I'm as frustrated as I've ever been in coaching.
Instead, it was the Cougars' multitude of mistakes that spelled the difference Friday night at Cowboys Stadium as they fell to the Horned Frogs, 38-28.
BYU wasn't blown out like it was in its three previous meetings with TCU. In fact, it was a winnable game for the Cougars and they can only blame themselves.
"I'm as frustrated as I've ever been in coaching," said coach Bronco Mendenhall.
In the first two quarters, BYU special teams blunders — a botched snap on a punt; a partially blocked punt; and short punt followed by a 19-yard TCU return — contributed to 21 of the Frogs' 28 first-half points, and put the Cougars in a big hole at halftime that ultimately was too much to overcome.
Then, on BYU's first possession of the second half, another botched punt snap set up another TCU touchdown.
"I can't even describe it," Mendenhall said. "It caught me completely by surprise. I didn't think that would happen."
In addition, the Cougars had three turnovers, compared to zero for the Frogs.
"We made too many mistakes to win the game," Mendenhall said, "but I think it was clear to all that it was a very evenly fought game and it could have gone any number of ways."
"It's a difficult loss," said safety Travis Uale. "It's one of the closest games we've played against TCU in four years. It hurts, but the way we played is not shown on the scoreboard."
Mendenhall said he was proud of the way his team battled back. In the third quarter, the Cougars trailed 35-10 and it looked like TCU was going to record another lopsided victory. BYU outscored the Frogs 18-3 in the final quarter-and-a-half.
"I absolutely loved the way our team fought and battled until the very last tick on the clock," he said.
The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for BYU (6-3) while TCU (6-2) won its third consecutive contest.
"We wanted to just come out of this with a win," said TCU coach Gary Patterson. "We've watched BYU improving ... We're glad we came away with a win and we got ourselves bowl eligible."
The Cougars had more yards of total offense, outgaining the Frogs, 354-283.
Quarterback Riley Nelson completed 15-of-29 passes for 215 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He also rushed 23 times for 84 yards.
After BYU's first series stalled, a bad snap by Reed Hornung that sailed past punter Riley Stephenson set up a short touchdown run inside the BYU five-yard line. Five minutes into the game, the Horned Frogs led 14-0.
But the Cougars settled down, as Nelson completed a 44-yard pass to Ross Apo, then they got on the scoreboard with a 42-yard field goal by Justin Sorensen. BYU's defense stiffened and the offense pulled within four on its next series on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Nelson to Michael Alisa.
But more special teams mistakes ensued, as the Cougars drove to the TCU 29-yard line and instead of attempting a field goal on a fourth-down, they tried a fake that went awry as Matt Marshall threw an incompletion.
BYU's next drive ended with Nelson throwing a pass deep into double coverage that was intercepted.
The Cougars got the ball back, only to have a punt partially blocked by TCU, giving the Horned Frogs the ball at the 37-yard line. Two plays later, TCU scored to take a 21-10 advantage.
The Cougars' special teams finally did something right as Cody Hoffman returned the kickoff 60 yards. But BYU squandered a second-and-6 situation at the TCU 9-yard line when Nelson scrambled and as the TCU pass rush converged, he lofted a pass into the end zone that was picked off.
Once again, the Cougars drove deep into TCU territory, but that drive resulted in Sorensen slipping as he attempted a 50-yard field goal attempt. The ball fell well short of the goal post just before halftime.94 comments on this story
The theme of special teams miscues continued in the second half. At the end of BYU's first possession of the third quarter, Stephenson fumbled the snap from punt formation, handing the Frogs ideal field position again. And, once again, TCU capitalized with a short touchdown run to go up 35-10 midway through the third quarter.
J.D. Falslev's 67-yard punt return for a touchdown in the third quarter cut TCU's lead to 35-20, and the Cougars added another TD with 2:01 left on a one-yard run by Bryan Kariya before TCU ran out the clock on its final possession.
BYU has a bye this upcoming week and won't return to action until Nov. 12 against Idaho at LaVell Edwards Stadium.