Provo • There was plenty of blame to go around for BYU’s 19-16 loss to Virginia in a soggy, lightning-delayed season opener Saturday, and offensive coordinator Robert Anae shouldered most of it, acknowledging his third-and-6 play call for a pass that was intercepted and led to the Cavaliers’ go-ahead touchdown was a mistake.
"That is my fault. I am the one that made the call for that. Not how you draw it up," Anae said. "At the time, we were going for the first down, and I thought we could find a decent enough throw to get that."
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But the game exposed a lot more deficiencies than some questionable play-calling. BYU coaches will be busy this week trying to figure out what went wrong and what they can do to correct those errors. Then again, some things might not be fixable.
Receivers dropped passes in the absence of senior star Cody Hoffman, who missed the game with a hamstring injury. Coaches are hoping Hoffman will be able to play this week but aren’t sure.
The offensive line was abysmal at times, especially the right side. Quarterback Taysom Hill wasn’t given much time to throw, and when he did, often his passes were inaccurate. At times, the players running Anae’s up-tempo offense seemed like they were more concerned about getting plays off rapidly than about picking up yards, or first downs.
Perhaps the most telling stat of the game was that Virginia became the first college football team in this century to punt 13 times in a game and still win.
Anae and BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said after the game that they are confident they can regroup.
"A great chance to really discover who we are going to be, and how we are going to be, going forward," Mendenhall said. "It will take a day or two. This wasn’t an easy one [to get over]. And then another significant test coming, which is what this season will be. So there is a sense of urgency, but there also has to be time to recover from this one. And that’s the way we will approach it."
That "test" Mendenhall referred to is also known as Texas, one of college football’s bluebloods.
Fresh off the biggest offensive explosion in program history, the No. 15-ranked Longhorns roll into LaVell Edwards Stadium for Saturday’s 5 p.m. game to be televised nationally by ESPN2.
While the Cougars were struggling mightily to move the ball against Virginia, the Longhorns were putting up a school-record 715 yards of offense in a 56-7 romp over New Mexico State.
Oddly, the Longhorns trailed the lowly Aggies 7-0 late in the first half before junior quarterback David Ash (343 passing yards, 91 rushing yards) overcame two early interceptions.
"We don’t have any choice [but to forget about giving the game away at Virginia and move forward]," said BYU linebacker Spencer Hadley. "Texas is a good opponent. There is no sulking. … That’s the beauty of this game. You either learn to bounce back from stuff like this, or you won’t succeed. We will come back Monday and work hard and get after it next weekend."
For his part, Hill recognized in his postgame comments Saturday night that another 13-for-40 passing performance won’t come close to getting it done against Texas.
"We have a quick turnaround," Hill said. "We don’t have time to sit and dwell on a loss like this. … We all need to get better. You can talk about the rain, you can talk about the delay, but at the end of the day, we as a team, as an offense, me as a quarterback, we need to get better."
Meanwhile, the Cougars could be without a key defender. Senior linebacker Uani Unga suffered an injury to his midsection, perhaps his ribs, and was not on the field when Virginia scored the winning touchdown. Unga was being evaluated Sunday, and his status will be updated Monday night after practice.
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