Provo • In a season filled with lows and disappointing performances, the BYU Cougars might have outdone even themselves Saturday afternoon.
The Cougars lost a home game in November for the first time since 2005, falling 16-10 to fellow independent UMass in front of 51,355 chilly fans at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
“It seemed like a lot of things went wrong when we needed them to go right,” said coach Kalani Sitake, who easily could have been summing up one of the worst seasons in school history. “There were a number of things you wish you could do differently in that game, and have it work out differently in our favor.”
BYU dropped to 3-9 with just one game remaining — at Hawaii on Saturday — and have lost nine games for the first time since 1955. UMass improved to 4-7, snapped its 10-game road losing streak and avenged last year’s 51-9 loss in Provo.
“I think we were good enough to beat this team,” Sitake said. “Players played hard. We have to do a better job. I owe it to the seniors and I owe it to the fans to make sure this is a better football team than what we are playing like.”
Sitake acknowledged that the six-point loss against a team it crushed last year “is the lowest point” of a season filled with them. And it came on Senior Day, when the Cougars honored 18 outgoing players with an abysmal offensive performance against a mediocre defense.
“This is definitely a dissappointing season, no bowl game, things like that,” Sitake said. “We just have to find a way to keep working and push through the adversity and be effective and find ways to win games. We have one more to help springboard us to next season.”
Freshman Joe Critchlow, making just his second start at quarterback, shouldered the blame for the offense’s pathetic performance. After playing almost mistake free in last week’s 31-21 win over UNLV, Critchlow was intercepted four times and sacked seven times.
“I feel like our lack of success throwing the ball could be narrowed a lot to my efforts,” said Critchlow, who was 21 of 45 for 257 yards and a touchdown, with the four picks. “Just misreads, missed throws. I feel like we left a lot of big plays on the field today.”
That Cougar offense that seemingly ran the ball at will against UNLV?
Missing in action.
BYU’s offensive line played its worst game of the season, and Critchlow was often running for his life. The Cougars netted just 42 rushing yards after Critchlow’s minus-46 yards on sacks was put into the equation.
“We just got behind and had to play catch up,” Sitake said. “It was hard to score points and it is difficult to win games when you have 10 points on the scoreboard. We were at zero and three points for so long. I think that was probably the reason. We knew we had to go to a faster pace, and probably had to air it out a little more than we would feel comfortable with going into the game.”
Sitake said if he had been told his defense would hold UMass to 16 points, he would have taken it. Three times the Cougars made the Minutemen settle for field goals, but a five-play, 74-yard drive to open the second half resulted in a touchdown for the visitors, and was the difference.
Standout receiver Andy Isabella got behind a BYU cornerback after a double move and was wide open for a 40-yard TD reception.
“I thought the defense battled,” Sitake said. “They played as hard as they could, and the only thing I would [complain] about is we had some opportunities to get some turnovers and weren’t able to capitalize.
Indeed, UMass recovered all three of its fumbles, and quarterback Andrew Ford was 21 of 35 for 230 yards, without anything close to an interception. He was sacked twice.
“It is a big difference from last year’s score of 51-9,” said UMass coach Mark Whipple. “It’s hard to come in here and play clear across the country.”
But the Minutemen were up to the task as BYU lost on Senior Day for the first time since 2005.
And the Cougars clearly were not.
UMass 16m BYU 10<br>• BYU drops to 3-9, the first time it has lost nine games in a season since 1955<br>•UMass snaps a 10-game road losing streak and improves to 4-7 in avenging last year’s 51-9 loss in Provo<br>•The Minutemen sack BYU freshman QB Joe Critchlow seven times and intercept him four times