After taking a commanding 21-7 lead, BYU's offense completely imploded as Utah State defeated the Cougars 40-24.
Yes, injuries changed the course of this game, but the decision-making by both players and coaches led to this devastating loss. Credit the Aggies' aggressive defense for making BYU pay for bad throws and bad ball security. BYU has had some tough losses so far this year, but this may be the toughest and mostly costly to date.
Here's a breakdown of BYU's grades versus Utah State.
BYU's offense looked as good as it has all season toward the beginning of the game as Beau Hoge threw two touchdowns and BYU had a 21-7 lead. Then disaster struck as Hoge threw a pick-six and went out of the game shortly after due to an injury.
And then the turnover floodgates opened. The Cougars turned over the ball six times on the night. Backup quarterback Koy Detmer Jr. promptly threw two picks. BYU tried to depend on the running game, but Ula Tolutau fumbled the ball twice and Austin Kafentzis added another fumble. To top it all off, Koy Detmer threw another pick-six to end the game.
Assigning a grade for this offense is difficult. On the one hand, BYU did some things right. The Cougars rushed for 210 yards. But giving up six turnovers doomed BYU. While this wasn't utter failure from top to bottom, the word that best describes this offense is incomplete. Of course an I on a transcript counts the same as an F.
The defense had its moments in this game. Sione Takitaki, Grant Jones, Corbin Kaufusi and Fred Warner all had sacks. Micah Hannemann had a pick-six. The defense also had its bad moments. Utah State's opening drive comes to mind. The defense gave up only 288 yards, but turnovers put the defense in bad positions time and time again. You can't expect the defense to win the game when the offense keeps coughing up the ball.
Special teams did pretty well in this game. Kaufusi got a big field goal block when the Cougars were still in it. Rhett Almond hit his one field goal attempt from 37 yards. Jonny Linehan had a decent day with punts, averaging a little over 40 yards per game and landing two inside the 20. The kickoff and punt returns weren't terribly impressive, though. Jonah Trinnaman made a silly mistake of taking the ball out of the end zone after hesitating that ended with BYU getting a holding penalty and the Cougars starting at the 5.
It was an average day for special teams, and average translates to a C in my grade book.
There were plenty of really questionable decisions in this game. Having Hoge run after he was taking hits and clearly limping is one. Doing a simple dive play on fourth and 4 at the USU 42 when Utah State knows that BYU doesn't have any confidence in the pass game is another.
BYU's coaching staff is showing its inexperience. Year 2 is way too early to make drastic changes, but this coaching staff needs to get things turned around quickly if the Cougars want to make it to a bowl game. Then again, it may be better to simply focus on improving for future years instead. Either way, this coaching staff has a long road ahead of it.
BYU's first three losses came against ranked opponents. It's clear that BYU isn't just not as good as the big boys. The Cougars are simply not good. Give credit to the Utah State defense for playing a terrific game, but there's no excuse for giving up seven turnovers in a game.
Yes, BYU had to play with backup quarterbacks for much of the game, but having Hoge run with the ball when he was already clearly hurting invited disaster. The defense played its heart out to try to keep BYU in this game, but it just wasn't enough to overcome a broken offense that couldn't hold onto the ball, much less be effective. You can't completely fail this team because of the defense, but this team is in a horrible place and needs to somehow find its way back with two tough opponents coming up.
Lafe Peavler is a sports strategist for the Deseret News and KSL.com. Follow him on Twitter @LafePeavler.