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Defeat to upset-minded Coastal Carolina was BYU’s worst nightmare come true

The Chanticleers kept BYU’s offense off the field with a dominating run attack in upset of No. 8 Cougars

BYU’s Dax Milne (5) and Coastal Carolina’s Grayson McCall (10) walk off the field after an NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, in Conway, S.C. Coastal Carolina won 22-17.
AP Photo/Richard Shiro

The No. 8 BYU Cougars asked for it, and they got it.

And on the big stage Saturday, two time zones away, BYU couldn’t hold off No. 14 Coastal Carolina on the road with 50 hours notice.

The Chanticleers looked sharper and were extremely motivated to play in the biggest game in school history with ESPN’s “College GameDay” in town. It was a tremendous stage for both teams. The verdict? Coastal Carolina 22, BYU 17.

The Cougars manned up in theory. Lost in reality. They came up 1 yard short when the clock read 0:00 and now stand 9-1, a perfect season lost in the rearview mirror.

“We were excited to play this game and have this opportunity, but we didn’t make enough plays and ran out of time,” said BYU coach Kalani Sitake. “I have to do a better job preparing our team to make plays needed to win.

“You have to credit Coastal Carolina. They had the same amount of time to prepare as we did and they put themselves in a better position to win this game. We didn’t.”

You must credit the Chanticleers. The smaller but quicker Sun Belt team dominated time of possession (37:51 to 22:09), literally keeping BYU’s Zach Wilson and the Cougars offense on the sidelines. When the Chanticleer defense wasn’t chasing Wilson out of the pocket, pushing him out of bounds, they were using MMA moves on him without penalty just before half to attack, attack, attack.

The result was a thrilling upset for the Chants and a disappointing, somewhat humiliating loss for Sitake’s team, which bit off more than it could chew this late in the season on the road against a sophisticated triple-option attack that was operating on all cylinders.

The Cougars looked like an unprepared team. There were dropped balls, a fumble and a huge third-quarter sack. There was also a receiver who lost 16 yards by reversing course at midfield, killing a drive on second down.

Right before the potential game-winning dive, BYU burned a crucial timeout, avoiding a penalty for 12 men on the field on CC’s punt do-over. BYU’s defense was neutralized at the point of attack by a smaller Coastal Carolina offensive line and couldn’t get off the field.

In short, this was BYU’s worst nightmare in its only loss of the season. The crash is hard and the plane trip home had to be long.

Coastal came at Wilson with a disruptive rush when he was on the field. Unlike this entire season, he was off balance most of the game, especially on crucial third- and forth-down opportunities. That BYU faced a very good team and mishandled it will make many question their veracity as a top-10 entity.

On defense, Coastal coasted with deadly runs all game long and held on to the ball for what amounted to an entire quarter of the game. That in a capsule was the game, ramming the ball down the throats of the Cougars on the clock-eating turf for 281 yards.

“It was tough playing a team on a short week against a team that is real dialed in, but that’s nothing but excuses. It still comes down to blocking and tackling,” said Isaiah Kaufusi.

Give BYU credit for grasping for this added game. Grade them average for play within it. Even the last-ditch drive came up short, an 18-yard dart to Dax Milne that a Coastal Carolina duo stopped at the 1-yard line with star receiver Milne fighting to get in for the winning score.

This is how games between ranked teams are supposed to go: down to the wire.

“Our guys are hurting right now. They love playing football and it’s now a game against San Diego State at home for Senior Day and that’s where our focus is right now,” said Sitake.

Bottom line?

This game really ripped the guts out of BYU’s players, an emotional experience in a first loss after practically taking on the college football world as the only program that chose to play football west of El Paso back in August.

But with everything on the line, BYU had to play better, execute cleaner, hold on to more passes and avoid mistakes like a holding call that nullified a 91-yard Neil Pau’u touchdown on BYU’s first possession of the game.

If that hadn’t happened, just that one penalty, maybe it would be a different outcome.

But that’s football in the fast lane.

“We have to have a short-term memory night now and come back Monday,” said running back Tyler Allgeier.