Provo • For 12 plays, the Air Raid wreaked havoc at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Barely five minutes into his Washington State debut, Mike Leach looked every bit the offensive wizard of old. He had called for a successful fourth-down pass play without hesitation, sparking Twitter into murmuring approval. His quarterback had completed all but one of his eight pass attempts, moving the visiting Cougars deep into the red zone.
Then BYU hit back, flipping what felt like an inevitable touchdown into the turning point of a 30-6 win.
The hosts followed a five-yard tackle for loss with a diving interception, linebacker Uona Kaveinga hitting the turf to scoop up quarterback Jeff Tuel's errant throw.
Tuel, nearly flawless up until his interception, went just 6 for 14 the rest of the first half. He amassed only 59 more yards before halftime, ten more than his first-drive total. Two quarters later, BYU shut a Leach-led team out of the end zone for the first time since 2006 amassing three sacks and two picks along the way.
Washington State's best touchdown opportunity came when Teandray Caldwell returned a kick 63 yards early in the third quarter, setting up the visitors on the 35. On the very next play, linebacker Kyle Van Noy sacked Tuel for a 7-yard loss. Three plays after that, Jordan Johnson snatched his team's second interception and took it to the opposite 9-yard line.
Late in the period after WSU's fourth three-and-out punter Michael Bowlin scrambled along the 25-yard line, hoping for four more yards and a first down. When he finally decided to kick, David Foote easily jumped up and smacked away the ball.
By the end of the third quarter, the visiting Cougars had just 146 yards comically dwarfed by BYU's 394. If Washington State had hopes of a comeback, the host Cougars snuffed them out quickly. On the visitor's first play of the fourth, freshman Remington Peck sacked Tuel for a 9-yard loss.
"Our team is hungry," said head coach Bronco Mendenhall. "I think that showed tonight."
Caveats do come in beating team that won four games last fall. Maybe Tuel isn't a great quarterback; other passers may not be so easily flustered. Maybe Leach's offense is still raw; other coaches may have more familiar playbooks.
Maybe, against the BYU defense, none of that really matters.