A high-powered offense led by an emerging star quarterback and a stingy defense have allowed BYU to dominate its last two opponents. A meeting with Utah State could very well be a third straight mismatch.
The eighth-ranked Cougars look to extend the nation’s longest winning streak to 15 games Friday night when they complete their non-conference schedule on the road against their in-state rivals.
Following a controversial one-point win over Washington on Sept. 6, BYU (4-0) answered its critics with a stunning 59-0 victory over UCLA the following Saturday. That was the third-biggest shutout victory in school history and came against a team that was ranked a week earlier.
While the Cougars were favored to earn another win when they opened Mountain West Conference play Sept. 20 against Wyoming, a second consecutive shutout was hardly expected. BYU dominated from the outset, though, forcing six turnovers and returning two for touchdowns in a 44-0 pounding of the Cowboys.
BYU, which has consecutive shutouts for the first time in 23 years, is 14-0 since a 55-47 loss to Tulsa on Sept. 15, 2007.
After it was ranked 16th in the preseason, BYU jumped to No. 11 after beating Wyoming and moved up three spots in the latest poll. This is the Cougars’ first top 10 appearance since they opened the 2001 season 12-0.
“It’s not something we dwell on, but it’s nice to see us move up in the polls,” quarterback Max Hall said. “We know we need to be up there at the end of the season to have a shot at our goal of a BCS game. The farther up we are right now the better.
“It’s nice to be there. We just need to stay there.”
Hall is among the biggest reasons for BYU’s early success. The redshirt junior has thrown for 1,284 yards and 15 touchdowns in four games, tying the school record with seven TDs against UCLA. He has completed 107 of 144 passes (74 percent) with only two interceptions.
The impressive start has earned Hall some early Heisman Trophy consideration.
“It’s great. We love Max,” linebacker David Nixon said. “He’s playing well and he deserves all the credit that’s been coming his way. I know he’s got a level head on him. He’s not going to let it get to him. I think we should continue rolling how we are.”
Hall has plenty of weapons at his disposal, notably tight end Dennis Pitta, Hall’s brother-in-law, who has 29 catches for 432 yards and three touchdowns. Receiver Austin Collie leads the team with 30 receptions and five TDs while running back Harvey Unga is averaging nearly five yards per carry.
Utah State (1-3) figures to have a difficult time slowing down the Cougars. The Aggies, who were also off last week, defeated Idaho 42-17 in their WAC opener Sept. 20.
Robert Turbin ran for 123 yards on 15 carries while sophomore quarterback Diondre Borel rushed for 97 yards and threw for 191 in his first career start.
Facing Top 25 teams has not been an enjoyable experience for Utah State. The Aggies will be playing a ranked squad for the third time in four games following losses to then-No. 18 Oregon and then-No. 22 Utah - defeats that came by a combined 90 points.
Utah State is 1-46 against ranked opponents, including a 54-34 defeat to then-No. 18 BYU on Oct. 5, 2001.
BYU has won eight in a row against Utah State since a 58-56 loss in 1993. The Cougars recorded the program’s first shutout in seven years in the last meeting, winning 38-0 at home Sept. 23, 2006.