Cody Hoffman was well aware more than a few people would be attending Saturday’s football game at Oregon State just to watch him play.
The Crescent City, Calif., native and sophomore wide receiver rewarded his faithful fan base with the performance of his life.
Hoffman, who played high school football less than 300 miles from Corvallis, recorded a career high with nine catches for 162 yards and a touchdown in front of more than 200 friends and family members as the Cougars outlasted the Oregon State Beavers Saturday for a 38-28 win. BYU extended its winning streak to four games with the victory.
A rejuvenated offense propelled the Cougars, as they exploded for five touchdowns, including junior quarterback Riley Nelson’s toss to Hoffman in the third quarter.
“A lot of it had to do with timing, [Nelson’s] ability to scramble gives me more more time to beat the defenders,” Hoffman said. “It feels good to have a career game. It’s almost like high school having all those people here to support me.”
The Cougars also overcame several costly penalties, missed field goals and two giveaways with opportunistic turnovers from coach Bronco Mendenhall’s defensive unit. The defense took the ball away a season high four times, including a chaotic sequence in the third quarter when junior linebacker Brandon Ogletree forced two fumbles and intercepted a pass in a span of five defensive snaps. The turnovers were the most caused by a Cougar player in a single game this season.
“I was frustrated after the first quarter, I didn’t feel like I was doing anything,” Ogletree said. “I just decided I had to do something to help the team, so I was going to try to get the ball out.”
Mendenhall credited Ogletree’s intensity as the main contributor to the middle linebacker’s successive turnovers.
“I’ve used the word ‘twisted’ to talk about him before just because he’s wound so tight,” Mendenhall said.
The Cougars flew out of the gates in the first quarter, scoring on their first possession, capped by a 10-yard run from sophomore running back Michael Alisa. They extended their lead in the second quarter on another bruising drive, scoring when senior running back JJ Di Luigi carried it in from the three.
The Beavers responded midway through the second quarter with a long touchdown drive and tied the game just before halftime by taking advantage of Nelson’s only turnover of the day.
Nelson threw toward wide receiver Ross Apo on a slant route, but his pass was intercepted and taken back for a touchdown by Beaver cornerback Jordan Poyer. A contest that had been firmly in the Cougars’ control was now tied at halftime.
Nelson and the BYU offense responded after receiving the second half kickoff, driving 80 yards and scoring on Nelson’s 12-yard strike to Hoffman.
Led by Ogletree, BYU forced turnovers on the next three Oregon State drives but the Cougar offense only had three points to show for it after being held to just 1 for 2 on field goal tries and punting the ball once.
Oregon State made BYU pay for its failure to put the game out of reach when Beaver quarterback Sean Mannion found receiver Brandin Cooks deep for a 59-yard touchdown, pulling the score to 24-21 late in the third quarter.
But Nelson pushed the lead back to two possessions on the next series, leading the Cougars down the field and finding J.D. Falslev in the end zone for a 31-21 advantage.
After a missed Oregon State field goal, Nelson delivered again, driving the final nail into the coffin with his third touchdown toss of the day, to tight end Kaneakua Friel. Friel’s first catch of the season left the Beavers scrambling to make up a three score difference with less than four minutes to play. The Beavers added a touchdown with less than a minute left but it was too little too late against a BYU team that appears more confident.
“This is the most balanced we have been this season,” Mendenhall said of Saturday’s performance. “I think that we have found our identity in the past two and a half games.”
The Cougars hope to extend their winning streak to five when they return home to play the Idaho State Bengals Saturday at 1 p.m.