Provo • BYU’s offense did just enough in the first half to spark thoughts of a possible upset against the Utes. But that spark quickly was snuffed out by some major mistakes that allowed a close game to turn into a 30-12 loss at LaVell Edwards Stadium Thursday.
“We weren’t able to sustain drives,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “Penalties put us in a bad position and mistakes and it was just one of those things. We will have to watch on film and see where we can get more points on the board.”
The Cougars’ first big mistake came in the second quarter when Utah’s Francis Bernard was in the right place to pick off Zach Wilson and score from 58 yards out to put the Utes up 9-3.
The mistakes in the fourth quarter sealed BYU’s fate, with running back Ty’Son Williams fumbling after a loss of two yards with Utah recovering the ball on BYU’s 22-yard line.
The Utes scored on the following drive, going up 23-6, then made it 30-6 as BYU’s next drive ended when Wilson’s pass was picked off by Utah’s Julian Blackmon who scored on a 39-yard return.
“The biggest issue for us is we have to get better at taking care of the football,” Sitake said. “In the last decade [against the Utes], turnovers have been the issue. You can’t give a team like Utah shortcuts.”
The Cougars did have a few good moments on offense, with Wilson and tight end Matt Bushman hooking up on some nice plays and newcomer Williams making some nice runs.
But those moments, in the end, just made the lack of offense stand out. Bushman, who had six catches for 62 yards in the first half, didn’t have a catch in the second half.
Williams had three carries for 28 yards in the first half as he showed glimpses of the talent that led the BYU coaches to pursue the former South Carolina player. But he had the fumble in the second half and finished with just seven runs for 45 yards.
The most frustrating quarter for the Cougars’ offense came in the third, not so much because of what they didn’t do, but how few chances they had.
BYU ran just five plays to Utah’s 22 as the Cougars’ defense couldn’t stop the Utes. Utah had a scoring drive of 11 plays and 75 yards then another of 12 plays and 66 yards that ended with a missed field goal to start the fourth quarter.
BYU had 37 plays for 196 yards to Utah’s 25 plays and 125 yards in the first half, but were plagued by missed chances.
BYU didn’t convert a fourth-and-four with Wilson throwing an incomplete pass on the first drive then a holding penalty negated a 17-yard gain on the second that eventually put the Cougars in a punting situation.
Jake Oldroyd had field goals of 32 and 37 yards in the second quarter, but the offense just wasn’t productive enough to turn hope of an upset into a reality.
“It’s tough,” BYU linebacker Isiaiah Kaufusi said. “We want to win the turnover battle because statistically, if you turn the ball over the chances of winning are slim. But they made some great plays.”