Momentum can shift from play to play in college football. This recap and breakdown is what stat told the story for each quarter and how momentum shifted at any given moment during BYU's 7-6 loss to Boise State:
With punter Riley Stephenson pinning the Broncos deep a couple times on beautiful punting, it was beginning to look like it would be the kicking game that could dominate the discussion once again. After missing two last-second field goals against Utah a week ago, Bronco had to breathe a sigh of relief when it was Boise State that missed a first-quarter field goal.
The stat of the quarter would have to be 0-1 in the "Blue Zone" for the Cougars. BYU stuffed a fake punt attempt to set itself up in prime scoring position inside the 20-yard line of Boise State. After a productive drive behind the legs of Michael Alisa, a chop block penalty set the Cougars back outside the 15-yard line. Riley Nelson delivered an errant pass toward the goalline that was intercepted, ending BYU's best and only chance for points in the first quarter.
A scoreless first half by both teams is the 800-pound gorilla in the room at halftime. Two passed-up opportunities at field goals for Boise State may be the biggest reason the ballgame remained tied, even though that is not the story of the quarter. That leaves Nelson's fumble and second drive-killing turnover as the one thing to point to, right?
Nope. What is a good sign for the Cougars is the adapting of the BYU coaching staff with Brandon Doman and Bronco Mendenhall finally putting a little more onus on the running game, and a some trust in Alisa to be particular. Alisa picked up nine carries and 41 yards up through the end of the first half, with a majority of those yards coming in the second quarter. His long run of the half was a mix of power, balance and speed as he broke a tackle and caught his balance and sped past a defender for a nice 14-yard gain. He picked up his average per carry on the night in the process, upping his total to 4.6 yards per carry. His continued success will be key to opening up the play-action pass for Nelson and some opportunities to push the ball down the field in the second half.
BYU returned the opening kick out past the 35 but would not move past that mark. Nelson threw his second pick of the night, with this one resulting in 36-yard TD return by big nose tackle Mike Atkinson for the first points of the game. On the ensuing drive, Nelson threw down the middle high and was picked off for the third time of the game. Taysom Hill got the call out of the bullpen, but the first play of the drive was a fumble by Alisa giving Boise State the ball first-and-goal on the 1-yard line. Once again however, the BYU defense showed up and managed to pull out a fourth-down stop on the goalline to keep BYU within striking distance.
Despite all the turnovers, the stat of the game to this point is 0-5 on fourth-down conversions for Boise State. Any combinations of made field goals may have been enough to put the game out of reach from BYU.
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An 11-play 95-yard drive capped off with 4-yard TD by Hill would have been significant but Mendenhall's gamble didn't pay off. He opted to go for two instead of the game-tying extra point and the failed attempt and a clock-running drive by Boise State iced the Cougars' second straight heart-breaker. BYU ultimately fell 7-6.
Jonathan Boldt is the Editor-in-Chief of the UVU Review at Utah Valley University, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jboldt24. www.uvureview.com