BYU couldn’t deliver the finishing touches on a largely promising season, as the No. 13 Cougars were upset 31-28 by the UAB Blazers in the Independence Bowl on Saturday.
Here are three takeaways from a loss that cost BYU a chance at 11 wins and potentially a top 10 final ranking.
Cougars lethargic on defense, particularly in first quarter
BYU looked like a team disinterested in its bowl game during the first quarter. The Cougars fell behind 14-0 and were outgained 141 total yards to 64 in the first 15 minutes.
UAB took the early advantage, scoring first by capping a 60-yard drive with a 10-yard pass from Dylan Hopkins — who completed 19 of 23 passes for 189 yards and three touchdowns — to Gerrit Prince.
Then after BYU turned the ball over on downs on its ensuing possession, the Blazers struck quick with a 64-yard touchdown run from DeWayne McBride, who had 183 rushing yards.
While Samson Nacua’s fumble late in the fourth quarter ended BYU’s last chance to score, a poor start to the game had the Cougars playing from behind for far too long.
BYU gave up 412 yards of total offense, and UAB finished 9 of 14 on third down. After the Blazers recovered Nacua’s fumble, UAB ran out the clock with nine straight runs that netted 58 yards in sealing the upset win.
Fourth-down struggles bite BYU
The Cougars punted on their first possession of the game, but after that, Ryan Rehkow never went back out on the field.
Normally, that would be a positive for the Cougars. Not this game, though, as BYU turned the ball over on downs three times, once in each of the first three quarters.
The Cougars went 2 of 5 on fourth down, including a pass to fullback Masen Wake to convert on the Cougars’ last drive and give them hope, but their three failures — all in UAB territory — were costly.
The worst one came in the third quarter, with BYU driving after UAB went up 24-21. Facing a third-and-1 at the Blazers 32, the Cougars went to Wake — and not star running back Tyler Allgeier — on the key play, and Wake was stopped for no gain.
Conversely, UAB was 2 of 2 on fourth downs. The biggest conversion of the game came when Hopkins completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to Trea Shropshire on a fourth-and-7 with 6:17 to play.
That gave the Blazers the lead for good following an impressive 15-play, 75-yard drive that ate more than eight minutes off the clock.
Allgeier’s big day not enough
Speaking of Allgeier, the BYU sophomore kept the Cougars in the game.
Allgeier rushed for 192 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries, breaking the school’s single-season school rushing record in the process.
With Saturday’s effort, he finished the year with 1,601 rushing yards, passing Luke Staley’s mark of 1,582 yards back in 2001.
Allgeier accounted for all 72 yards on BYU’s first scoring drive, which he capped with a 1-yard touchdown run. He also had a 62-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, which tied the game at 21-all.
Outside of Allgeier, though, the BYU offense struggled to find a rhythm. The Cougars were just 4 of 11 on third down, and Baylor Romney, filling in for an injured Jaren Hall at quarterback, completed 15 of 23 passes for 195 yards.