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3 takeaways from BYU’s loss to Arkansas

The Cougars’ multiplicity of errors resulted in a lopsided loss

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Puka Nacua (12), a wide receiver for the BYU Cougars, misses a catch while being defended by Brini Latavious of the Arkansas Razorbacks in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022.

Puka Nacua (12), a wide receiver for the BYU Cougars, misses a catch while being defended by Brini Latavious of the Arkansas Razorbacks in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022.

Ben B. Braun, Deseret News

BYU’s hopes of bouncing back and returning to the Top 25 after a loss last week to Notre Dame were dashed by Arkansas on Saturday as the Razorbacks handed the Cougars a humbling 52-35 defeat.

Here are three takeaways from the loss that dropped BYU to 4-3 on the year:

BYU’s defense had no answers all day

It’s funny to think back to Arkansas’ first two drives that ended in a fumble and a punt.

Because after that, the Razorbacks met little resistance from the BYU defense.

At one point, Arkansas scored on eight straight possessions, including seven touchdowns.

Short drives, long drives, quick drives — the Razorbacks had them all.

The only reason Arkansas didn’t finish the game with nine straight scoring drives was because of a meaningless goal line stand in the final moments.

Arkansas had its way both in the pass and run games. Quarterback KJ Jefferson was brilliant, completing 29 of 40 passes for 367 yards and five touchdowns.

Raheim Sanders ran for 175 yards and two touchdowns on a 11.7-per carry average, including a career-long 64-yard run that accounted for the game’s final touchdown.

Matt Landers had eight catches for 99 yards and three touchdowns.

All totaled, the Razorbacks put up 644 yards of total offense — 367 through the air and 277 on the ground.

Arkansas also converted 12 of 15 third downs, the latest team to benefit from BYU’s porous third-down defense.

It was a rough outing for the Cougar defenders in every way imaginable against the superior Razorbacks.

Arkansas made BYU pay for a disastrous end to the second quarter

BYU took a 21-14 lead with just under 10 minutes left in the second quarter on a Puka Nacua jet sweep touchdown, and it looked like the home team would give its SEC opponent a game.

Turns out, that was the last gasp of hope for the Cougars.

Arkansas added a field goal on the ensuing drive, and then BYU endured a comedy of errors to fall down 31-21 at halftime.

Here’s what happened next, in order:

  • The Cougars faced a 4th-and-1 at their own 34 with a little over five minutes until halftime, and BYU went for it. Jaren Hall couldn’t handle the snap, though, and BYU lost its first fumble of the year.
  • Even though Arkansas faced a first-and-25 after a penalty, the Razorbacks scored on the short field — on a 4-yard Landers catch.
  • On BYU’s ensuing drive, Hall was intercepted on a long pass into Arkansas territory.
  • On a 3rd-and-11 with a minute and a half until halftime, Jefferson appeared to be caught for a sack, but multiple BYU defenders couldn’t make the play. Instead, Jefferson escaped and found Trey Knox for a 36-yard pass.

  • That set up a 15-yard pass to Rashod Dubinion with 40 seconds until halftime, giving Arkansas a 10-point lead.

While BYU twice cut the lead to three in the third quarter, the Cougars never led after this stretch in which Arkansas seized the game’s momentum.

There weren’t enough good moments for a hurting BYU offense

BYU entered the game with a handful of injuries at the skill positions, particularly at running back.

Backs Lopini Katoa and Miles Davis both missed the game, as did wide receiver Gunner Romney. 

That left BYU having to get creative on offense — and it didn’t always work out.

Hall took a couple shots and looked to be favoring his shoulder, though he gutted through and had a nice line by completing 26 of 41 passes for 356 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

Nacua had his breakout game of the year, scoring two rushing touchdowns and catching eight passes for 141 yards and a touchdown.

Kody Epps continued to show star status, finishing with nine catches for 125 yards and a touchdown.

Chris Brooks also played well when he was used as the team’s lead back — finishing with 10 carries for 53 yards — and Mason Fakahua put up seven carries for 14 yards running for a depleted backfield.

For the good that some of these individual efforts showed, though, the Cougar offense had its lapses. 

  • BYU had a season-high three turnovers.
  • The Cougars converted 7 of 13 third downs, but were 1 of 3 on fourth downs.
  • Hall’s fourth-down miss in the second quarter flipped the momentum when BYU led.

From there, the Cougars were playing catchup against a much more talented team.