Provo • BYU head coach Kalani Sitake and offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes acknowledged Monday that they “could have done things differently” and mistakes were made by coaches and players alike in the final minute of BYU’s 21-16 loss to Boise State last Saturday.
Both men also said that if BYU had executed better in the first 58 minutes of the game, the outcome wouldn’t have come down to the final play. Freshman quarterback Zach Wilson was sacked at the Boise State 4-yard line as time expired and the Broncos escaped with their fifth straight win over BYU at Albertsons Stadium.
“We shouldn’t have put ourselves in that position,” Sitake said as preparations began for Saturday’s 10 a.m. MST game against UMass at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. “I thought there were enough mistakes to go around for a lot of people to take blame for the loss, myself included.”
Sitake and Grimes said the plan on the last play — which began with seven seconds remaining — was for Wilson to make a quick slant pass to Talon Shumway or throw the ball away.
“I like the [play] design,” Grimes said. “I think it was the right call. There was poor protection. We missed a block. However, that ball should have been gone by then. It was [supposed to be] a really quick throw, and [Wilson] should have let the ball go.”
Grimes said on his “Coordinators’ Corner” program Monday that if the quick pass didn’t work, he already had another play in mind.
Wilson “is a young guy that certainly gave us a chance to win that game,” said Grimes, who called plays from a booth in the press box for the first time this season. “However, he makes some mistakes sometimes, too, and he wishes he could have had that one back. That was the first thing he said to me after the game.”
Wilson said immediately after the game he made a “freshman mistake” and held himself accountable for not throwing the ball away.
“Your natural reaction when someone is in your face is to get out of the way,” he said.
Sitake said Wilson “had time for two plays in that last [seven seconds], but we wouldn’t have been down there if it weren’t for him. We wouldn’t have been in that position if he wasn’t making the plays he did before that.”
Indeed, the freshman threw for a career-high 252 yards and outplayed Boise State senior Brett Rypien, who threw for 214 and a touchdown but was intercepted by BYU’s Michael Shelton.
Wilson is “also that guy sometimes that you might be frustrated with because he didn’t follow the design as well as he could have. But again, I don’t attribute that to him in any way being stubborn or uncoachable,” Grimes said. “He’s just young, and he’s still learning how to play the game, within limits. And what you love about him is he’s that guy that wants to take the last-second shot.”
As to why he called several running plays after BYU reached the BSU 5-yard line with less than a minute remaining, Grimes said the 59-yard screen pass to Matt Hadley changed their approach completely.
“I thought, ‘let’s go back to our run/RPO package, which had been the most efficient thing that we had done all game,’” he said.
As for the questionable clock management in the final minute, including the failure to call a timeout to keep precious seconds from burning off the clock, Sitake said he didn’t think it was going to take so long to get the play off on first-and-goal from the 5.
“I just wanted to score,” he said. “I didn’t care how much time was left on the clock. I would have been happy scoring on [Matt] Hadley’s screen, if that would have gone in the end zone. I would have liked to play defense in a two minute situation and stopped them from getting into the end zone.”
The coach confirmed that junior cornerback Chris Wilcox sustained a lower leg injury in the game and is out for the remainder of the season.
“It is not a surgery required injury, but he will be out, even for a bowl game, with the timing it will take for it to heal,” Sitake said.
Wilcox had started at right corner in every game this season. Redshirt freshman D’Angelo Mandell is listed as the new starter in the depth chart released Monday. Sitake said that two players who might have been redshirted this season — freshmen Isaiah Herron and walk-on Jaylon Vickers — will probably have to play now. Other freshman candidates to get more playing time are Keenan Ellis and Malik Moore, who has been moved to safety.
At Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.
BYU at UMass, 10 a.m. MST
TV: BYUtv/NESN/Ch. 11