No. 20 BYU beats Utah St. 10th straight time
The BYU quarterback is managing to have some fun despite his tendency to throw interceptions.
Hall led the 20th-ranked Cougars to a 35-17 win over Utah State on Friday night, throwing for three scores and 218 yards with two interceptions. He also helped spring Harvey Unga for a long run in the fourth quarter that set up a touchdown and helped the Cougars (4-1) put away the Aggies for the 10th straight time.
"He came up and gave me an earful," said Unga, who ran for 118 yards and a touchdown. "He loves to kind of toot his own horn sometimes, but I love that about Max. He's a guy that plays with passion and he's a great leader on this team."
The Cougars also had a fumble on the opening series that led to a touchdown for Utah State. But other than the turnovers, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall couldn't complain about much. BYU held Utah State to 322 yards of offense - 73 on a meaningless touchdown drive at the end.
"I think if you take the turnovers I'd be very pleased, but of course you can't do that," Mendenhall said.
Utah State (1-3) fell to 1-50 against teams ranked in the AP poll. Two critical mistakes by the Aggies deep in their own territory cost them any chance of an upset.
The Aggies turned it over on a bad option pitch with 39 seconds left in the first half and the Cougars stopped the Aggies on fourth-and-1 early in the fourth quarter. Both plays led to quick touchdowns that gave the Cougars a safe cushion even before Hall's third TD pass gave BYU a 35-10 lead with 2:45 left in the game.
Hall was 16 for 23 for 218 yards with the three touchdowns and two interceptions, giving him one more TD pass (11) than interception on the season.
The Cougars have also turned it over with five fumbles in the first five games.
"It's tough to say 'outside of the turnovers because that's a big part of the game," said Dennis Pitta, who caught two of Hall's TD passes. "I think that's something that we've kind of struggled with this season.
The Cougars' fumble on the opening series led to a 6-yard touchdown run by quarterback Diondre Borel that gave Utah State a 7-0 lead. Borel added a touchdown pass with 3 seconds remaining before the Cougars recovered an onside kick and Utah State transfer Riley Nelson took a knee on the final play to end it.
"It's hard to look at the positive right now. We lost the football game," Utah State coach Gary Andersen said. "We had a chance to win and we didn't."
Borel finished 20 of 28 for 213 yards and Robert Turbin, who ran for 100 yards in each of the first three games of the season, finished with 47 on 17 carries.
"BYU fought hard. We fought hard," Andersen said. "A couple of plays made the difference in this game."
The Aggies only lead of the game ended when Hall threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Pitta with 2:14 left in the first quarter. Hall added a 48-yard touchdown pass to Luke Ashworth early in the second quarter, then the Aggies gave the Cougars an easy touchdown just before halftime on a risky play call with an option and fumbled it. The pitch was way off and BYU recovered at the Utah State 29.
Hall hit Pitta for 26 yards on first down, then Manase Tonga ran it in from 3 yards for a 21-7 halftime lead.
BYU got another break when Utah State went for it on fourth-and-1 and Robert Turbin lost his feet while trying to cut up field. BYU has had problems with the new field that was installed over the summer and a chunk of the young grass went up under Turbin when he tried to cut.
"It was really big - very big," defensive end Jan Jorgensen said. "It just took all their momentum and all the gas out of them. I think that was their last chance."
Turbin ended up losing a yard, giving BYU the ball at the 31. Unga ran 23 yards on first down, getting a nice block from Hall after he bounced it toward the BYU sideline, and then scored on an 8-yard run to give the Cougars a 28-10 lead with 13:09 left in the game.
Unga said Hall made sure in the huddle that he knew who that downfield block came from.
"He just likes to come and give me a little bit of hassle for it," Unga said.