BYU’s philosophy of independence came under fire late Saturday night. With no conference championship to play for and having been locked in to the Poinsettia Bowl, the Cougars came out flat and laid an egg against the Spartans of San Jose State.
Despite a valiant comeback attempt in the final minutes, the Cougars lost a heartbreaker, 20-14, to drop to 6-5 on the season. QB Riley Nelson was under constant pressure, being sacked four times. He was seemingly on the receiving end of a Spartan helmet on nearly every play.
On the opening drive of the game, SJSU quarterback David Fales led his squad down the field in four plays, covering 65 yards in just over a minute to take an early lead. The Cougars answered back with a nine-play, 79-yard drive of their own, capped off by a 16-yard Jamaal Williams' touchdown run.
SJSU added two consecutive scoring drives of 75 yards and 71 yards, respectively while shutting out the Cougar offense until the final minutes of the game. The Spartans held a 20-7 lead until Nelson connected with David Foote on fourth down for a 20-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter.
Trailing by six, BYU kicked an ensuing onside kick that took a perfect hop and bounced off a Spartan right into the trusty hands of Cody Hoffman. With all the momentum in his team's favor, Nelson looked poised to bring to Cougars all the way back — only to fumble and turn the ball over for the third time inside the Spartans' 30-yard line and crush the tired hopes of Cougar fans.
Nelson played hurt most of the fourth quarter but managed to complete 28-51 for 335 yards with one touchdown and one interception. As has been the case for most of the season, Hoffman was Nelson’s favorite target, hauling in 13 passes for 155 yards. Williams chipped in with 50 yards through the air and 62 yards on the ground with one touchdown.
After having to doors blown off early, BYU came out in the second half on a mission defensively. The Cougars only allowed 59 yards rushing total, and Nelson and Co. ended up leading the Spartans in total offense, 422-364.
BYU will travel to New Mexico State next week to close out the regular season.