Seattle • The BYU Cougars learned what a bona fide top 25 football team plays like Saturday night at Husky Stadium, and it wasn’t them.
Soaring after a big upset two weeks ago and a solid win at home, the No. 20 Cougars crashed and burned in their attempt to pull off another college football stunner, falling 35-7 to No. 11 Washington in front of an announced crowd of 70,155 and a national television audience.
“As a team, we made way too many mistakes to even have a chance in this game,” said BYU coach Kalani Sitake. “Washington is a great team and you can’t give a great team that many opportunities. That’s what happened tonight. … I don’t mean to diminish anything they did, because that’s a great team. They are a national contender every year.”
BYU isn’t, and that has never been more obvious than it was on the beautiful shores of Lake Washington. The Cougars turned in as ugly of a performance as they did in any game last season and were overwhelmed in every way imaginable.
“They were just manhandling us,” Sitake said.
Despite playing horribly in the first half, the Cougars (3-2) were reasonably in it, trailing just 14-0, with less than a minute remaining before the break. But Lopini Katoa fumbled “when we were just trying to run out the clock,” Sitake said, and Washington pounced.
Senior quarterback Jake Browning scampered in from the 9-yard line three plays later, and any hopes of a BYU turnaround in the second half were dashed.
“We knew coming into this game we would have to play as disciplined and as good as we possibly can,” Sitake said. “But we didn’t even have a chance at that because they are such a great team. They capitalized on everything.”
So the Huskies took a 21-0 halftime lead and were never threatened in the second half.
The only suspense in the final 30 minutes of the game that lasted just two hours, 52 minutes was whether BYU would get shut out for the first time since last year’s 27-0 loss to LSU.
They avoided the shutout after Washington fumbled away a punt deep in its own territory midway through the fourth quarter and long snapper Mitch Harris recovered. Katoa’s 1-yard touchdown run on fourth down with 41 seconds remaining put BYU on the board.
“We’re a resilient group. We gotta bounce back,” said BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum. “That’s part of the game.”
With protective tape on two fingers of his throwing hand, Mangum actually threw the ball more accurately than he has all season. He was 18 of 21 for 160 yards with a long of 39 — to Matt Bushman — in playing the entire game.
“No big deal,” he said of the apparent injury.
Meanwhile, Browning was every bit of the big deal he is cracked up to be. With plenty of time to throw, Browning completed 23 of 25 passes for 277 yards and a touchdown, setting a school record for single-game completion percentage just as Wisconsin’s Alex Hornibrook did a year ago to the Cougars.
“Washington is a really good machine right now,” Sitake said.
Any hope that a Cougar comeback could be in the works dried up when Washington stopped BYU on its first possession of the second half, then marched 48 yards on seven plays to take a 28-0 lead. BYU gained just 18 yards in the third quarter.
Browning’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Drew Sample was the 100th touchdown he’s been responsible for in his four-year career.
“They did a great job of keeping us on our toes and not letting us get into pass-rush mode,” said BYU defensive end Corbin Kaufusi, who registered BYU’s only sack.
The first half was easily BYU’s worst half of the season. They fumbled three times (losing one) and committed seven penalties for 50 yards, including several that stalled their only respectable drive of the first half.
Trailing 7-0 after the Huskies scored on their second possession, BYU took over at its 16 and somehow kept the drive alive by overcoming a third-and-13 and a third-and-6. But after Squally Canada’s scamper to the Washington 10, tight end Dallin Holker was flagged for holding and the drive stalled.
“It showed what we are capable of,” Mangum said.
Skyler Southam’s 45-yard field goal attempt wasn’t close, however, and BYU wouldn’t get into scoring territory again until the final seconds.
Seizing the momentum from that miss, the Huskies promptly drove 72 yards in six plays. All-time leading UW rusher Myles Gaskin scored from 6 yards out to make it 14-0. Gaskin had 81 yards on 14 carries.
Washington rushed for 187 yards, BYU for 34. The Cougars’ biggest offensive threat was Katoa, who caught seven passes for 66 yards.
“I think they just beat us,” Sitake said. “Tough lesson to learn, but we will learn from it and get better.”
Another of BYU’s tight ends, Moroni Laulu-Pututau, suffered a left knee sprain on BYU’s third play from scrimmage and did not return to the game. The Cougars also played without linebacker Zayne Anderson and safety Dayan Ghanwoloku. Sitake said the injured players hope to be back for BYU’s next game, but the Cougars face a short week. They host Utah State on Friday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium.