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BYU needs to get selfish against Bearcats

Turnovers were the Cougars’ undoing against the Jayhawks. BYU will need to be much less giving when facing Cincinnati in its Big 12 home opener Friday

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BYU quarterback Kedon Slovis passes the ball during a game against Kansas Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, in Lawrence, Kan. The BYU quarterback was picked off twice agains the Jayhawks, once of which was returned for a touchdown.

Charlie Riedel, Associated Press

The scriptures teach “charity never faileth” but in football, sometimes it does. The Cougars took a giving spirit into Kansas and were punished for it. A fumble return, a pick-six and another interception led to 21 points in an 11-point defeat, 38-27.

BYU ran more plays for more yards than the Jayhawks. It also had fewer punts and fewer penalties, but what the Cougars couldn’t do, and likely won’t do against any Big 12 foe, is win a game when losing the turnover battle. Turnovers are that critical, especially for an underdog who is finding its way in a brand-new conference.


Cougars on the air

Cincinnati (2-2)
at BYU (3-1)
Friday, 8:15 p.m. MDT
LaVell Edwards Stadium
Radio: 102.7 FM/1160 AM

It doesn’t matter how turnovers happen, but it certainly matters when and where they happen.

Kansas defensive back Cobee Bryant separated the ball from Parker Kingston with a hit so hard that it knocked Kingston out of the game on BYU’s second play. Bryant then scooped up the ball and ran 22 yards for the touchdown.

The third quarter began with a tipped pass off the hands of Isaac Rex and into the waiting arms of Kenny Logan. He pulled it in and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown. Two plays — 14 points. Instead of a 17-7 BYU lead, which the Cougar defense had categorically earned, the Jayhawks celebrated a 21-17 advantage and never looked back.

The fact that Kansas collected a pair of touchdowns, while its highly touted tandem of quarterback Jalon Daniels and running back Devin Neal rested on the sidelines, spelled BYU’s eventual doom. Once the Cougars wore out in the second half, the Jayhawks ran wild, picking up 172 of their 221 rushing yards without a single turnover.

Slovis’ second interception late in the third quarter on a fourth down triggered a seven-play, 64-yard scoring drive to give Kansas an unsurmountable 35-20 lead.

To their credit, the Jayhawks did all the taking and BYU did all the giving — and that included the Cougar ground attack, which the Jayhawks took away all together and allowed only 9 yards on 22 carries.

A week earlier at Arkansas, it was BYU doing the taking in the form of a Max Tooley interception and a Tyler Batty fumble recovery. The Razorbacks forced a Chase Roberts fumble earlier in the game, but the 2-1 turnover margin gave BYU just enough of an edge to win, 38-31.

A victory Friday night against Cincinnati (2-2) will require the Cougars (3-1) to embrace selfishness and all its synonyms. They need to be greedy with field possession, stingy at the line of scrimmage, egocentric in the secondary, self-indulgent in running and passing, self-centered in scoring, and ungenerous when it comes to turnovers.

Basically, they must save charity for the postgame handshakes because when it shows up in the game, the team that does the most giving is often the one who fails to win.

The preseason idea that BYU could finish September with a 4-1 record was dismissed by many as a form of blue-goggledness. Despite Saturday’s effort at Kansas, such a start is there for the taking. But to get it, the Cougars must do a lot less giving.


Kansas safety Kenny Logan Jr. (1) celebrates with defensive lineman Austin Booker after intercepting a pass for a touchdown during against BYU on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023 in Lawrence, Kan.

Colin E. Braley, Associated Press

Dave McCann is a contributor to the Deseret News and is the studio host for “BYU Sports Nation Game Day,” “The Post Game Show,” “After Further Review,” and play-by-play announcer for BYUtv. He is also co-host of “Y’s Guys” at ysguys.com.