Instant Takeaways From BYU’s Blowout Win Over Southern Utah

Sep 9, 2023, 4:34 PM | Updated: Sep 11, 2023, 1:39 pm

PROVO, Utah – BYU football defeated Southern Utah 41-16 on Saturday in front of a crowd of more than 60,000 fans at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

The victory improves BYU’s record to 2-0 on the season.

Here are some instant takeaways from BYU’s blowout victory over the Thunderbirds.

Isaac Rex is going to have a big season

For the first time in BYU tight end Isaac Rex’s career with the Cougars, he put up over 100 receiving yards in a game. Rex had over 100 yards in the first half on Saturday against SUU.

BYU QB Kedon Slovis made Rex a top priority in the receiving game during spring ball and fall camp. That priority has continued into the season.

Last week against Sam Houston, Rex was targeted seven times but only had two receptions. On Saturday against an FCS team, Rex was having no problems as he showed he’s back to full strength for the first time since the 2020 season.

When Rex is at full strength, he’s one of the top tight ends in the Big 12 and has the ability to be an NFL draft pick next April.

Rex is now tied with BYU great and College Football Hall of Famer Gordon Hudson for most touchdown receptions by a BYU tight end.

What’s the deal with illegal touching penalties?

For the second week, BYU had a strange illegal touching penalty on the offense that resulted in a loss of down. The loss of a down is a byproduct of the illegal man downfield touching the ball.

But to have that happen twice in as many weeks? Both instances took place on third down, killing offensive possessions.

Last week it was Isaac Rex against Sam Houston and this week, it was Chase Roberts.

I’ll admit, I can’t remember many of these penalties happening in recent seasons. It’s a move that suddenly has to be addressed as it is killing BYU possessions.

Bounceback performance for Kedon Slovis

Last week was an underwhelming showing from Slovis and the BYU offense. On Saturday, he showed signs of progress. There was still more struggle against SUU’s defense than BYU would have liked. But you can’t complain too much with a 348-yard performance through the air.

That’s what Kedon Slovis delivered against SUU.

Slovis had one interception but that shouldn’t be one on him. BYU’s offensive line allowed SUU’s blitz to get to Slovis. As the former USC and Pitt QB was ready to throw, SUU made contact with Slovis forcing the ball to go in the air and land in the hands of Quadi Lockett-Smith.

Slovis had three touchdown passes that were over 20 yards through the air. He nearly had a 70-yard touchdown pass to Isaac Rex until he was tracked down.

Slovis settled into the offense and gained comfort with the playcalls as there were more shots downfield compared to last week.

The question now is, will it translate next week in SEC Country against Arkansas? That will be answered next week. But the good news for BYU is that Slovis and the BYU offense provided proof that they can be explosive. They displayed that on Saturday.

BYU football dynamic duo on special teams

Nearly every punt in the early part of BYU’s season has had two things happen: punter Ryan Rehkow provides a field flip. Then freshman Marcus McKenzie immediately meets the punt returner the moment he catches the ball.

McKenzie is one of the fastest players on the team. He’s carved out a niche in his first year with the program as a special teams gunner.

During Saturday’s game in the third quarter, he stuffed SUU’s punt returner at their own one-yard line.

Then in the fourth quarter, McKenzie came up with the recovery on a muffed punt from SUU.

Earlier this week, BYU cornerback coach Jernaro Gilford told KSL Sports that McKenzie is successful on special teams because he loves contact.

BYU defensive coordinator Jay Hill said on multiple occasions in fall camp that McKenzie has the potential to be a special cornerback during his career with the Cougars.

What’s exciting about McKenzie is that he has a twin brother who is just as fast and will be joining BYU next season. That’s Dominique McKenzie, who will also compete in the secondary in 2024.

Second half defense leaves Jay Hill with areas to improve

The BYU football offense found its groove in the second quarter and it carried over into the second half. The only problem is that they didn’t get many possessions, as BYU’s defense allowed some longer-than-expected drives to the SUU offense.

Up until 9:39 in the fourth quarter, when BYU’s second unit defensive players stepped into the game, SUU’s drives against BYU starters had seven, nine, and seven plays.

A touchdown pass over the top of BYU safety Malik Moore capped off the first drive of the third quarter for SUU. SUU was in business for more points as they attempted a long-distance field goal that was off by a wide margin.

The suffocating defensive unit against Sam Houston wasn’t as dominant against the T-Birds. BYU gave up third and long conversions to extend SUU drives.

Also, the BYU starters on defense didn’t come up with any sacks. That was an area where defensive coordinator Jay Hill was looking to see improvement after only one sack last week against Sam Houston.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X (Twitter) and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

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Instant Takeaways From BYU’s Blowout Win Over Southern Utah