Through the first five games of the season, BYU had a simple playbook to success: protect the ball, force turnovers and win the line of scrimmage.
On Saturday, Boise State used that same playbook against BYU, handing the Cougars their first loss of the season, 26-17. And it cost them.
BYU dropped down to No. 19 in the AP Poll — nine spots down from its previous No. 10 ranking.
While there is still half a season to be played, an argument could be made that BYU just eliminated itself from playoff contention and a New Year’s Six bowl. Not because the Cougars lost, but how they lost.
The Cougars failed to protect the ball, giving up four turnovers while unable to strip the ball from the Broncos. While BYU has been able to use home field advantage to force opponents’ miscues, this time the Cougars were off — and committed more penalties (9 for 75 yards) than Boise State.
Overall, it wasn’t a BYU performance fans have come to expect this season.
“We’ve won games and lost games and then focus on trying to learn as much as we can from this game,” coach Kalani Sitake said. “We’re going to do it with a positive attitude. I believe in the culture, I believe in the young men and we’re all going to rally together and try to get better. I really believe we can play better football as a team, and that’s what we’re going to try to accomplish in the next week.”
How the running game had an effect
Previously this season, the BYU defense had proved to be able to stop the run, but wasn’t prepared for it against Boise State.
Up until Saturday, the Broncos were better known this year for being a passing team. Boise State was averaging 303.8 passing yards and 74.6 rushing yards per game. On Saturday, the Broncos nearly doubled their production on the ground, putting up 140 rushing yards.
“[Boise State quarterback Hank] Bachmeier did a great job scouting what we were doing on defense, and he was making checks [at the line of scrimmage],” linebacker Ben Bywater said. “In the second and third quarters we were able to make checks according to what he was doing, but they executed well.”
The Cougars, on the other hand, struggled to establish a running game and were held to a season-low 111 rushing yards. Most importantly, they struggled against a team that has a week run defense.
The Broncos were ranked 108 out of 130 teams in run defense.
The second quarter was especially difficult for the Cougars.
BYU running back Tyler Allgeier was running the ball when he fumbled the ball when tackled. Not only did Boise State recover the fumble, but the Broncos then converted it into a touchdown a few plays later.
On the ensuing kickoff return, the Cougars gave up another fumble. Both fumbles came within the BYU 25-yard line and, once again, Boise State was able to convert the turnover into a score.
Those two turnovers suddenly gave the Broncos the lead — the first time all season BYU fell behind in a game.
“Nobody feels worse than those running backs right now,” Sitake said. “Ball security is something that we’re always preaching. It’s something we can always improve and always get better. Mistakes happen; it just seems like we made way too many today to battle back from. Even with all of those mistakes that were made, I felt like the guys still battled and played hard and gave us their effort every time.”