It’s frustrating. We had it and we didn’t finish as a team. —BYU linebacker Spencer Hadley
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — All the hubbub over injuries to BYU’s secondary in fall camp?
Those injuries weren't an issue at all in BYU’s 19-16 loss to Virginia Saturday at Scott Stadium.
There was plenty of handwringing when starting field corner Jordan Johnson went down during the first week of fall camp with a season-ending ACL injury. Same thing had happened the first day of spring practice when JC transfer corner Trent Trammell suffered an ACL tear and was lost for the season.
But newcomer Robertson Daniel rose to the occasion in BYU’s season opener, despite the Cougars blowing a lead with two minutes left in the game.
It was not the fault of BYU’s defense. Specifically, the Cougar secondary that featured senior Daniel Sorensen and Craig Bills at safety and Robertson and Skye PoVey and true freshman Dallin Leavitt at boundary corner rose to the occasion.
Led by Eathyn Manumaleuna and Uani Unga’s 10 tackles each, the Cougar defense allowed Virgina scoring drives of just 16 and 13 yards, plus a field goal just before halftime from 53 yards. Other than that, the Cavalier offense did very little to produce the win after getting a blocked punt to set up its first touchdown, a Taysom Hill fumble for a two-point safety, and a late-game interception to set up its winning touchdown.
“It’s frustrating,” said linebacker Spencer Hadley. “We had it and we didn’t finish as a team.”
In his first appearance as a Cougar, Daniel had four solo tackles, two assisted tackles and a pass breakup early in the first quarter when Virginia tried to pick on him. Bills had an interception and almost had another.
The BYU defense allowed Virginia 14 first downs while the Cougar offense got 21. Virginia had just 109 rushing yards, an average of 2.6 per carry. The Cavaliers had just 114 yards passing and just 223 total yards in the game.
To put that in perspective, last year BYU’s defense ranked No. 3 nationally by allowing just 266.1 yards per game to 13 opponents. Saturday’s effort against the ACC team was significantly below that number.
A year ago BYU’s defense ranked No. 1 in third-down conversions (26.5 percent). Saturday it allowed Virginia 6 of 20 (30 percent), although the home team had an advantage in time of possession, 34:09 to 25:51, and ran 74 plays at the Cougars.
“There’s no sulking,” said Hadley. “We don’t have time. Maybe a little on Sunday, but the beauty of this game is there is no time to dwell on losses because we have to get ready for Texas.
“I thought our corners played great. We called on them to make plays and they did.”
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.