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Blame BYU aplenty but Boise State was inspired and tough in upset

The Broncos used four turnovers to upset No. 10 Cougars

BYU wide receiver Gunner Romney is defended by Boise State’s Damon Cole (24) and Jared Reed during an NCAA college football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021.
BYU wide receiver Gunner Romney is defended by Boise State’s Damon Cole (24) and Jared Reed during an NCAA college football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021.
Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News

Boise State did Boise State things in embarrassing No. 10 BYU on its home field on Saturday.

The 26-17 Bronco upset of the Cougars featured a fired-up, inspired, opportunistic BSU team that forced a BYU team — known for mistake-free football through a 5-0 record — to let the rain get to them, lose a 10-0 lead and cough up four turnovers plus two more possessions on failed fourth-down tries.

That, folks, is a combined six possessional gifts to the Broncos, and it was all Boise State needed to trampoline over the Cougars.

Now BYU can get back to trying to play much better football.

“I credit Boise State’s head coach Andy Avalos, his staff and their players for making the plays to win this game. They made more plays,” said BYU head coach Kalani Sitake.

Leading 10-0, BYU watched the Broncos score 23 unanswered points. Though BSU scored just two field goals in the second half, the 23 points were enough.

The undefeated record is gone. The Top 10 ranking is gone. BYU will not sniff a CFP berth or even a New Year’s Day game as they prepare for their first road trip out of the state at Baylor. By the way, Baylor beat West Virginia 45-20 Saturday.

As of today, the season is simply all about playing better than was shown on Saturday before a sold-out home crowd.

You can blame BYU mistakes, a season-high nine penalties, and four turnovers from a team that had only two all season. You can blame the rain that seemed to cool off BYU’s offense in the second quarter. You can blame coaches, schemes, players, play calls and effort all you want, but what really needs to be stated is Boise State was the tougher, more inspired, better-prepared football team on Saturday.

Boise State came to Provo banged up. Starting corners were sidelined and the leading tackler, safety JL Skinner, was ejected for targeting. The offensive line had to shift people around like musical chairs and a tight end had to be used to play defensive line. BSU’s leading rusher didn’t even play.

Yet, BYU could not win the battle in the trenches until late in the game.

Somehow, this Bronco team, comprised of the wounded out of a hospital ward and training room, beat BYU in the trenches for most of the first half then hung on with big plays to win.

BYU’s locker room had a lot to reflect on. The Cougars got beat at their own game — power big boy football and outstanding big-time plays, including a tremendous catch by star receiver Khalil Shakir at the end of the game to ensure BYU could not come back.

Boise State registered hard tackles and punched at the football, causing the fumbles by Tyler Allegier (1) and Lopini Katoa (2). It was pressure by BSU’s front that caused Jaren Hall to throw a fly ball on BYU’s last drive that was intercepted. BSU had the Cougars figured out on critical fourth-down tries.

Good football versus not-so-good football.

“It’s the small and simple things that make a difference,” said BYU receiver Puka Nacua. “We made mistakes, we turned the ball over and we didn’t make enough plays at the end to win.”

“There was no overlooking Boise State,” said linebacker Ben Bywater. “They had a couple of tough losses and we knew they are a good team.”

Bywater said Sitake told BYU’s players they needed to handle the loss as men.

“He said tough men don’t go out pouty. They go out and hug their families and friends who have come a long way to see them. He said to go out and hug people and then get back to work.”

Hall, making his first start since the Arizona State game, said penalties and other mistakes hurt. “We are still very confident. We’ll bounce back.”

The rain?

“They handled it better than we did,” said Hall.

And the failures to convert fourth downs? “Their defense made plays and we didn’t.”

Boise State got four turnovers from the Cougars. That went against every metric BYU has shown all season long.

That was the bottom line and the reason the Broncos won.

The last time BYU had three turnovers in a game was 2018. That time, BYU also lost.

Simple things.

“Hats off to Boise State,” said Bywater.

Indeed.

If you turn the ball over you can easily lose, even if you outgain the opponent 413 to 312 yards and out-pass that foe 302-172.

This was a tremendous win for Avalos and his squad. It was an untimely, horrible loss for the Cougars at home.

Simple.