PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – It is now do or die time for BYU to get bowl eligible.
No. 14 Oklahoma forced three turnovers and scored 21 points off those takeaways and edged BYU 31-24 on Saturday, despite playing the second half without quarterback Dillon Gabriel.
Gabriel threw for 191 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but he suffered a head injury just before halftime. Gavin Sawchuk led the Sooners on the ground with 107 yards, including the go-ahead 16-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Oklahoma (9-2, 6-2 Big 12, No. 14 in CFP) kept alive its hopes for reaching the Big 12 Championship Game.
Aidan Robbins ran for a season-high 182 yards to lead BYU. Jake Retzlaff threw for 173 yards and two touchdowns, but he also had a pair of fumbles and an interception for the Cougars (5-6, 2-6 Big 12).
Gabriel was nearly flawless while guiding the Oklahoma offense during the first half. He hit Jayden Gibson on a 55-yard strike to set up his first touchdown – a 3-yard toss to Nic Anderson. Then Gabriel connected with Gibson on a 27-yard dart along the back of the end zone for his second touchdown that gave Oklahoma a 14-7 lead.
Retzlaff matched Gabriel with his own share of big plays before halftime. His 23-yard pass to Chase Roberts on 4th-and-1 put BYU on the board in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Retzlaff had third down throws of 29 yards to Kody Epps and 22 yards to Roberts to set up a 1-yard pass to Isaac Rex that tied it at 14-14.
BYU could have taken the lead in the third quarter after marching down to the Oklahoma 2-yard line on the strength of three long runs — two by Robbins and one by Retzlaff. Oklahoma’s Billy Bowman swung momentum when he picked off a short pass from Retzlaff at the goal line and raced 100 yards untouched for a touchdown that put the Sooners back in front 24-17.
“I’m not going to sugar coat it,” head coach Kalani Sitake said. “Don’t make that throw. Hand the ball off to the back. That’s a simple play. Maybe it was easier to take the pass option away from the quarterback. I don’t want to throw guys under the bus, but I don’t know how else to tell you guys. That’s a really tough lesson to learn when you have an opportunity to win this game.”
“It stings a little bit,” Robbins said. “Especially when you drive all the way down and get to the 2-yard line. But it’s life lessons. When adversity hits you in the face, how are you going to respond?”
Retzlaff converted another 4th down with a 26-yard pass to Epps and stretched over the goal line on a 10-yard keeper to cap the drive and tie it at 24-24 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Cougars were unable to take the lead though after Retzlaff fumbled at the BYU 25 following a third-down sack. Oklahoma’s Jacob Lacey pounced on the ball to set up Sawchuk’s clincher three plays later.
“Turnovers cost us,” Sitake said. “You cannot be careless with the football, whether its’ fumbles or interceptions and expect to beat teams.
The Cougars’ previously anemic offense finally proved capable of sustaining drives thanks to a robust running game. BYU finished with a season-high 390 total yards – with 217 coming on the ground.
“I knew we could compete with them,” said defensive back Eddie Heckard. “We had a bad few weeks, but this week we showed how we’re supposed to play.”
BYU next visits Oklahoma State on Saturday needing a win to get bowl eligible.