BYU football: No late heroics this time as Cougars fall to Texas 17-16
Erich Schlegel, Getty Images
AUSTIN, Texas — For the second week in a row, BYU played in a one-point game on Saturday.
But this time, unlike the season-opening win at Ole Miss, there were no fourth-quarter heroics. And the Cougars couldn't find a way to upset No. 24 Texas. Basically, BYU squandered a burnt-orange opportunity to record a signature victory against a ranked, Big 12 opponent on the road.
"This one's going to hurt on the plane ride home," said Cougar linebacker Spencer Hadley.
The Longhorns overcame their first-half struggles to outscore BYU 14-3 in the second half and earn a 17-16 victory in front of 100,995 fans at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
For the second straight week, BYU (1-1) managed to score only one offensive touchdown. The Cougars dominated the first half but had little to show for it.
On their first two drives of the game, the Cougars moved the ball to the Texas 13-yard line and 16-yard line, only to settle for a pair of field goals by Justin Sorensen.
"Really it was a tale of two different halves," said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall. "Field position and time of possession in our favor in half No. 1 with16 points, and field position and time of possession in their favor in the second half with 17 points."
In the second quarter, quarterback Jake Heaps connected with Ross Apo on a six-yard touchdown pass to lift the Cougars to a 13-0 advantage. On that drive, BYU marched 97 yards, and consumed five minutes off the clock. The Cougars could have used more drives like that on Saturday.
Failures to find the end zone on other occasions would come back to haunt BYU.
"You always want touchdowns instead of field goals," Mendenhall said.
The Cougars were in control with a 13-3 lead at halftime, but in the second half, the Longhorns roared to life, outgaining BYU in total yardage, 201-67.
Texas took its first lead with 8:46 remaining in the game on a four-yard run by running back Cody Johnson, then held on for the win. The Longhorns improved to 2-0 on the season.
"You look at this game and the way that we were going in the first half and at different points during the game and everybody was feeling confident. It's tough to lose a game like this," said Heaps, who completed 22-of-38 passes for 192 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. "Especially when we let someone come back and beat us. It's uncharacteristic of our football team. It's uncharacteristic of us individually. The bottom line is we didn't execute when we needed to and it's tough. It's tough that my interceptions came at an unfortunate time during the game — both of them. And we might be sitting here if that didn't happen with a smile. It's tough, but we're hoping that this will help us grow as a football team."
Under Mendenhall, BYU had won seven of 10 games decided by three points or less, including last week's 14-13 win over Ole Miss, where the Cougars rallied from a 13-0 deficit in the fourth quarter.
"I think we have a great team. I think Texas obviously also has a great team," said BYU left tackle Matt Reynolds. "I think we both did a great job of playing our hardest. It came down to execution at critical times. And when we needed to, we didn't execute the way that we typically do. It's just not us. Close games, that's where we're at our best and we weren't there tonight."
Mendenhall was confident about his team making critical plays at the end. But they didn't happen against Texas.
"We felt really good about our chances. We knew it would be a difficult game," Mendenhall said. "In fact, our approach had been all week that if the game came right down to the end, our execution and consistency would be the difference. But in this particular case, Texas' defense played really well in the second half."
Heaps said BYU's inability to score touchdowns in the first half was the result of "simple execution errors. That's really the name of the game. We had screens set up and we just missed one block and it would have been a touchdown. Stuff like that. Little things that kept us from getting in the end zone. So, we're excited that we played a great team. We played them well and we could have, and quite frankly should have, walked away with a win. But we didn't execute."
The last time BYU lost by a score of 17-16, it was last November, at arch-rival Utah. As fate would have it, the Cougars' next game is against the Utes, who are now members of the Pac-12. Utah also lost a heartbreaker on the road Saturday — at USC.
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