Nelson’s 2 TDs lift BYU, spoil Leach’s return 30-6

New Washington State coach Mike Leach says his team is closer to

playing well than his players might think.

He says it’s just a matter of eliminating the bad, being a bit

more consistent with the good, and remaining confident.

”We’ve got to be a mentally tougher team,” Leach said

following a 30-6 loss Thursday to Brigham Young. ”When something

negative happens we can’t have all these basset hound-looking faces

on the sidelines.”

Washington State only crossed midfield six times and got inside

the red zone only once.

”Any time we were about to ignite or catch fire something

negative would happen,” Leach said.

Leach’s normally high-powered Air Raid offense remained

grounded, failing to score a touchdown for only the third time in

Leach’s 10-plus-year coaching career.

”We squandered too many plays. We’d get a play or two going and

look pretty good and then we’d squander two more and never really

got into a rhythm.”

BYU senior quarterback Riley Nelson threw for two touchdowns and

third-string quarterback Taysom Hill added another on his first

collegiate pass to spoil Leach’s return to coaching.

BYU intercepted Jeff Tuel twice and sacked him three times while

limiting Leach’s vaunted attack to 224 yards total offense.

Washington State finished with minus-5 yards rushing.

Nelson finished 25 of 36 for 285 yards. Tight end Kaneakua Friel

led BYU with six catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns.

Washington State came out passing as expected, with Tuel

starting 8 of 9. But his 10th pass was intercepted by Uona

Kaveinga, and the momentum shifted to BYU before a ”white-out”


It was Leach’s first game since being fired by Texas Tech in

2009 amid allegations he mistreated a player with a concussion.

While there was much buzz about his return, against his alma

mater, the results were the same for Washington State.

Leach never played football at BYU, but he gained inspiration

for his spread passing attack from LaVell Edwards, for whom BYU’s

stadium is named.

At one point in pregame interviews, Leach said his team looked

more like BYU of old than BYU.

Not on Thursday.

The BYU Cougars rolled up 426 yards offense, nearly twice that

of Washington State.

Nelson started slow but finished strong.

After Kaveinga’s interception, Nelson engineered a 10-play,

80-yard TD drive to give BYU a 7-0 lead. He had two big third-down

completions to Cody Hoffman on the drive, for 28 and 12 yards, and

found Skyler Ridley open for the 7-yard scoring pass.

Hoffman, BYU’s leading receiver in 2011, bruised his left quad

on the 12-yard catch and did not return.

BYU’s second touchdown came with Hill in shotgun formation as

the wildcat quarterback. The freshman faked to the runner in motion

left then scrambled right, and found tight end Friel wide open for

an 18-yard TD. It gave BYU a 14-0 lead with 13:26 left in the


Andrew Furney’s 47-yard field goal put Washington State on the

board with 10:42 left in the second quarter and he added a

41-yarder just before halftime after a TD pass to Marquess Wilson

was nullified by holding.

BYU found one way to keep Leach’s offense off the field – long

drives. BYU’s three first-half scoring drives were all 10 plays or

longer, the third going for 16 and capped by Riley Stephenson’s

28-yard field goal.

BYU’s defense, meanwhile, played up to its billing, holding

Washington State to just 3 yards rushing in the first half, and

limiting Tuel to 108 yards passing.

Brigham Young had some new players step up.

Ridley, a former scout team player, was in only because Hoffman

was injured midway through the first quarter.

And Jordan Johnson, who returned an interception 64 yards to set

up a third-quarter field goal, was making his first start at

cornerback. His last start, in 2009, had been at quarterback in

high school.

On the other sideline, Leach wasn’t having much fun.

The Air Raid attack had served him well at Texas Tech, where he

was 84-43 with 10 bowl appearances. It went nowhere. The last time

a Leach team failed to score a touchdown was in Texas Tech’s 12-3

loss to TCU on Sept. 16, 2006.

The man dubbed the ”Pirate of the Palouse” has a $2.25 million

contract but there is a ways to go to bring Washington State back

to respectability in the Pac-12.