BOISE — There wasn’t a ton of scoring Saturday night at Albertsons Stadium, but it was another eventful, dramatic, memorable BYU-Boise State game, replete with big plays, plays that were reviewed, big momentum swings and a plethora of mistakes.
On the final play, the Broncos stopped a scrambling BYU true freshman quarterback Zach Wilson inside the 5-yard line.
And with that, Boise State held on to defeat the Cougars, 21-16, before a crowd of 35,241.
"Not enough to get the victory," said BYU coach Kalani Sitake. "The guys played hard and I was proud of them ... The guys kept believing and we had a chance at the end. I wish we would have won the game."
BYU overcame a disastrous first quarter but showed resilience and battled back, and the outcome came down to the end.
In Wilson’s first road start, against the program he was once committed to, he completed 18 of 27 passes for 252 yards and nearly pulled off the upset. With the loss, BYU (4-5) is now 0-5 all-time on the blue turf.
"I thought we moved the ball well all night," Wilson said. "It's too bad we came up short ... We've just got to finish."
Boise State (7-2) quarterback Brett Rypien completed 23 of 35 passes for 214 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
The Cougars’ final drive began with about two minutes remaining and on first down, Wilson completed a 59-yard pass to Matt Hadley to put BYU in scoring position.
BYU eventually had the ball first-and-goal at the Boise State 2-yard line with seven seconds remaining. After spiking the ball, Wilson scrambled on second-and-2 but was tackled by the Broncos as time expired.
"We had a chance at the end," Sitake said.
Trailing 14-6 at halftime, BYU opened the second half with a fumble recovery by Rhett Sandlin after Boise State had moved into Cougar territory. Wilson completed a 42-yard pass to Talon Shumway, who made an acrobatic grab at the Bronco 10-yard line. Three plays later, Wilson scored on a four-yard keeper to pull within one point, 14-13.
It marked the Cougars’ first touchdown since the fourth quarter of the Hawaii game on Oct. 13, ending a six-quarter TD drought.
Boise State responded with a 16-play, 79-yard drive that chewed eight minutes off the clock.
Near the end of the third quarter, BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes pulled out his bag of tricks. He called for a lateral from Wilson to Neil Pau’u, who threw a pass to tight end Matt Bushman, who made an impressive one-handed catch, then fumbled into the end zone. Boise State recovered and took possession.
"He made a great catch," Sitake said of Bushman. "He was trying hard to get into the end zone."
After the Cougars made a key stop early in the fourth quarter, the BYU offense drove the ball again into Bronco territory in a possession that featured two overturned plays that went against BYU. The drive culminated with a 41-yard field goal by Southam.
It was an inauspicious start for BYU.
Riley Burt elected to run out the opening kickoff three yards deep in his own end zone and gave the Cougars the ball at the 13.
After a three-and-out, Boise State scored seven plays later, capped by a one-yard touchdown run by Alexander Mattison.
On the Cougars’ next possession, they drove into Bronco territory before Skyler Southam missed a 48-yard field goal attempt.
Boise State extended its lead to 14-0 on a seven-yard touchdown pass from Rypien to A.J. Richardson.
Things got even worse on the ensuing kickoff as BYU’s Sione Finau fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Skyler Seibold. Fortunately for the Cougars, the drive stalled and resulted in an errant 41-yard field goal.
"We can't start like that," Sitake said. "We made way too many mistakes. We need to play a lot cleaner."
BYU got on the scoreboard after a five-minute drive, highlighted by a 26-yard field by Southam to make it 14-3.74 comments on this story
Cougar cornerback Michael Shelton intercepted Rypien at midfield and then returned it 31 yards to the BSU 19. But BYU once again had to settle for a field goal as Southam nailed a 43-yarder with 4:58 left in the half, cutting the deficit to 14-6.
"We've got to get into the end zone," Sitake said. "We made too many miscues to overcome."
The Cougars dodged a bullet as a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by BSU was nullified by a block in the back penalty.
BYU once again marched into Bronco territory but with 44 seconds left in the first half, Wilson fumbled a high snap and Boise State recovered, spoiling another scoring opportunity.
The Cougars visit UMass next Saturday.