BYU fell behind by as many as 19 points before ultimately losing 28-20 to Notre Dame on Saturday night at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
Here are three takeaways from the loss that dropped BYU to 4-2 on the season:
Another painfully slow start and ball control cost the Cougars
BYU has been stricken with slow first halves much of the season as it hits the midway point, and it happened again in Las Vegas.
Despite the Cougars cashing in off a 42-yard Hobbs Nyberg punt return to take a brief 6-3 lead, they were largely overplayed and overwhelmed by their fellow independent program well into the third quarter.
At halftime, Notre Dame had 259 yards of total offense to 67 for the Cougars, had a 13-minute edge in time of possession and led 18-6.
Jaren Hall completed just 3 of 8 passes for 11 yards in the first two quarters in what was easily his worst half of football at BYU, and he struggled much of the night against the Notre Dame defense.
The time of possession domination extended into Notre Dame’s first possession of the second half, when the Fighting Irish ate 6:55 off the clock on an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to go up 25-6.
BYU made it interesting after that, scoring back-to-back touchdowns — on a 53-yard Kody Epps catch and a 28-yard Chris Brooks run — to cut the lead to five early in the fourth.
The Cougars even had the chance to take the lead after intercepting Drew Pyne, but in the end, Notre Dame was the better team, and it reflected in the final numbers.
The Fighting Irish had 496 yards of total offense to 280 for BYU, and Notre Dame held the ball for over 40 minutes, giving the Cougars few opportunities to overcome their mistakes.
BYU was beat in the trenches, including on the play of the game
Going into the game, one big question loomed for BYU: Could the Cougars stop the Notre Dame rushing attack?
Short answer? No.
Not nearly enough.
Even though the BYU defense came up with two defensive stands inside the 5 — preventing Notre Dame from really running away with this one — the Cougars still allowed 234 rushing yards.
Audric Estime had 97 rushing yards, Logan Diggs ran for 93 and the Fighting Irish came up with big runs when they needed them — Estime broke off a 46-yarder in the fourth quarter that led to a field goal, and Diggs had a 33-yard run on Notre Dame’s drive to end the game.
While BYU ran for 160 yards — and had a few big moments running the ball, like Lopini Katoa’s 20-yard run to convert a third and 18 — the Cougars were beat on some critical plays.
The biggest came with just under four minutes to play. Facing a fourth and 1 at the Notre Dame 27 down eight points, the Cougars opted to run Katoa to try to extend a promising drive.
The Fighting Irish, though, broke through and bottled up Katoa well short of the first down, and Notre Dame ran out the clock from there.
Third-down struggles bit BYU hard
Pyne outdueled Hall, looking more poised than the Cougars’ junior QB.
Pyne completed 22 of 28 passes for 262 yards with three touchdowns and an interception, while tight end Michael Mayer finished with a career-high 11 catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns.
Hall, meanwhile, entered the game with some NFL buzz building after a solid start to the year.
In Vegas, though, he struggled, finishing 9 of 17 for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Kody Epps accounted for most of that with four catches for 100 yards and both scores.
Pyne and the Notre Dame offense clearly won on third downs.
The Irish converted 11 of 16 third downs for the game — that included going 8 of 9 on third downs during one stretch in which Notre Dame scored three touchdowns on four possessions.
BYU converted just 3 of 9 third downs, leaving itself with far too few opportunities to get its offense going.