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BYU football: Offense reverts back to unspectacular form in a 7-6 loss to Northern Illinois

Northern Illinois Huskies safety Mykelti Williams breaks up a pass to Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Aleva Hifo (15)during NCAA football in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018.
Northern Illinois Huskies safety Mykelti Williams breaks up a pass to Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Aleva Hifo (15)during NCAA football in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018.
Ravell Call

PROVO — Two weeks after blitzing Hawaii for 49 points and 474 total yards the BYU offense reverted back to its unspectacular form and managed just six points during Saturday's uninspiring 7-6 loss to Northern Illinois. The Huskies' defense, which ranks 38th nationally in total defense, compared with Hawaii's 100th ranking, told some of the story, although BYU players and coaches put much of the blame on themselves.

Unforced errors during critical situations, lack of a consistent push from the offensive front and not enough big plays defined the Cougars' offensive performance throughout the afternoon.

"A few weeks back, I talked about playing BYU style football and being aggressive and letting it rip," said BYU coach Kalani Sitake. "That's didn't happen today and so that's got to change."

Lack of an efficient running attack hampered the offensive production considerably.

The Cougars gained just 93 yards rushing on 37 attempts for a paltry 2.5 average per carry. The result was multiple third-and-long situations incurred, with the Cougars only managing three third-down conversions in 15 tries.

BYU freshman quarterback Zach Wilson was pressured throughout, due in part of the bevy of third-and-long situations coupled with poor protection from the BYU offensive front.

"It wasn't good enough," Sitake said of the offensive line's production. "I talked a little bit earlier about establishing our identity and being physical and we didn't do enough of that."

One of the big low points for the offense came as the unit managed first-and-goal from the 5-yard line with around four minutes left in the third quarter following a spectacular scramble by Wilson. But instead of pound it in to retake the lead with the touchdown the offense incurred consecutive false start penalties, ultimately settling for a field goal to still trail 7-6, as a result.

"Lack of focus," explained Wilson regarding the reason behind the two penalties. "I think part of the problem was the play-clock getting low and guys were getting a bit antsy."

Wilson's performance on Saturday was mixed, considering his 18-of-30 passing for 208 yards, although it ended on a sour note with his last pass thrown resulting in an interception that effectively ended the game.

"I think he did some good things," Sitake said of Wilson's performance. "I love his athleticism and his ability to make a play. He prepares really well. I know he's taking it really hard right now with this loss."

Wilson and the offense will work to improve next Saturday when taking on Boise State on the road.