Provo • As Bronco Mendenhall made his way into LaVell Edwards Stadium for the first time since 2015 on Saturday, the former BYU coach was welcomed by fans and stadium staff with cheers and gifts.
However, No. 25 BYU wasn’t so welcoming on the field.
In a game that was dominated by offense and saw frustrating performances from the defenses, it ultimately came down to turnovers.
BYU came out with three takeaways, which was converted into 21 points, to end up taking down the No. 3 offense in the nation in Virginia, 66-49.
“Defensive coaches don’t really like this game, but it felt like an old-school BYU type of game,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said.
The game served as a homecoming of sorts for Mendenhall, who, as Sitake’s predecessor, played a large hand in helping lead BYU to its current success and helped the Cougars navigate the change into independence.
“I‘m grateful for and thankful for the personal reception with my return to BYU and for the fans and that acknowledgement,” Mendenhall said. “I’m grateful and appreciative. BYU has a good football team, and I’m excited for their future. I’m also excited about ours’, based on what is happening in the Coastal Division. We control our destiny.”
The Cougars knew the threat the Cavaliers’ offense posed, and were able to stop them early while jumping out to a 21-0 lead, but Virginia ended up adjusting and shot off for six consecutive touchdown drives as a response.
Suddenly, no team’s defense had an answer for their opposing offense.
Within the last two minutes of the first half, three touchdowns were scored. Virginia scored two of the three to head into halftime with a 42-38 lead.
But, the Cougar defense seemed to have found an answer while in the locker room because it only allowed 7 points in the second half — and held the Cavaliers scoreless in the fourth quarter.
Sitake said the BYU defense originally thought it could match up with Virginia. It worked the first quarter, but the Cougars “got fatigued” in the second quarter. In the second half, though, defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki changed the scheme to drop 8.
“People need to give him more respect,” Sitake said.
At the end, the Cougars proved to be too much for the Cavaliers.
“BYU was the more physical team and they made more plays when they needed to,” Mendenhall said.
BYU quarterback Jaren Hall threw for 349 yards and three touchdowns. UVA quarterback Brennan Armstrong threw for 329 yards and four touchdowns, while being picked off twice. However, Armstrong left the game late in the fourth quarter with a possible broken rib.
BYU running back Tyler Allgeier set a new career high with 266 rushing yards on 29 carries. The redshirt sophomore scored five of BYU’s touchdowns.
Both Puka and Samson Nacua finished with 107 yards and a touchdown apiece. They are the first set of brothers at BYU to have more than 100 receiving yards in the same game.
“I’m just proud of the way we fought,” BYU linebacker Payton Wilgar said.