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Iowa State victory over BYU wasn’t a surprise, but defeats are getting more painful

Cougars continue to struggle as Cyclones shut down BYU offense and run through and around the home team

SHARE Iowa State victory over BYU wasn’t a surprise, but defeats are getting more painful
BYU coach Kalani Sitake is pictured here during a timeout during the game against the Iowa State Cyclones at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

BYU coach Kalani Sitake is pictured here during a timeout during the game against the Iowa State Cyclones at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023. The Cougars fell to the Cyclones 45-13.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Isaac Rex became BYU’s all-time touchdown leader for tight ends late Saturday night when he snagged a pass from freshman receiver Parker Kingston.

That was the biggest moment of BYU’s embarrassing 45-13 home loss to Iowa State in LaVell Edwards Stadium. 

The other historical markers were not so nice.

It was the first loss by a BYU sports team in the Big 12 in Provo.

It was the first home-field loss of the season.

The Cougars have now been outscored 117-26 during a three-game skid.

“There’s not a lot of things going right for us right now,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said afterward. “We need to get back to work on Monday and fix things.”

It was the third-straight Big 12 loss where the Cougars struggled mightily to not look like a Division III football team. “Embarrassing” is one word Sitake used to describe the Cougars’ play as he walked off the field at halftime, speaking to a sideline broadcast reporter.

It wasn’t a surprise that Iowa State beat BYU.

After all, it was Iowa State’s Big 12-leading defense against the Big 12’s worst offense in the home-team Cougars.

It was predictable.

What wasn’t expected is the complete ineptitude of BYU’s team on offense and defense. Six yards passing in the first half? Maybe historic. Defensive players leaving their assignments, gaps and edges to play hero individual ball after the first quarter? 

The crowd booing the team at halftime? No wonder Sitake was so unhappy.  

He should be. How many times did his players slip and just fall down on the turf? Too many to count. Was it an equipment failure with the shoes and cleats? It would fall right in line with how everything else went down.

Iowa State looked like a fine-tuned bully. The Cyclones made BYU look silly. 

What the last three games showed is how far Sitake must go in recruiting to even be competitive in this Power Five league. He’s behind. Far behind. And losses like this make it harder. BYU’s asked fans to pony up more coin now they’re in the Big 12. For this? That’s not going to sell.

Now comes Oklahoma to town next Saturday morning. The Sooners beat West Virginia 59-20 and West Virginia clobbered BYU 37-7. Oklahoma beat Iowa State 50-20.

You know what’s coming.

The Cougars opened this game with two turnovers in the first three touches of the football and trailed 10-0 in the blink of an eye. There were two fumbles on the first two kickoffs of the game.


Rocco Becht completed 15 of 23 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns. But he simply had to hand the ball off and get out of the way. Freshman Abu Sama gained 110 yards on eight carries for a 13.8 average.

For the second-straight game Jake Retzlaff got the QB starting job in place of senior Kedon Solvis. His mobility was a plus as he led BYU in rushing yards with 64 on 17 carries. He made some nice throws, but he also overthrew some receivers and didn’t see a lot of open ones.  At times he was chucking the ball, high and hard and into trouble.

BYU is investing playing time in Retzlaff. He’s learning.

One may credit Iowa State for a lot of that. The Cyclones have an outstanding defense. BYU was just 1 of 11 in third-down conversions and were outgained 443 to 318 total yards.

BYU’s offensive struggles are now just part of the Cougars’ identity this season.

That BYU’s defense struggled so hard to maintain assignment-sound ball was surprising from of a Jay Hill crew. It may be that frustration and panic swamped the best-made game plans and execution was simply out the window.

In the end, it was another learning experience for Sitake’s team.

But the lessons are getting more painful by the week. And the response hasn’t been there from his team as it tackles the toughest stretch of the season.

At least Rex got his record.