Micah Simon is done losing. That’s what the BYU wide receiver told his team after they suffered their second consecutive loss — he’s tired of that feeling.
Saturday’s loss, in particular, extended one of the more frustrating trends of the Kalani Sitake era in Provo: The Cougars are able rise to the occasion and beat marquee opponents like Wisconsin (2018) and USC, then turn around and lose to lower-level foes like UMass (2017) and Toledo on Saturday. The Rockets are a capable Mid-America Conference team, but the Cougars shouldn’t be losing to them. Even on the road.
“It's definitely a gut check for us as a team,” Simon said. “It's time for everybody to look in the mirror and kind of self reflect and see how much you really care about this and how much effort you're going to put in the rest of the season to make sure that you don't have this feeling again.”
Defensive back Dayan Ghanwoloku feels the same way; he's disappointed.
They knew this was an important game — a game they had to win — but they failed on all sides of the ball, Ghanwoloku said. So, they’ve got to do a lot better.
And it starts by not taking anything for granted.
“Everyone was talking about the first four games were going to be the toughest, but it’s all going to be tough,” Ghanwoloku said. “Teams aren’t just going to come out there thinking they’re not going to win — everyone’s thinking they’re going to win. We’ve got to come out there — every game’s going to be a dogfight. We’ve just got to fight harder.”
• Before Saturday, placekicker Jake Oldroyd had made 10 of his 11 field goal attempts this year — the most of any kicker in the country. Against Toledo, Oldroyd missed both tries. Each came in the second quarter — 39-yard and 42-yard attempts. Sitake said it would have been nice to have had a bigger lead, but he understands that no one can play perfect. “He wasn’t kicking very well today,” Sitake said. “We thought he was punting pretty good, but … the kicks just weren’t there. So, we went with Skylar [Southam] for PATs. That’s why we travel with two kickers, in case one doesn’t do well.”
• BYU won the turnover game, but still wasn’t able to seal the deal. The Cougars gave up only one turnover: a late-game interception by Zach Wilson that the Rockets converted on for the go-ahead touchdown. However, they picked off Toledo quarterback Mitchell Guadagni — his first interception of the year — and recovered two Rockets fumbles.
• The Cougars used eight different receivers against Toledo. So far, they have had at least eight different players catch a pass in every game this season. Against the Rockets, no one had more than five receptions (Aleva Hifo) and Gunner Romney had the second-most receiving yards (43) off one pass.
Player of the game
Guadagni, Toledo quarterback. Before Saturday’s game, the Rockets offense was averaging 269 rushing yards a game — 11th best in the FBS. Although BYU controlled the Rockets in the first half, Guadagni led the charge in the second half. He completed 17 of 28 passes for 206 yards, and added 54 rushing yards on 12 carries. Overall, the offense finished with 242 rushing yards and 206 receiving yards.
Runner-up: Aleva Hifo, BYU wide receiver. The senior had 111 yards and two touchdowns on five receptions, including a career-high longest reception of 75 yards. It was his second 100-yard game of his career, previously notching 148 yards at East Carolina in 2017. He also returned 70 yards on two punts, including a career-best 45-yard punt return.
Play of the game
Khalil Robinson’s pick at the BYU 42-yard line, which the senior returned for 40 yards. The play landed the Rockets 2 yards from the goal line with 56 seconds left in the game. After a timeout, Toledo went ahead and scored the go-ahead touchdown on a rushing play.
BYU starting quarterback Zach Wilson was injured (thumb) during the play that resulted in the interception. He’s out for the foreseeable future. Jaren Hall, who led the Cougars on a last-gasp march that fell just short, will likely be the starter until Wilson returns.
The Cougars will have a bye week to regroup before before taking their third trip east this season. BYU, which has already visited Tennessee and Toledo, will be back in action on Oct. 12 against South Florida in Tampa.
This will mark the first meeting with the AAF. BYU is 0-6 in games in the state of Florida.
Simon said the main priority during the bye week will be to get everyone as healthy as possible, but to also make the necessary corrections — and there is plenty to work on after the loss to Toledo.
“A lot of it’s execution and just trying to stay on the field and sustain drives and score touchdowns,” Simon said.