Ravell Call, Deseret News
PROVO — BYU defensive coordinator and head coach Bronco Mendenhall couldn't have asked much more from his defense last Thursday night at Boise State.
The Cougar 'D' pitched a shutout, held the Broncos to fewer than 300 yards of total offense and staged one of the greatest goal-line stands in school history.
Could anyone have imagined that BYU would not allow the Boise State offense to score a single point, but still lose the game?
That's exactly what happened.
Somewhat overlooked in the Cougars' 7-6 setback at Bronco Stadium was their sterling defensive performance.
BYU shut out Boise State in the first half, the first time the Broncos had failed to score in the opening two quarters since 2005. And it marked the first time Boise State had failed to score an offensive touchdown at home since becoming an FBS team in 1996.
The Cougars have now held their last 10 opponents to under 300 yards of total offense, dating back to last season.
"We have a really good defense, and I think people are starting to acknowledge that," said senior linebacker Brandon Ogletree. "Usually you'd expect BYU to have a really powerful offense and the defense is just there on the field. But our defense is the focal point of this team. We lead with energy and emotion and hopefully try to pass some of that on to the offense."
The futility of the BYU offense squandered the defense's memorable effort Thursday.
It was nothing short of amazing that the Cougars could be minus-5 in turnover margin against the Broncos, and yet never trail by more than seven points.
BYU limited Boise State to 116 yards rushing on 40 attempts, an average of 2.9 yards per rush, and 261 yards of total offense.
Time after time, the Cougar offense put the defense in precarious situations. The most glaring one came in the third quarter when Michael Alisa lost a fumble at the BYU 1-yard line, with the Cougars trailing, 7-0.
On four straight plays, BYU's defense stonewalled Boise State, keeping the Broncos out of the end zone.
"It's the best feeling in the world," said Ogletree. "Any time an offense has four times to score inside their own 1-yard line and you don't let them, that's the best feeling in the world as a defender."
Mendenhall described the goal-line stand as "players just trying as hard as they absolutely can try to help their team. I think they'll remember it forever. I was proud of them for that. Man, it's fun to see people try that hard. It was good."
What was bad for BYU, though, was the offense's inability to carry its share of the load. When asked about that, linebacker Spencer Hadley expressed frustration but added, "There's no pointing fingers. There's no anger or animosity towards the offense. We love those guys. We'll stand behind those guys. We just realize that we can, and we've got to, do more."
"That's why football is the ultimate team game. You don't win or lose as a defense or an offense," said Ogletree. "You win or lose as a team. That's kind of how the dice shakes out sometimes. We'll get over it, though."
BYU, which has lost two consecutive games by a total of four points, returns to action Friday (6 p.m. MT, ESPN) against Hawaii at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
The Cougars learned after Thursday's game that they will be without senior defensive lineman Eathyn Manumaleuna, who suffered a left knee (patella) injury at Boise State. He will be sidelined 6-12 weeks and will likely miss the rest of the season.
As much as BYU struggled offensively against Boise State, the Cougars still could have won the game had they been successful on a two-point conversion attempt after their only touchdown with 3:37 remaining in the game.
It was Mendenhall's call, and he stood behind his decision.
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