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
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.