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Toledo captures the late-game magic this time, hands inconsistent BYU a devastating loss

Rockets score winning touchdown in the final minute after Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson throws costly interception, gets injured on same play.

Toledo Rockets defensive back Samuel Womack (19) knocks down a pass intended for Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Talon Shumway (21) in the end zone during the second half of an NCAA football game at The Glass Bowl in Toledo, Ohio on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. The Cougars fell 28-21 to the Rockets.
Toledo Rockets defensive back Samuel Womack (19) knocks down a pass intended for Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Talon Shumway (21) in the end zone during the second half of an NCAA football game at The Glass Bowl in Toledo, Ohio on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. The Cougars fell 28-21 to the Rockets.
Colter Peterson, Deseret News

TOLEDO, Ohio — BYU linebacker Chaz Ah You stripped Toledo’s Bryant Koback with just over a minute remaining and it appeared the Cougars were headed for another last-second win, at best another overtime.

But coach Kalani Sitake’s aggressive style backfired, resulting not only in sophomore Zach Wilson’s devastating interception that led to a 28-21 Toledo win at the Glass Bowl on Saturday afternoon, but a significant thumb injury that will shelve the Cougars’ starting quarterback for at least the South Florida game in two weeks, quite likely longer.

Toledo’s Kahlil Robinson jumped in front of a pass intended for Aleva Hifo and returned it to the BYU 2-yard line. With BYU’s defense putting up little resistance, Shakif Seymour scored the winning touchdown with 51 seconds remaining and the Rockets withstood a late BYU surge with backup quarterback Jaren Hall having replaced Wilson.

Hall’s desperation heave to Talon Shumway sailed out of the end zone and the Rockets (3-1) stormed the field in celebration. BYU fell to 2-3 this season and 22-22 in Sitake’s fourth year.

“I thought there was enough time (to be aggressive),” Sitake said after the Cougars took over on their 20 with 1 minute, 9 seconds remaining. “(A little) under a minute and we had three timeouts. We had been throwing the ball pretty well and getting some yardage on them. Really just wanted to be (aggressive). … I thought it was good for us to go for it. Obviously they made a big play on it, got an interception and it cost us.”

Wilson was apparently injured while trying to tackle Robinson near the goal line.

The game got away from the Cougars in the second half, when they suddenly had no answers for the Toledo offense. The Rockets scored 18 points on three drives to start the second half, and tied it at 21-21 on Koback’s 1-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter.

BYU finally forced the Rockets to punt for the first time in the second half with a little more than 7 minutes remaining, but were stopped on fourth down at the Toledo 35.

Sitake said he went for the first down there because field goal kicker Jake Oldroyd was “a little bit under the weather” and had missed two field goals in the first half.

Toledo marched inside BYU territory and appeared to be working the clock down for a field goal before Ah You’s strip gave the Cougars life. But BYU’s sideline went from euphoria to bitter disappointment on the next play.

“It sucks,” said BYU cornerback Dayan Ghanwoloku, who recovered a muffed punt that set up BYU’s third touchdown, a 3-yard reception by Hifo with 2:08 remaining in the third quarter that gave the Cougars a 21-14 lead. BYU would not score again.

“There is a lot of disappointment,” Ghanwoloku said. “We knew it was a game we needed to come in and win and we didn’t do a good enough job on offense, defense or special teams. We gotta do a lot better.”

Toledo finished with 448 yards of offense, 301 of it in the second half. Rockets quarterback Mitchell Guadagni threw for 206 yards, but he did his most damage scrambling for yardage in the second half.

“When things broke down, he made a play,” Ghanwoloku said.

Wilson left the game having completed 22 of 38 passes for 315 yards and two touchdowns to go with the devastating interception. Hifo caught five passes for 111 yards and two touchdowns and returned two punts for 70 yards.

But the offense was wildly inconsistent and could not sustain drives, a problem for the second straight week.

“We have a lot of work to get done in the bye week, and we have to evaluate a lot of things and look at it and get better before we go to South Florida for the next game,” Sitake said.

The Cougars racked up 241 yards in the first half, but had just seven points to show for it, a 32-yard touchdown run by Emmanuel Esukpa on third-and-7.

Twice BYU drove deep into Toledo territory in the second quarter and got no points, as the normally reliable Oldroyd missed 39- and 42-yard field goals. The 39-yarder clanged off the right upright after Tristen Hoge gave up a sack.

False starts and dropped passes doomed other drives. Those miscues turned out to be costly when the game went to the wire.

“We didn’t play well enough to win this game,” said senior receiver Micah Simon. “We need to become the type of team that I know we can be and the type of offense I know we can be — stay on the field and sustain drives and score touchdowns.”

The Cougars have a bye next week and will travel to Tampa, Florida, to meet South Florida on Oct. 12.