The BYU Cougars’ mistakes and struggles that have been building for weeks compounded in an ugly 41-14 loss to Liberty on Saturday, extending the Cougars’ losing streak to three games.
Here are three takeaways from the loss that dropped BYU to 4-4.
It was one-sided after the first quarter
BYU led 14-3 late in the first quarter, but from there, the Cougars were whipped by the Flames, who scored the game’s final 38 points.
Liberty came into the contest with a 6-1 record, and for one quarter, it looked like BYU had taken that challenge seriously.
But Liberty, once it got going, simply dominated this game and put up 419 yards of total offense over the final three quarters while BYU had 142 — nearly three times the offensive numbers for Liberty during that stretch.
The Flames scored 17 points in the second quarter, 14 in the third and seven in the fourth to win going away.
Liberty scored on five straight possessions in one stretch — stop me if you’ve heard that before with the BYU defense — and the Flames never punted until the fourth quarter when they were up 41-14.
The only two stops BYU got before then were turnovers by the Flames, who have been prone to turnovers this season.
It didn’t matter, though, as Liberty picked up a signature win in front of a sellout crowd as BYU wilted in the trip back east.
There’s no fix in sight for the defense
One week after giving up 644 yards and 52 points to Arkansas, the Cougars allowed Liberty to roll up 547 and 41.
The Flames averaged 7.1 yards per play, including 6.2 yards per rush attempt and 10.3 yards per completion.
Liberty ran 77 offensive plays to 50 for BYU — a common theme with this Cougar team.
Liberty was simply dominant on the ground, rolling up 300 rushing yards. Dae Dae Hunter’s 80-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter — putting the Flames up 34-14 — showcased the BYU defense’s struggles to stop the run and with poor tackling.
Hunter ran for 213 yards and a 9.1-yard per-carry average against a hapless defense, while Johnathan Bennett overcame an early interception and completed 24 of 29 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns.
With four games remaining, it’s clear the BYU defense has no answers for what ails them.
The offense doesn’t answer the bell either
After that early 14-3 BYU lead, the Cougar offense was shut down.
The Cougars never scored on their final seven possessions — four ended in punts and three more in a turnover on downs.
Jaren Hall had another tough game, completing 16 of 34 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns, and he only threw for 91 yards over the final three quarters.
BYU was just 3 of 11 on third downs and 0 of 3 on fourth downs, and the running attack had just 43 yards through three quarters before finishing with 71.
It was the first time this season that the offense matched the defense’s ineptitude.
Puka Nacua was the only bright spot for the Cougars on the offensive side of the ball. He had seven catches for 114 yards and a touchdown while adding 14 rushing yards on four carries.
He accounted for nearly half of BYU’s total yards on a dreary day.
The question is, what kind of changes will the Cougars make, with their next game on a shortened week? They host East Carolina next Friday.
A loss there, and BYU may not be bowl-bound.