PROVO – BYU knew UMass would come after freshman Joe Critchlow like sharks in bloody water.
But shortly after kickoff on Saturday in the UMass 16-10 win over BYU, the Cougars couldn't make the Minutemen pay for that kind of reckless abandon.
The Minutemen sacked Critchlow seven times en route to stifling BYU’s offense enough to win in what became a defensive battle in BYU’s home finale.
“Credit them,” said BYU head coach Kalani Sitake. “They brought a lot of pressure and we didn’t make them pay for it. We tried to take shots, run at them but we did not do enough to make them pay.”
Sitake said BYU coaches decided to stay with Critchlow during the game, even with other young players like Kody Wilstead and Koy Detmer available or even Austin Kafentzis. “He gave us the best chance to win,” said Sitake.
“We had a pretty good game plan set up,” said Critchlow. “The lack of success could be attributed to my lack of reads and throws. We left a lot of plays out there we could have made.”
Critchlow said that the week was spent studying a lot of blitz packages, and during the game he failed to recognize some of them. He said BYU didn’t run the ball more because of how the game played out.
BYU and UMass both gained 299 total yards in what amounted to a defensive struggle. BYU ran 71 plays to its opponent’s 68.
“Credit their DBs for the coverage they had on us all day,” Critchlow said. “The holes were bigger last week than they were in this game.”
Critchlow completed 21 of 45 passes for 257 yards, one touchdown, and four interceptions. His seven sacks taken gave up nearly 50 yards. Conversely, UMass’ experienced quarterback Andrew Ford was 21 of 35 or 230 yards, one TD and no interceptions. He was sacked twice.
Head coach Kalani Sitake said that some of the sacks were on BYU's protections, but some were on is quarterback holding the ball.
“We have a lot of things to improve on when we break down tape,” said Critchlow. “We are anxious to make improvements and expect to play better next week. Teammates have had my back. The seniors have taught us how to handle adversity this season.
In his return to the field, Cougar scatback KJ Hall caught 4 passes for 33 yards and rushed eight times for 37. Squally Canada had 11 carries for 52 yards, an average of 4.6 per carry.