PROVO — Heartache.
That's the word BYU quarterback Riley Nelson used to describe his emotions after the Cougars fell to Utah 24-21 Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
But in the aftermath of one of the craziest BYU-Utah finishes ever — and that's saying something — the Cougars said they can't dwell on that bitter defeat.
That's because they visit No. 24 Boise State Thursday (7 p.m., MT, ESPN).
"There's no time to feel sorry for ourselves," said coach Bronco Mendenhall. "There's a lot of time, though, to assess what we can do better, need to do better, and then hopefully apply it in a very quick turnaround against a good team."
BYU will hold just two practices, Monday and Tuesday, before making the trip to Boise on Wednesday.
Boise State (1-1) won its first game of the season on Saturday with a 39-12 victory at home over Miami (Ohio). The Broncos returned to the top 25 in the Associated Press poll on Sunday.
BYU (2-1), meanwhile, lost in a wild game that finally ended with Riley Stephenson's 36-yard field goal drilling the left upright with no time remaining on the clock. As expected, the Cougars, who entered the weekend ranked No. 25, dropped out of the AP poll on Sunday.
So how do they put that disappointing loss to their arch-rivals behind them?
"We do. That's it. I'm going to talk to you guys, and then it's over," Nelson told reporters after the game. "Because if we start feeling sorry for ourselves, or walk around all morose, Boise State is going to put it on us. We're in their place. Some things we can take away from (Saturday's game) is we were exposed that we can't handle noise (from the fans). I've played up in Boise. I played there when I was at Utah State (in 2006). It's just as, if not more, noisy. That will be an emphasis this week in practice."
Nelson added that he and his teammates had already turned their attention to the Broncos, and right after the game, they had game film of Boise State loaded on iPads.
"We lost to a good football team (Saturday)," Nelson said. "It's a quick turnaround. We travel on Wednesday morning. So let's go. The Broncos are good, and if we don't come in there ready to play, they'll embarrass us."
Against Utah, mistake-prone BYU found itself trailing 24-7 in the fourth quarter before scoring a pair of touchdowns to cut the deficit to three with 3:39 remaining.
"You've got to put your team in a position to win the game," said Nelson, who completed 17-of-35 passes for 206 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. "The lesson learned is that you can't dig yourself a hole. As fun as it is to be called the 'gritty guy' who's always in there at the end and puts his team in there with a chance to win, well, we had our opportunities to get ahead in that game and stay ahead. And we didn't take advantage of them. I'm disappointed from that. But I'm willing to learn from it and will do all I can to avoid it going forward this season. This is week three, and we fully intend on playing in a bowl game. So we have 10 more games. And if we let it, this game can ruin our season, or it can help us turn for the better. Let's go play."
Despite all of the miscues the Cougars committed against the Utes, including 12 penalties and two turnovers, they still had a couple of shots to send the game into overtime at the end.
Facing fourth-and-12 from BYU's 19-yard line, Nelson completed a 47-yard pass to wide receiver Cody Hoffman, who was tackled at the Utah 34-yard line with 10 seconds remaining.
"I was really impressed that we converted the fourth-down play," Mendenhall said. "That was an amazing play that gave us a chance to extend the game."
"They had been bracketing (Hoffman) all night, and he and I saw it," Nelson explained. "It was something we kind of drew up in the sand. He came to me with the idea and I liked it. We were able to complete the ball … (Offensive coordinator Brandon) Doman had enough confidence in us to let us call it and put us in position to kick a field goal."
Before attempting the field goal, however Nelson scrambled and floated a pass intended for wide receiver JD Falslev that dropped incomplete. Utah fans flooded the field, but the officials ruled there was still one second remaining.
After clearing the field, BYU's Justin Sorensen attempted a 51-yard field goal that was blocked. Falslev picked up the ball and was fighting to gain yards when fans again stormed the field.
Utah was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct, giving BYU one last chance to tie the game. Stephenson's attempt smacked the left upright, sparking yet another Ute celebration.
"We had two tries, and you ought to be able to kick the ball through the uprights," Mendenhall said. "I'm disappointed. That won't be the reason the game wasn't won. There were plenty of mistakes leading up to that. But when you have a chance to make a play, at any position, that's what you would hope."
And now for BYU, there's no time to dwell on the past — a new challenge awaits in Boise on Thursday night.
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