With gutsy 4th-down call, BYU preserves upset of No. 14 Boise State, halting 3-game losing streak

BYU running back Lopini Katoa (4) celebrates a touchdown during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Boise State on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Provo, Utah. (AP Photo/Tyler Tate)

Provo • BYU coach Kalani Sitake made the gutsy call to go for it on fourth down with the game hanging in the balance. Austin Kafentzis then did the rest, powering his way through a pile of Boise State defenders to the game-clinching first down in the Cougars’ 28-25 upset of the No. 14 Broncos Saturday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

The victory halted the BYU’s three-game losing streak and handed Boise State its first loss of the season.

The win was something the Cougars “definitely needed,” tight end Matt Bushman said.

“Just coming off a three-game losing streak — that just is not fun,” he said. “Playing bad football, where we know we can play a lot better. We just came into this game and we said we can compete with Boise State. We’re just as good or better. And we played like that.”


• The Cougars snap a three-game losing streak with their upset of the previously unbeaten Broncos.

• The Cougars score 21-unanswered points in third quarter, then to hold off the Broncos’ late-game comeback

• Matt Bushman leads the BYU offense, recording his first 100-yard game of the season with five receptions for 101 yards and two touchdowns.

BYU’s third quarterback of the season, Baylor Romney, tried and came up just inches short on 3rd and 1 with BYU nursing that precarious three-point lead with just over two minutes left in the game. But rather than punt the ball away and give a tiring Cougar defense the job of stopping the surging Broncos, Sitake opted to go for it in what might have been the biggest single call of his coaching tenure in Provo.

The decision, he said, came down to the trust he has in his players.

“I think in your mind you think that maybe you should punt it, but I had a good feeling,” Sitake said. “The players — I liked the look that they gave me in the sidelines and it was time to go win a game. Let’s go do it. I mean, we were what, a couple inches away?”

Kafentzis, the record-setting quarterback from Jordan High who went through multiple schools before arriving and Provo — and has played multiple positions for the Cougars — then made the play of his college career. Taking the snap out of Wildcat formation, he plunged through, and then over the Boise State front, getting a friendly push as drove for the first down.

BYU running back Lopini Katoa, right, is tackled by Boise State safety Khafari Buffalo during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Provo, Utah. (AP Photo/Tyler Tate)

With Boise out of timeouts, BYU simply ran out the clock the rest of the way to improve to 3-4 this season, notching its first victory since Sept. 14. The Broncos fell to 6-1 and will surely take a tumble when the polls are released Sunday.

On a homecoming night that featured wind, rain and sleet, Boise State made quick work BYU in its opening drive, using both the running and passing game to be the first to score.

Converting three times on third down, the Cougars answered with a 4-yard rushing touchdown by Lopini Katoa, who got the starting running back nod Saturday.

While the first quarter proved to be a battle of offenses, the second quarter moved on to defense.

Boise State was able to secure the lead just before halftime on a 38-yard field goal.

BYU rallied in the second half — scoring in four plays on a 47-yard run by Sione Finau, his first career touchdown.

BYU quarterback Baylor Romney runs during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Boise State on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Provo, Utah. (AP Photo/Tyler Tate)

BYU went on to add two more touchdowns in the third quarter. The first came as the Cougars were faced with 4th-and-short, but instead of punting, Romney connected with Bushman for a 27-yard touchdown reception. Shortly after, Jackson Kaufusi got the Cougars’ second pick of the game that lead to another Bushman touchdown on a double-reverse flea flicker.

The Broncos cut the deficit at the start of the fourth quarter with a 13-yard touchdown reception and successful two-point conversion to make it a 10-point game. They added one more score, putting pressure on the Cougars in the game’s final minutes.

Enter Kafentzis and the fourth-down call that will be talked about for quite some time to come.

The win against Boise State provided the boost of confidence the Cougars needed and hope to use against another rival in two weeks.

BYU has another bye week, then will travel up to Logan to take on Utah State Nov. 2. The Aggies routed Nevada 36-10 on Saturday.

“We consider Boise one of our rivals and we haven’t beaten them in a couple of years, so it feels great,” Bushman said. “Same thing with Utah State — they’re one of our rivals. We haven’t beaten them in a couple of years. So, it’s business for us and we’re looking to play as best we can against them.”