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BYU football report card: Cougars fumble away opportunities in loss to Boise State

Boise State safety Alexander Teubner, right, gets tackled by BYU wide receiver Keanu Hill after Teubner recovered a BYU fumble.
Boise State safety Alexander Teubner, right, gets tackled by BYU wide receiver Keanu Hill after Teubner recovered a BYU fumble during an NCAA college football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021.
Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News

BYU was never able to get in sync as the No. 10 Cougars dropped from the unbeaten ranks in falling to Boise State 26-17 on Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

Here’s how the Cougars graded out in the devastating loss:

Offense

The Cougars were sloppy and inefficient on offense after a quick start, contributing greatly to a loss where BYU’s turnover troubles took the spotlight. The Cougars hadn’t lost a fumble all year heading into the game Saturday, but three fumbles — one came on special teams — sunk BYU on a rainy afternoon.

Tyler Allgeier’s fumble midway through the second quarter was the first turnover of the game, and minutes later Lopini Katoa fumbled on a kickoff return. Boise State turned both fumbles deep in BYU territory into touchdowns, and that changed the trajectory of a game the Cougars once led 10-0.

Katoa’s third-quarter fumble was a backbreaker, when BYU was trailing 23-10 and in need of some offensive rhythm. Jaren Hall’s last-drive interception put the final heartbreaking note on the upset.

There was some questionable play-calling as well. BYU was trailing 17-10 late in the second quarter after the first two turnovers and faced a fourth-and-2 at its own 46. Instead of punting, the Cougars went for it and Allgeier was stuffed for no gain. Boise State turned that turnover on downs into a field goal.

Combine that with a promising 59-yard drive in the second half that ended with BYU failing to convert a fourth-and-goal, and there were plenty of missed opportunities for a Cougar offense that put up 413 yards of total offense and punted just once. BYU was just 4 of 10 on third downs and 1 of 3 on fourth downs.

Hall threw for a career-best 302 yards in his return after missing two games due to injury, but he didn’t factor into the run game and looked tentative at times.

It was the kind of losing effort that leaves a bad taste in the mouth for a long while.

Grade: D-

Defense

Coming off a game where BYU allowed Utah State just 22 rushing yards the week before, Saturday’s game looked like the Cougars would control the trenches against a Boise State team averaging just 74.6 rushing yards per game.

It was anything but that, though, as two Broncos running backs rushed for over 60 yards — Cyrus Habibi-Likio ran for 75 yards and a touchdown, while adding five catches for 32 yards, and Andrew Van Buren added 60 rushing yards and a touchdown.

Combine that with Boise State quarterback Hank Bachmeier playing a smart game — he finished 18 of 29 for 172 yards — and the Cougars just couldn’t do enough to stop Boise State when they needed to. The Broncos converted 7 of 16 third downs, and a handful of BYU’s nine penalties were costly ones on the defense.

BYU’s defense did force the Broncos to kick four field goals, three of which came from less than 30 yards, and that helped the Cougars stick around long enough and give hope they could rally.

When BYU desperately needed a stop, though — the Cougars cut the Boise State lead to 23-17 with 7:27 to play on an Allgeier 1-yard touchdown run — the defense couldn’t deliver. The Broncos drove 71 yards in nine plays, aided by a couple of costly BYU penalties and an incredible 35-yard reception from Khalil Shakir inside the Cougar 5-yard line, before a short field goal all but sealed the win.

Grade: D+

Special teams

Katoa’s fumble on the kickoff return was the most glaring issue for the Cougars on special teams, and it led to a Broncos touchdown that put BYU behind for the first time this season.

Jake Oldroyd did hit a 30-yard field goal to open the scoring, and Ryan Rehkow had a 44-yard punt in the second quarter. BYU’s special teams, though, were far from perfect beyond that.

Hobbs Nyberg muffed a punt but recovered it. The Cougars allowed Shakir to return a kickoff 35 yards to start the third quarter, setting up a Boise State field-goal scoring drive and put them in solid starting field position. BYU’s Javelle Brown then returned a kickoff in the third when he probably should have kneeled it for a touchback, and combined with a holding call on the return, the Cougars started that drive from their own 9.

In addition to Katoa’s costly fumble, it was the little things that dragged down the Cougars’ special teams.

Grade: D