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Three Positive Takeaways and Three Negative Takeaways from BYU's Win Over Utah State

Slow starts, placekicking, wide receiver depth and more

The Wagon Wheel will be in Provo for the foreseeable future. On Thursday night, BYU overcame a slow start on its way to a 38-26 victory. The future of the BYU-Utah State series is unknown as BYU enters the Big 12. As of now, the two teams do not have a game scheduled in the future.

BYU walked away with a win. That shouldn't be discounted - winning in college football is hard to do. A Thursday night game against an in-state rival is the perfect formula for a flat performance. There were, however, legitimate reasons for concern, especially in the first half. Today, we talk through three positive and three negative takeaways from BYU's 38-26 win over Utah State. 

The Negative

1. Slow starts and defensive adjustments

Slow starts are becoming a trend for this BYU football team, and especially for the defense. For the third consecutive game, BYU's defense got off to a slow start against Utah State. The Aggies marched 75 yards in 12 plays for a touchdown on the first drive of the game.

The Cougars were sluggish throughout the first half, giving up 246 yards of offense and countering with only 107 yards of their own. Utah State dominated the first half in terms of moving the football, but two timely turnovers helped BYU go into the locker room with a 17-17 tie.

Slow starts are becoming a legitimate concern for this BYU football team. Against inferior opponents like Utah State and Wyoming, BYU has the leeway to start slow and let the halftime adjustments kick in for the second half. Against better opponents like Notre Dame and Arkansas, BYU won't have that luxury. Against Oregon, for example, a slow start cost BYU a chance at a competitive game.

In the postgame press conference, Kalani Sitake said BYU didn't feel like it could implement the needed defensive adjustments until halftime. Whether it is a scheme issue, a preparation issue, or a motivation issue, this is something that BYU needs to figure out before Notre Dame.

In general, it's officially time to start worrying about BYU's run defense. After an incredible performance against Baylor, BYU has struggled to stop the run. Most concerning, in this author's opinion, is the challenges stopping the run when facing imbalanced offenses. Both Utah State and Wyoming struggled to throw the football. Everyone in the stadium knew they were going to run, and BYU still struggled to make adjustments and get off the field.

2. Kicking Game

Jake Oldroyd has missed five of his last six field goals. As of this writing, BYU doesn't have a kicker it can count on in close games. As a whole, special teams have been lackluster for BYU. The Cougars need to get things cleaned up before a special teams mishap costs them a win.

3. Jaren Hall's Health

BYU vs Utah State Jaren Hall

In the third quarter, Jaren Hall took a late hit that was flagged for roughing the passer. Hall came up nursing what appeared to be his shoulder. After that hit, Hall missed on two throws that he normally hits. Whether his shoulder impacted those throws or not, we'll never know. But BYU needs Hall to be 100% to have a chance to beat Notre Dame and Arkansas. Getting Hall completely healthy is the top priority over the next nine days.

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The Positive

1. Wide Receiver Depth

BYU vs Utah State Kody Epps

BYU's depth at wide receiver has lived up to the hype through five games. Whether it was the Chase Roberts game against Baylor, the Keanu Hill game against Wyoming, or the Kody Epps game against Utah State, new wide receivers are making plays every week.

Kody Epps played his best game in a BYU uniform against Utah State. Epps caught five passes for 86 yards and a touchdown. He leads BYU in receptions this season with 21.

2. Defensive Adjustments

After regrouping in the locker room, BYU allowed only nine points in the second half. Once BYU knew what Utah State was trying to do on offense, BYU's staff was able to make the right adjustments and get consistent stops. When the scheme wasn't working in the first half, BYU's defense forced timely turnovers to keep themselves in the game.

There have also been some young players on defense that are making a name for themselves. Micah Harper led the Cougars with 10 tackles including a forced fumble that stalled a Utah State drive in the redzone.

John Nelson is emerging as one of BYU's best defenders. Against Utah State, Nelson tipped a Cooper Legas pass that was intercepted by Max Tooley and returned for a touchdown. He also had a tackle-for-loss on a critical third down. He ended with five total tackles against the Aggies.

3. 4-1 Start

At the end of the day, BYU is 4-1 heading into its critical games against Notre Dame and Arkansas. The Cougars are ranked in the top 20 with plenty of opportunities to rise up the polls in the coming weeks. The first five games have come with a lot of ups and downs, but it's important not to miss the forest through the trees: a special season is still on the table for BYU. The Cougars are in the middle of the best stretch of the independence era, having won 25 of their last 30 games. Winning, even if its ugly, is the ultimate goal. And BYU has won a lot of football games over the last three years.

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