BYU went from being the unranked team beating ranked opponents to being a ranked team beaten by unranked opponents. And it hasn’t been pretty.
Unlike the loss two weeks ago, the most recent upset — at Baylor on Saturday — wasn’t a direct result of turnovers. But the Cougars still got outplayed and lost the battle at the line of scrimmage in a 38-24 loss to the Bears at McLane Stadium.
After dropping nine spots last week, BYU saw itself get kicked out of the AP Top 25 poll on Sunday.
Although it was a tough loss at Baylor, the Cougars are still optimistic about their future in the Big 12, which they are set to join in 2023.
“Today we did not play our game,” freshman Tyler Batty said. “We need to oil the machine up and get it back on track and running. Again, [Baylor] is a good team. I’m looking forward to joining the Big 12 here in a couple of years. We can definitely compete.”
The lack of run game hurt the Cougars
BYU was able to pull out big, explosive plays, but without a run game to provide necessary chunk rushing yards, the Cougars failed to sustain drives.
In total, Hall threw eight 15-plus yard passes for a total of 264 yards and the sophomore quarterback also had an explosive rushing play for 54 yards. But yet, BYU got into the red zone only twice.
Twice, the Cougars had to settle for a field goal attempt instead of going for a touchdown, and were only successful one of the two tries.
A huge part of what hurt BYU was the lack of run game, which was a strong point of its offense earlier in the season. At Baylor, the Cougars only rushed for 67 yards on 24 carries for an average of 2.4 — a stark contrast to 6.4 yards averaged per rush.
“We look at the rush yards and the inability to run the ball — that’s not our style,” Hall said. “Credit for [Baylor] making plays, it’s a really good team.”
A star-worthy performance wasn’t enough to lift BYU
Puka Nacua had his best performance as a Cougar, catching for 168 yards and one score on five receptions.
The Washington transfer said BYU didn’t exactly plan for the type of plays that resulted in the career-high reception yards and career-high receptions, but it worked out for the Cougars — and him especially.
“We knew they would put some guys in the box and kind of leave us in some one-on-one matchups, but ... they were giving us the looks that we wanted to go deep,” Nacua said.
It ended up being a bittersweet night for the redshirt sophomore, whose record night still wasn’t enough to lift the Cougars to a win.
“I was proud of those guys, I love those guys,” Nacua said. “I love our entire coaching staff — Coach Kalani’s the best, but we just have to go out there and execute better. We’re getting the job done. We’re not hurting ourselves too much, but we’re also not making the big plays at the same time.”
How the Cougars will respond
At this point, all eyes on BYU are looking to see how the program responds to the recent pair of losses and how the Cougars will look to get back into national rankings and conversations.
The team said the first step will take place Monday, after taking a day off, although the Cougars did start looking at the Baylor film on Saturday night.
“Break [the film] down amongst ourselves over the weekend and then Monday we watch it as a team, you can talk through some things and then look forward to Washington State next week,” Hall said.
For the most part, BYU has all the necessary pieces to put together a win. The Cougars just need to be more consistent in their play and not let the explosive plays go to waste with unsuccessful drives.
“I don’t think it’s anything that needs to be said, I think we’ve got a good group of mature guys in there,” Nacua said. “We’ve just got to come out and execute, I think [we need] a little bit of more energy in the beginning. We’ve had two day games, which are our two back-to-back loses, [and] are a slight schedule change for us, but I just don’t think we came out with the energy and juice that we needed to. As much as our fans help, we need juice on the sideline.”