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3 takeaways from No. 10 BYU’s 26-17 loss to Boise State

The highs the Cougars reached by starting the season 5-0 and climbing to No. 10 in the national rankings came crashing down against the Broncos.

Boise State quarterback Hank Bachmeier (19) looks to throw the ball as BYU linebacker Ben Bywater approaches to tackle during an NCAA college football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021.
Boise State quarterback Hank Bachmeier (19) looks to throw the ball as BYU linebacker Ben Bywater approaches to tackle during an NCAA college football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021.
Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News

The highs BYU reached by starting the 2021 season 5-0 and climbing to No. 10 in the national rankings came crashing down Saturday as the Cougars fell 26-17 to Boise State at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

Here are three takeaways from BYU’s first loss of the season:

Four turnovers cripple the BYU offense

The Cougars led 10-0 after scoring on their first two drives, but after that, the BYU offense fell apart.

It started in the second quarter, when back-to-back turnovers gave Boise State a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. Tyler Allgeier lost a fumble at the BYU 24 — the Cougars’ first lost fumble of the season — and after the Broncos cashed in with an 11-yard Cyrus Habibi-Likio touchdown run to make it a 10-10 game, Lopini Katoa lost a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and the Broncos again recovered. Boise State turned that fumble into another touchdown — a 1-yard score from Andrew Van Buren — and the Broncos led 17-10.

Despite this, the Cougars were still within two scores in the second half when Katoa again lost a fumble, this time inside the Boise State 20, to cut short a promising BYU drive that could have made it a one-score game.

Jaren Hall then threw an interception on the Cougars’ final drive as he tried to convert a third-and-long with BYU down nine.

Boise State, meanwhile, never turned the ball over, and those 14 points off BYU turnovers proved crucial in the game.

Hall’s return marked by missed opportunities

Speaking of Hall, he returned to the field after missing the past two games with a rib injury. Hall’s overall numbers were OK — he completed 22 of 37 passes for 302 yards and a touchdown, to go with that interception — but after a hot start, Hall’s decision-making came was questionable at times.

His interception late in the game was costly, as he tried to force a pass when the Cougars could have potentially set up a field goal, at worst, to try and make it a one-score game.

BYU also was just 4 of 10 on third downs and 1 of 3 on fourth-down plays, including one when Hall misfired on a fourth-and-goal situation early in the fourth quarter. Had BYU scored on that possession, it would have vastly improved the Cougars’ chances of rallying. Instead, they spent much of the second half down two scores.

BYU’s defense couldn’t stop the run

The Cougars were beat in the trenches on both sides of the ball against a Boise State team that struggles to run the ball offensively and stop it defensively.

It was particularly damaging for the BYU defense, which often couldn’t contain the Boise State rushing attack when it needed to. The Broncos entered the game averaging 74.6 rushing yards per game, fourth-worst in the country, and their leading rusher, George Holani, was out due to injury.

Boise State finished the game with nearly double its normal output from its rushing game, finishing with 140 yards on the ground. Habibi-Likio led the way with 75 yards on 18 carries, while Van Buren added 70 yards on 18 carries of his own.