Coming in, we expected to get four or five chunk plays against a great team and we could have used two more in this game. That certainly would have made all the difference in the world. —BYU offensive coordinator Brandon Doman
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — BYU needed two additional big-chunk plays against Notre Dame, according to BYU offensive coordinator Brandon Doman after the 17-14 loss to the No. 5 Irish Saturday.
“Coming in, we expected to get four or five chunk plays against a great team and we could have used two more in this game," Doman said. "That certainly would have made all the difference in the world.”
As it turned out, BYU had to settle for a moral victory, putting up the first touchdowns on the Fighting Irish defense since Sept. 8.
Notre Dame doesn’t give up big plays, said Doman: “When they do, it’s been quarterback runs, primarily, so we knew it would be tough, but we still got a few but not enough.”
The first failed one came in the first quarter on BYU’s first possession. It occurred on a second-and-26 play when Riley Nelson’s pass to tight end Kaneakua Friel bounded off his hands to Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o.
“It was there,” said Doman. “We make that play and score on that drive it would have made all the difference in the world. We were moving the ball. They didn’t know what we were doing and we were having our way on that drive.”
According to Nelson, the play was a tight end delay that was supposed to develop slow, “But Friel beat his man and got open quick and I threw the ball behind him a little."
The second big BYU miss came in the final quarter with the Cougars driving for what could have been the game-winning touchdown with just under eight minutes to play. Nelson scrambled and saw Cody Hoffman break off his dig route into the open.
“On a scramble play, I’d expect Cody would go deep and I threw it where I thought he’d be and he ended up open in the middle, wide open," Nelson said. "That will haunt me. (If) we make that play, I think we win the game."
For Doman, the loss was frustrating because for the second straight week, competing against a Top 10 team, the Cougars were right there in the fourth quarter and when it came time to make a big play, it didn’t happen.
Daniel Sorensen's miss on a 46-yard field goal early in the game, which also proved big in the outcome.
“One of these days, those are going to go our way. One of these days, and I hope it’s soon, we will complete one of those and it will make all the difference in the world for us,” said Doman.
“We needed to get more over the top,” Nelson said. “Defenses are scrunching up on us and we need to make them pay for it.”
The Cougars lost center Braden Hansen in the third quarter — a period of time BYU led Notre Dame for 24 minutes of the game. When that happened, his backup, the smaller Blair Tushaus came in and Notre Dame switched from a four-man front to three down linemen.
Concluded Doman, “They put a big noseguard on Tushaus and that enabled them to come with more of a rush around the end. That made a big difference for them in the second half.”
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.