Provo • Going into BYU's game against San Jose State, sophomore fullback Michael Alisa had carried three times and gained two yards this season.
Everything changed Saturday night.
The Cougars unleashed Alisa on the unsuspecting Spartans, and he responded magnificently.
The Timpview High product, who started his career at BYU as a linebacker, carried 16 times for 91 yards during BYU's grind-it-out 29-16 victory at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
With multi-dimensional quarterback Riley Nelson starting in place of drop-back passer Jake Heaps, the Cougars' offense was expected to be more run-oriented.
Alisa made it doubly dangerous.
Coach Bronco Mendenhall called the 213-pound Alisa "â¦ a real bright spot, how he ran the football. And that running game was the key determinant in our win."
According to Mendenhall, the Cougars need a punishing north-south runner like Alisa, and his performance in practice, earned him a headliner's role against San Jose.
"We've been looking for a running back that would run over [and] through [defenders] and get positive yards," Mendenhall said. "And he's been doing that.
"â¦ In the last two weeks, he's really started to gain our attention. As the need started to become more apparent, Mike and his performance in practice has started to become very clear."
Alisa gained 57 of his 92 yards in the second half, when the Cougars turned to controlling the football, milking the clock and protecting a 23-6 lead.
"Very seldom today was he driven backwards," Mendenhall said. "Very seldom was he tackled by one player. I'm not sure how many runs he had but most of them seemed like they were five-plus [yards]."
Nelson played decently, although he threw two interceptions and fumbled once.
"We relied on our group of running backs and the offensive to grind the ball," said Nelson, noting that it's a good night for those players when "â¦ a bad run [gains] three yards."
BYU's offense gained 446 yards against San Jose State, including a season-high 227 on the ground.
Mendenhall loved the balance, saying, "It was a good football game from an offensive growth perspective. I believe we made ourselves more difficult to defend today. A lot of diversity."
BYU's game-by-game rushing statistics this season:
Opponent Number Yards TD Long
at Ole Miss 31 91 0 16
at Texas 23 43 0 9
vs. Utah 22 11 0 12
vs. Central Florida 32 127 2 21
vs. Utah State 46 200 1 15
vs. San Jose State 44 227 0 14