PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – A season that started out so promising has turned into a full-fledged nightmare for BYU.

Andrew Conrad kicked a 33-yard field goal as time expired, Keaton Mitchell ran for 176 yards and East Carolina beat BYU 27-24 on Friday night.

The loss is BYU’s fourth straight, its longest losing streak since 2017. But unlike its last two losses against Arkansas and Liberty in which the Cougars gave up well over 500 yards of offense, the defense played well enough to win.

BYU must now win two of its final three games just to become bowl eligible. The Cougars face Boise State and Stanford on the road, while hosting Utah Tech.

Conrad, a freshmen, made the game-winning kick with a line-drive wobbler that just cleared the crossbar following two timeouts from BYU.

The Pirates were aided on their final drive with a 15-yard pass interference penalty on Kaleb Hayes on fourth-and-8 to get to the BYU 22 with 40 seconds left.

“It was a tough game, back-and-forth, and they earned the win,” said BYU head coach Kalani Sitake. “I was really proud of our guys, in comparison to last week. The guys played a lot better, but everything is looking at the result of the game more than anything. This is where the culture of the team is supposed to thrive the most. I feel really good about our team, our core values and our principles as a team. The players are going to get better from this. We will respond well and be ready to go next week.”

Mitchell carried the ball 21 times that included an 31-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. He was later hit in the head by Jacob Boren after catching an 8-yard pass from Holton Ahlers with six minutes left in the game. Mitchell finished the series, but then sat on the bench with his helmet off and didn’t play in the final drive. Boren was ejected for targeting.

Ahlers threw for 197 yards and added a pair of short-yardage touchdown runs for the Pirates.

Jaren Hall threw two touchdown passes and was 18-of-25 passing for 144 yards and added 60 yards on the ground for BYU. Lopini Katoa had 116 yards rushing on 20 carries with a 24-yard touchdown run.

Puka Nacua led BYU in receiving with seven catches for 79 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown grab in the second quarter to give BYU a 17-10 lead.

But the Cougars failed to convert two fourth down opportunities in the fourth quarter, hurting their chances of pulling out the victory. BYU is now 5 for 19 on the season on fourth down tries.

“Critical game execution on critical downs —third-down conversions, obviously our fourth-down conversions,” said Nacua. “On my part, I don’t think I caught a single deep ball today, other than the blown coverage. I’ve got to be better. I’m a playmaker and a deep threat, and I wasn’t that today.”

“I think, if anything, this has just brought us closer as a team,” said defensive lineman Tyler Batty about BYU’s struggles. “We’ve got a good group of dudes, and there’s not a single quitter in our locker room.”

The Cougars were out-gained by the Pirates, 424-388 in total yards. BYU did pound out 244 yards rushing.

“Obviously, it’s supposed to hurt, and the struggles and adversities are tough things,” Sitake said. “But I’m proud of our players, how hard they played, and unfortunately we’re able to get the win. We’ll get back to work, fight some more and get ready for Boise next week.

“You get defined by your culture when things go really bad. Sometimes success can mask some of the issues, and so this exposes a lot of it. I’m really excited about correcting things and getting things back to where we can play at our best and execute better and as a team in all three phases.”

BYU next plays at Boise State November 5th.