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Third downs prove costly for BYU again

STARKVILLE, Miss. — As has been the case all season, BYU struggled again on third downs on both sides of the ball.

While the Cougar offense converted on just 4 of 13 third downs Saturday at Mississippi State, the BYU defense allowed the Bulldogs to covert on 8 of 13 third down opportunities in a 35-10 loss.

“Again, third downs were the issue on one of the drives. There were a couple of third downs and we couldn’t get out of those,” said coach Kalani Sitake. “A lot of things to improve on still. I keep saying the same stuff over and over again. We’ve got to fix it.”

At times, the offense failed to convert on third-and-short situations.

“We have to be able to convert on third down and fourth down in some instances,” said quarterback Tanner Mangum.

Because of the inability of BYU’s offense to stay on the field, the defense was stuck on the field for long stretches. The Cougar defense defended 84 plays and played for nearly 37 minutes.

“It’s tough to defend when you’re not doing much on the other side,” Sitake said. “I’m not making excuses for the defense but there were some mistakes there with missed tackles and other things up front. We have to play more stout up front if we’re going to have a chance to succeed at stopping the run. We just couldn’t get that going. It’s really difficult when you have to defend close to 50 plays in the first half.”

TAKEAWAYS: BYU cornerback Dayan Ghanwoloku had two interceptions against Mississippi State.

Then, late in the third quarter, on a kickoff, the Cougars forced the Bulldogs’ first lost fumble of the season. Place-kicker Andrew Mikkelsen booted a short kickoff but ended up forcing return man Keith Mixon to fumble. It was recovered by BYU’s Akile Davis.

“I think Mikkelson mis-hit the ball, knew he made a mistake and did what he could to make up for it,” Sitake said. “That’s why they got a good return, because he mis-hit the ball. He got there to make the hit.”

BYU failed to capitalize on that turnover, however.

“When we got the fumble on the kickoff, you had a little bit of life back,” Sitake said. “It felt like we had some momentum. Unfortunately, our offense couldn’t do anything.”

PAU’U POWER: BYU linebacker Butch Pau’u, who is playing with a broken hand that was operated on recently, recorded 12 tackles and a quarterback hurry against Mississippi State.

It marked the first time this season that Pau’u has recorded double-digit tackles this season and it was the third time he’s done that in his career.

“It’s hard to play with one arm,” Sitake said of Pau’u.

INJURY UPDATE: As if the Cougars didn’t have enough injuries to deal with, they suffered another one Saturday when running back Trey Dye went down in the first half with an apparent ankle injury.

Dye had one catch for 9 yards before being sidelined.