PROVO — This is not the way BYU expected this season to go.
In the wake of a frustrating 17-14 defeat to No. 5 Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., last Saturday, the Cougars believe they are better than their mediocre 4-4 record indicates.
"You're only as good as your record, obviously, but I don't feel like we're a 4-4 team," said linebacker Brandon Ogletree. "We've had our chances in close games to beat some really good teams. For whatever reason, we haven't done it. We need to figure out what that is and finish the season strong."
BYU has now dropped back-to-back setbacks to top-10 opponents, including a 42-24 loss to Oregon State on Oct. 13. The Cougars have lost their three road games this season — against Utah, Boise State and Notre Dame — by a total of seven points.
"It's devastating," freshman running back Jamaal Williams said after the loss to the Irish. "It's disappointing, as usual."
BYU enters the final stretch of the year — four regular-season games remain — with a visit to Georgia Tech of the Atlantic Coast Conference Saturday (1 p.m. MT, ROOT Sports).
It's another long road trip for the Cougars, who, prior to last weekend, hadn't played a game outside the Mountain Time Zone this season.
Once again, BYU is looking to bounce back.
"We've got to regroup and come back next week stronger," Ogletree said. "We've got some resilient dudes (on the team). It's just in our nature. We're not going to let this loss set us back. Obviously, it's going to sting over the weekend but the best remedy for something like this is hard work. We're going to come back on Monday ready to work."
"This is the time when we've got to stick together as a team and not have any separation," said offensive lineman Braden Brown. "We still have four more games that we've got to win. We go into another tough environment next week against Georgia Tech. We need to keep battling and play together as a team."
The Yellow Jackets (3-4) snapped a three-game losing streak last Saturday at home with a 37-17 victory over beleaguered Boston College.
Quarterback Tevin Washington ran for a pair of touchdowns against the Eagles, while running back Zach Laskey rushed for 101 yards, though he suffered a shoulder injury. Offensively, Georgia Tech, which runs a flexbone option attack, rolled up 563 yards of total offense and kept the ball for more than 43 minutes.
Meanwhile, it was the Yellow Jackets' first game since the mid-season firing of defensive coordinator Al Groh. Prior to Groh's dismissal, Georgia Tech had surrendered more than 40 points in each of its three straight losses.
As for the Cougars, they are now stuck in a two-game losing streak. Quarterback Riley Nelson is determined not to lose another game this season. The Notre Dame defeat left a bitter taste in his mouth.
"We don't want to feel that way again," he said. "But here we go, another tough opponent on the road. It's going to be a long trip to Atlanta against a team that's just as hungry as we are. I know their season hasn't gone the way they envisioned it and neither has ours. It's going to be a dogfight. But we don't want to feel that way coming off the field again this season."
BYU led Notre Dame, 14-7, at halftime, but failed to generate any points in the second half. The Irish missed two field goals, but they made key plays when they needed to, and they made fewer miscues than the Cougars.
"I thought we put ourselves in a really good chance to win," Ogletree said. "The ball didn't bounce our way. Credit to Notre Dame. They're a really good team."
The Irish rushed for 270 yards against BYU. Notre Dame had two running backs gain more than 100 yards apiece.
Nelson, who completed 23-of-36 passes for 177 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, attributed the loss to "an accumulation of small mistakes." He added, "We put drives together. We just couldn't finish them. (Notre Dame) played well. We didn't do enough."
While wide receiver Cody Hoffman is disappointed with his team's record, he's not disappointed with his team's effort.
"I'd much rather have a winning record than 4-4," he said. "But our guys come out hard every game and put it all on the line. We just came up a little bit short."
Cougars and Yellow Jackets on the air
BYU (4-4) at Georgia Tech (3-4)
Saturday, 1 p.m. MT
Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, Ga.
TV: ROOT Sports
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
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