PROVO For all intents and purposes, everybody got what they expected in BYU's 42-7 rout Saturday afternoon of Eastern Washington the Cougars a lopsided victory and near-shutout over a lesser nonconference opponent, the Cougar coaches enough less-than-stellar plays to hold attention at this week's practices, the visiting Eagles a $325,000 payout, and BYU fans a good look-see before bailing when fourth-quarter snow flurries smothered Edwards Stadium.
"It was good to win a football game, but it certainly wasn't as clean as I would have hoped," said BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall, later adding "I didn't think our offense executed the way they are capable of, and it gives us a great chance to add a sense of urgency."
BYU, now 5-2 overall, takes its 3-0 Mountain West Conference record to San Diego State next weekend. Eastern Washington drops to 4-3.
On a day when Pass U. wasn't quite clicking at aerial standards, the Cougars benefited from a reunited "Tongan Trio" backfield, led by freshman Harvey Unga's 202 yards of total offense 21 carries for 145 yards and a touchdown and four catches for another 57 yards and another score.
Add in Fui Vakapuna's 37 yards, fourth-quarter TD run and yeoman's snowman work in the late-game blizzard, and Manase Tonga's 21 yards and third-quarter rushing score, and the threesome finished with 203 yards and three touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the defense which at times seemed flustered by EWU quarterback Matt Nichols' passing (20-of-32 for 216 yards and a TD) clamped down on the Eagles for most of the game, allowing a mere 42 yards rushing.
Corby Hodgkiss' 39-yard interception return for a touchdown 86 seconds into the game set the tone and highlighted the Cougars' three picks. Bryan Kehl snagged his third in as many games, getting stopped 7 yards short of his second pick-six score of the season. Quinn Gooch added the third.
Meanwhile, Kehl and fellow linebacker Chris Bolden were staples in the EWU backfield, the latter with two near-safety sacks.
On special teams, Bryce Mahuika sparked two second-half scores with a pair of near-score returns a 61-yard kickoff return to the Eagle 19 and a 25-yard punt return to EWU's 17 while Travis Kozlowski added a blocked punt.
It all compensated for BYU's passing struggles quarterback Max Hall finished 15-of-30 for 156 yards, a score and an interception. But he and his receivers often weren't connecting particularly the "money" hook-ups to tight end Dennis Pitta and deep threat Austin Collie. Too many passes were too high, too far out in front or too easily dropped.
"In general, Max Hall's development has been something I have been pleased with," Mendenhall said. "Tonight I don't think we were as clean as we needed to be, not only at his position but others as well."
BYU looked ready for a rout, following Hodgkiss' pick-six return with a 13-play, 85-yard drive in which seven different Cougars gained yards on carries or catches. The drive culminated when on third-and-four from the EWU 22, Hall found Unga across the middle, with the latter veering right following Joe Semanoff's block for the TD.
But BYU bogged down as Nichols led the Eagles to a second-quarter score, a 28-yard pass to Aaron Boyce, who finished with nine receptions for 135 yards.
The Cougars finally scored just before intermission, with Unga following a 17-yard self-propelled carry on a fourth-and-one at the EWU 30 with a 13-yard TD blast for a 21-7 halftime advantage.
While the Eagles flirted with only one second-half scoring opportunity (an Alex Smart incompletion on a fake field goal), the Cougars scored three times Tonga's 7-yard rush following Mahuika's kickoff return, Hall's 1-yard keeper soon after Kehl's interception, and Vakapuna's 6-yard burst on the heels of Mahuika's punt return early in the fourth quarter.The Cougars failed to convert on two other second-half possessions starting in Eagle territory, and once the snows started, everyone in the stadium teams and fans was anxious for the one-sided game to get over and to find refuge indoors.