PROVO — In the season-opener at Arizona, BYU dominated the third quarter and scored 21 unanswered points to take control of the game and beat the Wildcats.
In the home-opener last Saturday, a similar thing happened, but this time it was the Cougars who collapsed for much of the second half in a 21-18 setback to California.
“It felt like they took our game plan and beat us with it,” coach Kalani Sitake said of the Golden Bears.
Now BYU will limp into Madison, Wisconsin, next Saturday (1:30 p.m. MDT, ABC) to take on No. 6 Wisconsin, which dropped one spot in the Associated Press poll despite clobbering New Mexico 45-14 at Camp Randall Stadium last Saturday.
Against the Lobos, running back Jonathan Taylor, a Heisman Trophy candidate, rushed for 253 yards and three touchdowns.
The Badgers pulled away, outscoring UNM 28-7 in the second half as they turned two turnovers into touchdowns in the third quarter.
By the way, Wisconsin has won 41 consecutive non-conference home games, the longest active streak in the FBS.
Yes, the Cougars will be big underdogs next week. The Badgers blitzed BYU last season in Provo, 40-6.
“We’ll get it fixed. It’s a hard task to go into Madison and play a really good team that’s physical,” Sitake said. “That was a good reminder last year how physical they play. It will be a good measurement to see how much we’ve improved from last year to this year. It’s a challenge. We’ll see how we face adversity and overcome it.”
Like last season, the Cougars showed an inability to establish an offensive identity and score points in the red zone.
Against Cal, BYU had 11 yards of total offense and zero offensive points in the third quarter after exploding for 169 yards and 21 points in the third period at Arizona.
On Saturday, the Cougars had six drives inside Bear territory, resulting in only one touchdown and one field goal.
Quarterback Tanner Mangum completed 22 of 41 passes for 196 yards with one touchdown (that came with 51 seconds remaining in the game) and two interceptions.
“I would like to see us catch the ball and be more efficient — 22 of 41 is not good. The drops didn’t help either,” Sitake said. “We didn’t do enough to win this game. The effort was there, and I’m proud of the guys and how hard they played. They battled and they didn’t quit and kept going, but effort isn’t enough to win games. We need to be more efficient as an offense and be more disruptive as a defense, and we need to find ways to win games.”
BYU’s offensive line, which imposed its will at Arizona, looked overmatched for most of the night against Cal.
“The pass protection wasn’t there. We were really excited about the O-line and thought we’d see some physical part of the game and that was not consistent in the second half. They’re going to be challenged this week,” Sitake said. “We have to be better. We feel like we can get stronger and own the line of scrimmage. There’s no proof of that from the second half in the run game and there’s not proof of that in the pass game. We didn’t protect our quarterback well enough and we made errors. There’s enough blame for all around. I’m going to evaluate everything and see what we can improve on.”
Running back Squally Canada, who ran for 98 yards and three touchdowns against Arizona, gained just 49 yards on 16 attempts.
Tight end Moroni Laulu-Pututau suggested that his team didn’t prepare well enough.
“We didn’t lose the game today, we lost it three days ago in practice,” he said. “I think specifically Tuesday practice was amazing. We came out and worked hard but Wednesday was kind of a lull. I’m going to take that on me. I didn’t lead well enough.”
Fullback Brayden El-Bakri said there were too many miscommunications on blocking schemes, among other problems.39 comments on this story
“I believe the game plan we had coming out here was the correct game plan and everything we practiced during the week was stuff we just needed to execute better to succeed,” he said. “Going into next week, we can clean up the things that we need to.”
El-Bakri is hoping the disappointment of last Saturday’s loss will inspire his team to do what is required to improve.
“Emotionally, it hurts. After the game, I was mad, I was crying. I take losses pretty hard,” El-Bakri said. “I’m sure everybody else does. That should drive you forward to work even harder.”
BYU (1-1) at No. 6 Wisconsin (2-0)
- Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MDT, Camp Randall Stadium
- TV: ABC
- Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM