BYU in review: Cougars walked the walk, but it cost them

(Richard Shiro | The Associated Press) BYU's Neil Pau'u sits in the end zone after the team's NCAA college football game against Coastal Carolina on Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, in Conway, S.C. Coastal Carolina won 22-17.

Any team. Any place. Any time.

BYU talked the talk and finally got the chance to walk the walk, agreeing to play Coastal Carolina on two-day’s notice. But it proved to be too big of a challenge on such short turnaround, and the Cougars walked out of Brooks Stadium with their tails tucked in after suffering a 22-17 loss.

“I want to make sure that everybody understands Carolina is a really good team,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “And they showed it tonight. And they outplayed us. They got the win — we weren’t able to do it.”

The gamble may have cost the Cougars a shot at playing in an NY6 bowl.

On Sunday, BYU (9-1) dropped six spots to No. 14 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll. Coastal Carolina, however, moved up from No. 14 to No. 11 as it improved to 10-0.

The College Football Playoff rankings won’t be updated until Tuesday, but it doesn’t bode too well for the Cougars.

Even if BYU doesn’t play in an NY6 bowl, the Cougars will still have a postseason opportunity. On Thursday, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe said the Cougars will still find themselves in a bowl game.

Senior linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi doesn’t know what the fallout of Saturday’s loss will be, but he was proud of the way the team was able to back up their “any team” mentality and show up for the game.

“Regardless of what our future is, we’re very grateful to be playing football,” Kaufusi said. “I couldn’t have told you that five months ago when we really had no season and trying to figure things out. … Regardless of where our future’s at, we’ll show up. When someone calls our number, we’ll be there and we’ll be ready to play.”

Three Takeaways

• While Zach Wilson still threw for more than 200 yards, the junior didn’t put up the Heisman-level type of performance that critics were expecting. After starting the game with a 91-yard touchdown reception to Neil Pau’u that was called back due to a holding call, Wilson missed his next four passes. The junior seemed to find his groove in the second half, but it wasn’t what fans had come to know over the last nine games.

• Yes, the team had just two days to get ready, but BYU’s offensive and defensive lines greatly outsized Coastal Carolina’s. And yet the game was lost in the trenches. Particularly, the BYU D-line struggled with stopping the run.

“I think that we gave up too many yards and I would say first down was the biggest issue,” Sitake said. “Whether it’s missed assignment or scheme, whatever, we’ll get to the film and look at it.”

• The Chanticleers made it hard for BYU, but the Cougars shot themselves in the foot at times. BYU had only three penalties, but one of them cost the Cougars a touchdown. BYU also gave up a forced fumble that Coastal converted into a field goal. Ultimately, the Chanticleers won the turnover game.

Player of the game

CJ Marable, senior, running back.

The Chanticleers were able to put up a strong attack on the ground, which was led by Marable. The senior ran for 132 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries — making up nearly half of Coastal’s total rushing yards (281).

Play of the game

In the second quarter, Wilson threw to Dax Milne, who in turn avoided a pair of defenders and tiptoed the line to score on a 41-yard reception.

Up next

Barring another last-minute addition to the 2020 schedule, the Cougars will close out the regular season on Saturday when they host San Diego State. The game at Provo will also serve as the Aztecs’ regular season finale.

San Diego State has had a mixed bag of a season, currently sitting on a 4-3 record. The Cougars and Aztecs have built a rivalry over the 70-plus years both programs have played against each other, specifically when both were in the WAC and Mountain West.

Over that time, BYU has amounted a 28-8-1 record. However, in the last meeting between both programs, San Diego State snapped the Cougars’ then five-game winning streak, handing them a 13-3 loss.

Now, BYU will look to not only avenge last year’s loss but also recover from the loss at Coastal.

“Our guys are hurting right now, but they’ll respond back,” Sitake said. “We have a bunch of tough kids that love the game of football. Things didn’t go our way [at Coastal], we didn’t get the win, but how they react to this game is really important. And we have the opportunity to play against a really good San Diego State team next week.”