BOISE — Before the dramatic end to BYU’s 21-16 loss to Boise State Saturday night, the Cougar offense unable to punch the ball in from the 3-yard line, Kalani Sitake stood on the sidelines screaming for his offense to take control of the game.
“Come on, O. Come on, O,” he screamed.
It did come on. It went 80 yards to Boise State’s 3. But these guys could not finish. Just like a week ago, just like earlier in the game.
BYU left Boise State 4-5. Next up is a road trip to face UMass with a bowl berth on the line.
But Saturday night, the Cougars missed a chance at a huge lift that could have sprinkled some fairy dust on a season that has been a model of inconsistency,
“We made far too many mistakes early, and the rest of the game and you can’t do that against a team like this on the road,” said Sitake afterward. “But I’m proud of our guys and the way they fought.”
Within seconds of Sitake’s plea, Matt Hadley took a screen pass and raced 59 yards to Boise State’s 24-yard line with 1:40 to play.
There, freshman quarterback Zach Wilson used a series of plays from Hadley and Lopini Katoa to get inside Boise State’s 5, where Wilson picked up a first down with 9 seconds to play and a chance to give BYU something it had never done: Defeat Boise State in Albertsons Stadium.
The Broncos were feeling it. BYU had them on the ropes. But BSU is a proud program.
The golden moment got away. It died on a last-gasp, second-and-goal, failed play as time ran out with the Cougars just a couple of yards from registering a monumental road victory,
Wilson was supposed to pass the ball on that play but was given the option to run. He saw no one open and tried to run it in as Boise State defenders closed down and tackled him short of the goal.
Immediately, receivers coach Fesi Sitake met Wilson on the field, his hands on both sides of the QB's helmet and went over what had happened. It was a teaching moment.
“It was a two-concept route. Nothing was open. I should have been smart and thrown it out of the end zone,” said Wilson. “I just checked both my routes.
“You learn something new every day,” said Wilson. “I should have thrown it away. I got to know that. It was a freshman mistake, and I have to hold myself accountable to make that play. It is too bad we came up short.”
This one hurt.
But there stood Wilson, standing outside the locker room. He put it on himself at a key moment. It didn’t work. The future of BYU football, a young QB, had helped to almost pull it all off. Obviously disappointed, Wilson said BYU was hungry to show more on offense but needs to finish drives.
Both Boise State and BYU made plenty of mistakes. There were turnovers, penalties at critical times.
BYU never led and was down 14-0. But the Cougars had more total offense (388 to 327) against a team that averaged 486 yards and 40.1 points a game. The 59-yard catch and run by Hadley was the longest play of the game. BYU had to settle for three field goals from Skyler Southam that should have been TDs.
“We need to clean it up. Nobody means to hold or get penalties, and you try and find out why those penalties happen and fix them,” said Wilson, who was sacked seven times for more than 50 yards.
“That situation right there at the end of the game doesn’t happen to often to quarterbacks but now I’ve been there and know, you can learn from it, know what it feels like so you’ve been there, and it is a great experience for us.”
BYU’s defense was good enough to win the game with Michael Shelton registering an interception and big return. But that turnover didn’t result in a TD. He also had a huge fourth-quarter punt return that got called back.33 comments on this story
Multiple holding penalties and sacks on Wilson by Boise State were critical, as was a fumble inside Boise State’s three on a double pass from receiver Neil Pau’u to Matt Bushman, who had the ball stripped on his way down.
“We need to play a lot cleaner,” Sitake said. “We got the ball in scoring position and kept going backward.”
Concluded Hadley: “Everyone just has to dig deeper. Each person dug a little bit deeper here. We need to do it every game, every week, every play. We’ve got to want it more than they do. I think everyone did dig a little bit deeper in this game.”