BOISE — BYU lost yet another heartbreaker in what has come to be somewhat expected when the team takes on Boise State at Albertsons Stadium. This time the Cougars took a 21-16 loss in which they came up short on numerous opportunities to change the ultimate outcome.
There were a lot of variables with every position group throughout the game, making this week's grades somewhat difficult to allot.
We'll start with the good aspects of a Cougar offense that showed some decent punch after last week's 7-6 loss at home to Northern Illinois.
The best thing coming out of Saturday's loss was the play of freshman Zach Wilson. Coaches noticeably catered to his strengths with the game plan, and Wilson showed accuracy and was capable of making plays on his feet throughout the first road game of his career.
Wilson was far from perfect, however, and short-armed a few critical passes late, not to mention managing to get tackled instead of throwing the ball away during the final play of the game. But that's somewhat to be expected of a freshman making the third start of his career. Good things are ahead for Wilson, and he'll certainly learn from where he came up short on Saturday.
The BYU receivers were more capable than they have been most games this year, particularly Talon Shumway, who made some nice catches during big moments. The tight ends were largely absent from the passing tree, which was somewhat curious, particularly when the Cougars were in the red zone.
Running back Matt Hadley had a good outing, with Squally Canada still being limited somewhat due to his lingering injury issues.
And that brings us to the BYU offensive line.
The unit that had been so good throughout the first part of the year took another step back in the loss. The run-blocking was lacking for the most part, but the biggest problems came with pass protection where a below-average Bronco defense was able to pressure Wilson effectively with four- and even three-man rushes.
Perhaps the biggest dent in the overall offensive grade comes with the subpar red-zone execution in the loss. Settling for field goals or not even accounting for a single point can't happen in any game, but particularly can't happen on the road.
The offensive grade gets good marks for providing a spark that hasn't been there in too many games this year, but failing marks for not converting enough times in critical situations.
The BYU defense was a mixed-bag as well, although holding a prolific Boise State offense to just 21 points while playing in Boise is a good accomplishment.
The defense played relatively solid and once again managed to cut down on big plays made down the field, with Bronco quarterback Brett Rypien only managing 214 yards passing. The pass rush managed two sacks, but overall worked effectively with the secondary to limit what can be a very explosive offense.
The rush defense was good in spots, but did allow Alexander Mattison to break too many tackles, particularly during a second-half touchdown drive that ate up just over eight minutes of clock.
Overall the defense put the offense in good spots with a decent chance to score throughout the night and continues to be an underrated unit, although the production could use more consistency.
There were few, if any, particular things that made this unit special during the loss. A terrible decision to return the opening kickoff out of the end zone contributed heavily to what proved a disastrous start of the game. The ensuing punt by Rhett Almond covered just 30 yards and helped set up the Bronco offense in prime position to score, with the defense ultimately yielding a touchdown.
Running back Sione Finau contributed one of the bigger mishaps of the game when fumbling a kickoff return, although the defense stepped up in big fashion to alleviate the scoring threat.
The one bright spot for the special teams was kicker Skyler Southam, who kicked three field goals, which included long attempts of 41 and 43 yards. He did come up just short in an attempt from 48 yards, however.
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There were several good aspects of the team's performance on Saturday, but too many miscues in critical junctures and ultimately another loss to Boise on the road is what overrides any positives put forth. The Cougars are now in must-win situations to end the season just to become bowl eligible, a prospect most thought wouldn't be a problem after a win over Wisconsin in Week 3.
The Cougars again proved to be clearly better performers on the road, which is a confusing aspect of the team's play under coach Kalani Sitake, but taking yet another loss in a game that was there for the taking has become a way too common theme.