The Cougars let one get away.
How else to describe BYU's 19-16 loss to Virginia here Saturday afternoon in one of the strangest season-openers in recent memory?
They went from leading 16-12 and seemingly ready to put the game away to trailing 19-16 in the course of two plays: an intercepted pass that Virginia returned to the BYU 13, and a tackle-busting touchdown run of 13 yards by Kevin Parks.
Just like that, what looked like a season-opening win turned into a devastating loss.
"I was shocked a little bit," quarterback Taysom Hill said of the huge momentum swing. "I was feeling really confident. We got the ball with four minutes left in the game we were up. Then we has a mishap and Virginia went and scored, but that was something you can't dwell on.
We had a chance to go and score, and Virginia held. It's a tough way to lose a football game. We're definitely disappointed."
Credit offensive coordinator Robert Anae for taking the blame for the call that led to the interception. On third-and-6 with less than three minutes remaining and Virginia down to one timeout, he called the pass play and then said "that's my fault" before he could be asked about it in the postgame interview room.
"I am the one that made the call for that," Anae said. "Not how you draw it up. At the time, we were going for the first down, and I thought we could find a decent enough throw to get it."
Anae went on to praise Hill, although the quarterback struggled at times. In fairness, several of his throws were dropped, especially in the first quarter. And he didn't have his top weapon, Cody Hoffman, who missed the game with a bad hamstring.
Hill completed just 13 of 40 passes for 175 yards, with one touchdown and one very, very costly interception.
"I think this is more about the other 10 guys on the field. I am really excited and pleased with the way our quarterback played," Anae said.
Hill said a couple of times in his postgame interview that it couldn't be used as an excuse, but that the footballs were so soaked in the fourth quarter that he had trouble gripping them, let alone throwing them.
"It is hard, to get a ball that's wet and covered in dirt and grass and everything else, to pitch and catch it," he said."
Just like it did several times last year in close losses, the defense played well enough to get a win. Virginia had just 223 yards of offense; Its touchdown drives were 13 yards after the interception and 16 yards after a blocked punt.
"Frustrating," said linebacker Spencer Hadley. "We were right there. We had it and just didn't finish as a team. So it is frustrating right now."
All for now. More later, including video of Anae and Mendenhall in the postgame interview room.
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