PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – BYU had not lost a single fumble in its first five games of the season, which was one of the reasons why the Cougars won all five games and were ranked 10th in the country.
On a rainy Saturday against Boise State, the Cougars lost two fumbles on two consecutive plays. It was that kind of day for BYU.
The Cougars committed four turnovers in all, to go along with nine costly penalties in a 26-17 loss to the Broncos. This was BYU’s second loss in its last 18 games.
“I saw a lot of mistakes,” head coach Kalani Sitake said. “Against a good team, it’s hard to overcome those mistakes. I thought we had it set up to make a comeback, but a lot of credit to Boise State.”
Jaren Hall returned from a two-game absence because of a rib injury, and completed 22 of 37 passes for a career-high 302 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
But the Cougars could not establish a consistent rushing attack, and BYU failed to convert two crucial fourth down attempts, one inside the red zone.
“I felt like we moved the ball pretty well, except for a couple drives,” Hall said. “But just the obvious, we didn’t take care of the ball. We did a lot of uncharacteristic things, and put our defense in tough spots several times.”
BYU jumped out to a 10-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, capped by a 14-yard touchdown pass from Hall to Samson Nacua.
But the Broncos scored the next 23 points, as BYU trailed for the first time in a game this season. Cyrus Habibi-Likio and Andrew Van Buren each scored rushing touchdowns as Boise State took a 20-10 lead into halftime.
Trailing 23-10 going into the fourth quarter, Tyler Allgeier scored on a one-yard touchdown run, set up by a 59-yard catch by Gunner Romney, to get the Cougars to within a touchdown. Allgeier rushed for 73 yards on 19 carries, but also had a fumble.
Jonah Dalmas kicked four field goals for Boise State, including a 22-yarder with four minutes left, set up by an incredible 35-yard catch by Khalil Shakir.
Habibi-Likio and Van Buren combined for 135 yards in leading a potent Boise State rushing attack that accumulated 144 yards total on the ground.
“I felt like we should try to dominate the line of scrimmage, and I don’t think we did that enough,” Sitake said.
“They executed in a good way,” said linebacker Ben Bywater, who led BYU with 14 tackles. “It’s hard to beat a team when you shoot yourself in the foot with turnovers and penalties. But hats off to them, they played a great game.”
Lopini Katoa fumbled twice, once on a kickoff and once at the Boise State 13-yard line after picking up a first down.
“Nobody feels worse than those two running backs,” Sitake said about Katoa and Allgeier. “We emphasized and explained to these guys all year how important ball security is.”
BYU repeatedly bogged down in the red zone in the second half. In addition to Katoa’s fumble, an incomplete fourth-down pass from Hall stopped another drive at the Boise State 5-yard line.
The BYU offense racked up 413 yards, but because of the turnovers and fourth down failures, the Cougars could manage to put just 17 points on the scoreboard.
“We can’t beat ourselves,” Hall said. “We had done a great job with that for five games, that’s why we won five games. So the game we don’t do that, that’s the result.”
“It’s hard to win games with four turnovers,” Sitake said. “We have to take advantage of those opportunities in the red zone. We felt like we had success with fourth downs, being aggressive and trying to get the score. We felt like those were the right decisions to make, and that’s on me.”
Gunner Romney led the BYU receivers with four catches for 102 yards, while Puka Nacua added four receptions for 75 yards.
Boise State quarterback Hank Bachmeier completed 18 of 20 passes for 172 yards. The Broncos had zero turnovers.
BYU (5-1) will drop in the AP rankings headed into a road game next week at Baylor.
“We’ve got to bounce back,” Sitake said. “I’ve asked the guys to overcome this, learn as much as we can and stick together.”
“We’ll bounce back,” Hall said. “We’re still very confident. We know the type of team we have and the type of dudes we have.”