Provo • There was excitement and happiness on the faces of BYU’s players as they headed to the locker room after singing the school song in front of their diehard fans Saturday afternoon at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

There was also the unmistakable look of relief.

The Cougars found their missing offense and the remedy for their seven-game losing streak — a football team much worse than them — and walloped mistake-prone San Jose State 41-20 in front of the smallest crowd (46,451) to view a BYU game since the stadium was expanded in 1982.

“Good to get a win,” said head coach Kalani Sitake. “Still a lot of things we need to fix.”

BYU improved to 2-7 in snapping its longest losing skid since 1968, while San Jose State fell to 1-8 and looked the part of arguably the worst team in the country, committing five turnovers and failing to surpass the 200-yard mark of offense until midway through the fourth quarter.

“Obviously, it was an ugly day for us,” said San Jose State coach Brent Brennan. “The turnovers were an absolute disaster, in my opinion.”

The Cougars had racked up 506 yards and were leading 38-6 when starting quarterback Tanner Mangum was lifted early in the fourth quarter in favor of freshman Joe Critchlow. They finished with a season-high 598 yards, 266 on the ground and 332 through the air.

“If we could do that every week it would be good,” Sitake said.

Unfortunately, they probably won’t face another defense that bad, having blown an opportunity last week at just-as-woeful East Carolina.

“I still feel like there were a lot of points we left on the field, and didn’t get on the scoreboard,” Sitake said. “A lot of [offensive] mistakes, still.”

Mangum was 18 of 34 for 283 yards and three touchdowns, with one interception, which wasn’t his fault after Micah Simon deflected a pass that was corralled one-handed by Dakari Monroe.

That was about SJSU’s defensive highlight. BYU’s only other turnover came when Neil Pau’u fumbled after a catch and lost the ball into the end zone in garbage time.

“Obviously, we are happy with the win, but there is a lot more we could have done,” said Mangum, who also had seven carries for 30 yards. “I missed a couple throws, and there were some drives we could have finished. Even if you are winning, you are always going to want more.”

Simon caught touchdown passes of 23 and 41 yards and KJ Hall ran 75 yards for a touchdown before leaving the game with an undisclosed injury. Hall finished with 156 combined yards, all in the first half.

“It was different getting a win,” Simon said. “There are lots of happy faces right now.”

Sitake said Beau Hoge, who has had a concussion, was available for action Saturday but coaches opted to go with Critchlow to give Hoge an extra week to recover. Critchlow was 3 of 4 for 49 yards.

Defensively, the Cougars put the clamps on a decent San Jose State offense, holding the Spartans to a pair of field goals and less than 200 yards until midway through the fourth quarter when the reserves got on the field.

San Jose State put together two late drives for touchdowns and finished with 338 yards; Tyler Nevens ran for 112 yards and Montel Aaron threw for 198 and the two late TDs.

“I thought those last two drives they had scoring on us was hard for our defense and hard for our coaches to take, but it will be a good step for our guys to experience and see it on film when it all counts,” Sitake said.

Having promised a more aggressive team on both sides of the ball than the one that lost seven straight games, Sitake delivered. He went for it on fourth down in his own territory, and bypassed a field goal opportunity the first play of the fourth quarter.

Instead, Mangrum threw the 41-yard strike to Simon.

“We are trying to establish an identity through our aggression and wanted to keep pushing for that,” Sitake said. “It didn’t really matter what the score was. I went for it on fourth down and it was on our side of the field and I pretty much didn’t care. I wanted to see our guys perform and wanted to see them answer the call when we had put a lot of trust in them to make plays, and I thought for the most part they did that.”

The Cougars return to action next Saturday at 8:45 p.m. MDT at Fresno State.