After Week 4 of the 2022 college football season, the BYU Cougars were a solid 3-1, with a 41-20 loss to an Oregon team now ranked in the top 10 the only blemish on their record.

The Boise State Broncos were a mediocre-looking 2-2 and smarting after a 27-10 loss at UTEP, which is now 4-5.

Obviously, the fortunes of both Intermountain region football programs have turned on a dime the last few weeks. The cases of Boise State (6-2) and BYU (4-5) illustrate just how much teams change over the course of a month, let alone a season.

“We will get back to work and fight some more and get ready for Boise next week. We are obviously going through a losing streak here and the only way to turn it around is to love each other, focus on each other, stick to our core values and our principles, and allow the culture to take over.” — BYU football coach Kalani Sitake

The Broncos are now bowl eligible, have won four straight, and host the beleaguered Cougars at Albertsons Stadium with all kinds of momentum after walloping Colorado State 49-10 on the blue turf last Saturday. BYU has lost four straight, will miss out on a bowl for the first time since 2017 if it can’t defeat Utah Tech and either BSU or Stanford in November, and doesn’t look like it could stop any offense in the Football Bowl Subdivision

Given what happened in November after they closed out September with less-than-impressive wins over Wyoming and Utah State, the Cougars seem especially vulnerable to Boise State and quarterback Taylen Green, who took the reins when Hank Bachmeier entered the transfer portal in the wake of the firing of offensive coordinator Tim Plough following that Week 4 loss at UTEP.

For the Cougars, if there was one positive to emerge from the Friday loss to ECU, it was that they played better on both sides of the ball than they did at Liberty.

“There are some positives that happened,” coach Kalani Sitake said after Andrew Conrad’s line-drive field goal split the uprights as time expired to give the Pirates their sixth win. “Obviously some negatives. … But this is where the culture of the team is actually supposed to thrive the most. So I feel really good about our team, our core values, our principles of the team, and I think the players are going to get better from this and will respond well and be ready to go next week.”

They better be, or a Liberty-like embarrassment could be in store.

“We will get back to work and fight some more and get ready for Boise next week,” Sitake said after the Cougars lost to ECU as three-point favorites. “We are obviously going through a losing streak here and the only way to turn it around is to love each other, focus on each other, stick to our core values and our principles, and allow the culture to take over.”

Perhaps the biggest reason BYU and Boise State went in opposite directions in October was defense. The Cougars are now 106th in total defense, allowing 422.4 yards per game; the Broncos are No. 2 in total defense, giving up just 232.2 yards per game.

BYU is 65th in total offense, while Boise State is 93rd. But those numbers are deceiving — the Cougars’ offense, which was without leading rusher Chris Brooks, leading receiver Kody Epps and senior Gunner Romney against the Pirates, mustered just 388 yards Friday night and was 0 for 2 in critical fourth-down situations.

“I have to look at my part as a head coach and the decisions I made in the game, and own up to it,” Sitake said when asked why he didn’t elect to kick a field goal with the score tied 24-24 early in the fourth quarter on fourth-and-2. “I think there are things we can build off from last week to this week, and things we can get better and improve on going forward. “

Defensive end Tyler Batty said the tone in the locker room after the ECU loss was “completely different” than after the loss at Liberty.

“We got a bunch of competitors, man,” Batty said. “They want to win. They want to do their part. … I think if anything this (losing streak) has just brought us closer as a team. We got a good group of dudes. There is not a single quitter in our locker room.”

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In crushing Colorado State to improve to 12-0 all-time against the Rams, Boise State racked up a season-high 514 yards a day after the Cougars gave up 424 yards to East Carolina. Green, a 6-foot-6, 220-pound redshirt freshman from Lewisville, Texas, completed 24 of 30 passes for 305 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran 13 yards for a TD.

Boise State posted 30 first downs, its most since getting 38 at Florida State in 2019.

Can a banged-up BYU defense that was pushed around by Arkansas, Liberty and ECU the last three weeks slow that attack? Maybe in a blue moon. Free safety Malik Moore is out for the season with a fractured hand, while starting rover linebacker Payton Wilgar missed the Liberty and ECU games with a lower leg injury.

The Cougars did get defensive lineman Blake Mangelson back against the Pirates, but Sitake acknowledged after the game that several more Cougar defenders left with injuries and did not return, including Chaz Ah You.

“I felt like (BYU players) just had a different sense of urgency tonight,” Sitake said. “… I think last week a lot of guys could have quit, you know? And this week with a lot of guys, you saw their answer was to keep playing. And we are banged up. I mean, we had to play without a bunch of guys again. And tonight unfortunately we had some more injuries that happened.”


Cougars on the air

BYU (4-5)

at Boise State (6-2)

Saturday, 5 p.m.

Albertsons Stadium, Boise, Idaho

TV: FS1 or FS2

Radio: KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM/1160 AM