Aleva Hifo couldn’t do it by himself in Toledo.

He tried, he really did.

It would have been nice if Hifo had had more help from his offense Saturday as Toledo beat BYU 28-21 in the closing minute off a Cougar turnover in a defensive battle. This goes down as a painful loss for the Cougars when they failed time and again to push around a Toledo defense that gave up nearly 700 yards to Colorado State in Fort Collins last week.

The Toledo loss was a regression for Kalani Sitake’s team. It will hurt big-time heading into a bye week. And it should. It was not a good experience nor the creation of great memories. Storming the field after beating ranked USC seems a year old.

Throwing an interception late in the game, sophomore quarterback Zach Wilson was injured on that play. He is expected to be out with an injury to his throwing hand for the Cougars’ next game at South Florida in two weeks.

“We had so many third-and-shorts and couldn’t stay on the field.” — BYU wide receiver Micah Simon

BYU ended the game with freshman QB Jaren Hall at the helm on the last series, throwing a Hail Mary out of bounds in the end zone.

“We lost this in all three phases of the game, offense, defense, and special teams,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake told BYUtv.

Hifo had two returns for a total of 70 yards, a 75-yard touchdown reception, 111 yards receiving and 183 all-purpose yards, but field goal kicker Jake Oldroyd missed two makable field goals in the first half.

The loss — the way it happened with BYU’s defense forcing three turnovers and the offense looking inept — really makes games against Boise State and Utah State look scary.

BYU needs offensive firepower in October and they’d better find it before Halloween or it will be a nightmare.

BYU should have physically beat up Toledo on both sides of the ball. It could not. And on offense, a bigger, older, maybe stronger Cougar offensive line could not get a big enough push on third-and-short situations. This line couldn’t dominate Toledo nor assert its will.  In the end, the Cougars had no firepower outside of Hifo’s big plays as a receiver and punt returner.

“We had so many third-and-shorts and couldn’t stay on the field,” said senior receiver Micah Simon.

The Cougars looked lost, out of sync and despite linebacker Chaz Ah You’s strip and recovery with just over a minute to play, the way this one got away was embarrassing, from play calls to execution and the missed FGs, which would have made it a different game.

Despite looking mediocre, showing up like a middle-of-the-pack Group of Five team, the offense had a last-gasp chance to bust up a 21-21 tie in crunch time with 1:09 left in the game. That’s when Wilson inexplicably threw an interception on the first play after the Ah You forced turnover. Toledo safety Kahlil Robinson returned Wilson’s interception to BYU’s 2-yard line, which easily set up the win.

Wilson’s throw was to the middle of the field. It was nowhere near Hifo. It had nothing to do with customary sideline clock control throws. Robinson simply made a center-field catch and really should have had a pick-six. It could have been on Wilson or Hifo may have not cut his route in front of Robinson. It was reminiscent of Wilson’s second start at the end to the loss to Northern Illinois at LaVell Edwards Stadium, essentially killing any chance for a win.

BYU quarterback Zach Wilson ‘looks like he is going to be out for a little bit’ after injuring thumb on throwing hand against Toledo
Toledo captures the late-game magic this time, hands inconsistent BYU a devastating loss

BYU’s three-man defensive front gave Toledo’s quarterback far too much time and the Rockets got far too many chunk yards and conversions in the flats on slants, quick outs and a myriad of runs from backs and the QB. That’s definitely an issue that Boise State and USU will eat with ketchup.

Despite playing four freshmen linebackers in one series, BYU’s defense forced three turnovers but got just one TD out of them. Those takeaways included an early interception by Payton Wilgar, a fumbled punt recovery by corner Dayan Ghanwoloku and the strip and grab by Ah You.

That should be enough for most offenses to punch an opponent’s lights out.

Not for the Cougars on this trip.

“We had breakdowns in covering the run and pass that kept drives alive and we didn’t make enough plays to score,” said Sitake, who is looking hard for consistency after five games.

“Credit Toledo, but we didn’t make enough plays and that’s concerning for me. It is on all of us, including the coaches, and I’m the one responsible. I’ll get it fixed,’’ Sitake promised.