.com/LiveRadio, BYURadio.org and on the BYU Cougars app, BYU Radio app and KSL app.
BYU (4-5) at UMass (4-6)
Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018
Kickoff: 12:00 p.m. EST
Gillette Stadium (68,878)
THE SERIES. BYU and UMass are meeting for the third time in the series. The Cougars took the first game in 2016 with a 51-9 victory in Provo but fell last season 16-10 to the Minutemen. This is the first of two games at UMass, with another trip next year. This year's game is Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots while the 2019 game will be at the Minutemen's on-campus stadium in Amherst at Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium.
GILLETTE STADIUM. BYU is playing its first and only game at an NFL stadium this season when the Cougars take the field at Gillette Stadium. The 65,878 seat venue is home of the New England Patriots and Major League Soccer's New England Revolution. UMass played all of its home games at Gillette Stadium (95 miles from the Amherst campus) during the 2012 and 2013 seasons while the Minutemen upgraded their stadium to meet FBS requirements. Since the 2014 season, UMass has played nine home games at Gillette Stadium. BYU is 6-4 over the past 10 seasons in NFL stadiums.
LONGEST TRIP. The Cougars will rack up the air miles for their longest road trip of the season. The trip to Gillette Stadium is about 2,100 miles from Provo. BYU's previous long trip this season was to Wisconsin, with a one-way distance of about 1,200 miles. The Cougars will have traveled nearly 10,000 miles round trip by season's end. Last year, BYU traveled more than 17,000 miles round trip, thanks to a trip to Hawai'i.
NOVEMBER GAMES. BYU has finished the season strong in the month of November. Since 2009, BYU is 26-8 in November. The Cougars have UMass this week, New Mexico State and Utah remaining this month.
YOUNG GUNS. BYU has played 26 freshmen this season, including 16 true freshmen. There have been 11 freshmen that have started games for the Cougars, including five true freshmen. Against Hawai'i, BYU started seven freshmen, including six on offense. Only Minnesota has started more freshmen on offense in a game (7). Freshmen have accounted for more than half of BYU's total scoring this year (111 of 198 total points – 56.0 percent).
The following quotes are from Monday's media availability.
Head coach Kalani Sitake
On final drive against Boise State
There are a lot of things you can evaluate and I probably could have done some things differently. But, it shouldn’t have come down to the last play or the last drive. We shouldn’t have put ourselves in that position. You can say that Zach Wilson could have had time for two plays in that last series, but we wouldn’t have been there if it wasn’t for him either. We wouldn’t have been in that position if he wasn’t the guy to make the plays that he made. There were enough mistakes to go around for a lot of people to take the blame for the loss, including myself. That’s my job as a head coach to make sure we’re in a better position to have success. I thought compared to last week we made a huge improvement as far as gaining yards and getting the ball in the red zone. Now we just didn’t finish the plays, we didn’t finish the drives. We need to have efficiency and more success in the red zone.
There were just way too many issues and mistakes to overcome against a good team like Boise. Give credit to them, they made one more play than we did. A lot of the focus comes back to that last drive but I would probably go more towards the other 58 minutes before that. I’ll evaluate all the decisions I made as the head coach, such as timeouts and when to use them. I’m sure the offensive coaches are talking about the types of play calls they made in the red zone, especially on that last drive. We’re going to make improvements. I’m really excited about our players, the effort and the belief that they have in the team, the scheme and the things that we’re doing. We just need to finish drives and finish the game. There’s room for improvement in all three phases.
We’ve done well in the red zone most of the season, but the last two weeks haven’t been good for us. I don’t like kicking field goals but I have a lot of confidence that our kicker can make them. He was three of four in the game. He’s a young freshman and he’s going to make a lot of field goals for us, but I like him kicking PATs more. I really want to score touchdowns in the red zone, and that means a shift in what we do as an offense, especially in that area.
On offensive scheme changes with Zach Wilson
We’ve done a lot of things since the spring, since Grimes and his staff got here, to lay a foundation built on run plays that can be done in the shotgun and also under center. The scheme itself really isn’t that different from what we already have, it’s just the focus is more patterned around Zach’s strengths. That’s where we shifted a little bit more. He’s a different player than Tanner, so we need to do whatever we can to make it comfortable for him. This thing is going to be built around his skills.
On Chris Wilcox injury
It’s a lower-leg fracture, he’s out for the season. It was unfortunate, just a play that I wish didn’t happen because he’s playing so well right now. It’s not an injury that requires surgery but he’ll be out even for a bowl game with the timing it will take for it to heal. He’s a starter for us, but we have a lot of young guys that need to step up. This is an opportunity for those young freshmen cornerbacks to step up and play.
On traveling to east coast for UMass
We’re going to get there a day early to get adjusted to the clock. I don’t think we’re going to have any problems with the distance. We’re going to practice on Thursday morning. It’ll be a lot of fun. I’m excited to see our east coast fans out there. I think more than anything we’re just really hungry to get a win. Especially after the last two weeks. Our guys were really disappointed about the game but I love their attitude towards getting over it. Our guys really believe in each other and we’re starting to gain momentum, so we just need to go into this game ready to go. We just need to minimize the mistakes and if we have the effort and belief from our players it’s up to us as coaches to get them in the right position to have success and win this game.
Defensive Back Austin Lee
On bouncing back after a being down 14-0 to start
We’d come down 14-0 and our first thought when we came back on the field was we are not getting blown out. We are going to make a stand and we are going to come together as a team. I think we dug deep for that. We finished that half off and we wanted to come out strong that first drive. That’s probably the most important drive, the second half when we come out on defense. We’ve got to stick it to them and we were able to do so that drive. Unfortunately, there was a long drive that ended up in a touchdown. At the end of the day, defense has got to be better than their offense. I felt like we did dig deep but we’ve got to dig a little deeper.
On the corners that will have to step up with Chris Wilcox’s absence
They all have experience. They’re young. They probably haven’t had as much experience as the upperclassmen but as far as this season they’ve had experience and I’ve been really impressed with how they’ve played. D'Angelo Mandell, he’s played really well when he came in as well as Keenan Ellis and Malik Moore. I feel like they’ve played well when they’ve gotten their opportunity. Right now we’re just going to have to keep teaching them technique, fundamentals of the game and be sure that they’re in the right places at the right time. They have the confidence. They have the ability. It’s just about performing and executing when they get their chance.
On defending well against the long pass
We have big pride in that. We don’t want any big plays happening; rushing or over the top passing. The coaches have put us in the right spots. They’ve put us in the schemes that we need to prevent that stuff. I felt like a lot of it comes from guys just running to the ball and tackling. We see a few missed tackles once in a while but guys have the intensity and desire to not get beat. We take a lot of pride in that and it comes from the character of the defense.
Defensive lineman Zac Dawe
On switching the intensity of the defense in the second quarter against Boise State
It could have been a huge turning point in the game where they go up another seven points, 21-0, or we fight like dogs and have a chance to come back. On the sidelines we were composed. We knew that the defense needed to make plays, just as much as the offense. We rallied together on the side and decided that we needed to get the ball back. It didn’t matter what had happened so far in the game. We had a long game to play and had the opportunity to make plays and come back. I think that was a big turning point with more confidence in the defense.
On putting stress on the defense performing when the offense is struggling
I think it puts a little more stress on the defense, but that’s what we’re trained to do. It doesn’t matter where the ball is, we know exactly what we have to do. If the offense is scoring, that’s great. But if the offense is struggling through adversity, we’re brothers and we know that we have to help each other. They do the same thing for us. If we give up some plays in the very beginning, they’re right next to us. If they make a mistake, we have their backs. If we make a mistake, they know they have to score. We help each other in the crazy situations that happen in football.
On going up against UMass this week
UMass is a good team. We just need to catch some momentum. We’re one or two plays from being exactly where we need to be. Going into this week we need to regain our ground. We have a fantastic team and coaches. We can’t put it all on one person or position. We need to make the plays that we can. We did it against Wisconsin. We made big plays against Arizona. It’s a fresh week. I’m going to try my best to bring that hunger to make plays and have a different attitude. We still have plenty of time to come back and finish out a good season.
On role evolving with Wilson as the quarterback
I feel like my role has been very similar to what it has been all year long, but we did do more two-backs, split-backs and other things like that instead of being under center more so that has been a little bit of a change for the overall offense. But that was already installed in fall camp, it was just whether or not they chose to call it during the game.
On being a special teams standout through his career
First off, thank you. I appreciate that. I really love special teams and I think it’s another opportunity to go out and have some fun on the football field. You get to play the other side of the ball. Obviously, I’m not going to be playing linebacker but running down on kickoff allows you to play defense and help out the defense which you see working super hard throughout the game. There’s a little bit of an extra effort to try and help the other side of the ball when sometimes you feel like you’re two separate teams in a way. Special teams is that little special thing that brings you together.
On memories of playing UMass last year in Provo
That was a real big bummer. I remember sitting on the sidelines and thinking, “Oh my. What just happened here?” It was one of those games that was a slower type game and you felt like it was going to break open and it was just one of those lull type things. After the game you’re like, “What happened? What’s going on?” But I’m really excited to play these guys again and try to help out a little more than I was able to last year.