CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A typically solid BYU defensive performance went for naught against Virginia due to some critical special teams miscues and downright bad offensive production. As a result, BYU lost to the Cavaliers, 19-16.
Robert Anae's go-fast, go-hard offensive system was a flop — at least for the majority of the game. After a promising first drive the offense sputtered before gaining some life late in the fourth quarter.
Most of the problems were directly related to porous offensive line play. Offensive line coach Garett Tujague had to make due with a largely inexperienced, rag-tag bunch to start fall camp, and his unit was completely underwhelmed until finding some rhythm in the fourth quarter.
The Cavaliers were able to get to quarterback Taysom Hill consistently with a four-man pass rush while standing up the majority of run attempts up the middle. To their credit, the offensive line made some late strides, and it can't be a coincidence that it did once Manaaki Vaitai saw reps at left guard.
As for Hill, he struggled mightily with his accuracy. He finished the game 13 of 40 for just 175 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He was never much of a factor running the ball either, rushing it just 11 times for 39 yards and a touchdown.
Even when he was on with his throw, critical drops were made by receivers, including running back Jamaal Williams. His drop led to a crucial interception by Virginia late. Brett Thompson also had a big drop near the end of the game. Yes, the throw to Thompson was a bit behind him, but it was still a catch he needed to make.
Cody Hoffman wasn't able to play, and the offense suffered as a result. Receivers were never able to make enough plays necessary to salvage substandard play from the offensive line and quarterback.
Overall, BYU accounted for 361 yards of total offense, but couldn't sustain many drives while putting the defense in bad situations throughout.
What more can this unit do? The defense held Virginia to just 230 yards of total offense and only yielded touchdowns when the Cavaliers were given short fields due to miscues from the special teams and the offense.
Great play was provided from all the linebackers while the defensive line proved stout as well. Even in the secondary, cornerback Robertson Daniel had at least two pass breakups and looked equal to the task of playing field cornerback. The boundary position was solid as well.
Yes, safety Craig Bills could have wrapped up better on Virginia's last touchdown, but otherwise he provided very good play, along with Daniel Sorensen at safety.
BYU played a lot of backups on defense, with all of them responding well. Those backups included Jherremya Leuta-Douyere and Manoa Pikula at linebacker and Blake Morgan and Dallin Leavitt in the secondary, among others.
Good punts were made by Scott Arellano, but he also accounted for one of BYU's two huge miscues after bobbling a snap that went for a blocked punt. Coverages were generally good except for one long return. The return units were adequate.
Kicker Justin Sorensen booted through a 36-yard field goal late with Arrellano redeeming himself somewhat by placing the ball effectively on a high snap.
The offense had no rhythm and largely no identity for much of the game. The unit looked unprepared and couldn't take advantage of an inexperienced Virginia front. The good news is the unit showed some improvement in rhythm, and production, as the game wore on. It was far too little, too late, however.
Curious calls were made after the rain delay and late in the fourth quarter. Anae opened the play-calling after the more than two hour rain delay with three straight runs off tackle — with Virginia stuffing each one of them. One also has to question him calling a pass late in a third-and-6 situation. The pass eventually led to Williams' dropped pass and the winning touchdown by Virginia.
Everyone knew this offense was going to be a work in progress at the beginning of the season. Few, if any, knew just how much work was left to be accomplished until this is a productive unit.
Few coaches know how to prepare a defense like Bronco Mendenhall and the preparation of that unit was exemplary. Throughout fall camp people heard talk of the offense matching the defensive unit's intensity and execution. Saturday's game proved the offense still has a long ways to go.
BYU lost to a subpar Atlantic Coast Conference team on the road. Yes, road games are rarely easy, but this was a game BYU needed to win. It couldn't close during critical stages of the game and even though BYU showed life late, it never should have come down to what it did.