BYU’s offense found its groove late in the fourth quarter, but once again, it was too little, too late as BYU watched their potential game-winning two-point conversion get batted down to the ground to lose at No. 24 Boise State 7-6 Thursdsay night.
BYU freshman quarterback Taysom Hill relieved ineffective senior Riley Nelson and led a 95 yard scoring drive with 3:37 left in the game to bring the Cougars to within one point of Boise State.
Trailing 6-7 but the with the momentum strongly on his side, BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall elected to go for the two-point conversion and the win.
“I wanted to win,” Mendenhall said. “We had momentum for the first time in the game, moving the ball offensively. We wanted to capitalize on the opportunity.”
On the two-point conversion, Hill rolled to his right with pressure coming from the middle by the defense. The play was drawn-up to go to junior slot receiver J.D. Falslev, but coverage forced Hill to throw to junior wide receiver Cody Hoffman.
Boise State senior linebacker J.C. Percy made an athletic play to break-up the pass to keep the lead for the Broncos.
“We got the call and we went in and did our best to execute,” Hill said about the two-point conversion. “It’s a tough environment. We had the momentum there…. The snap was good, but maybe the timing on the play was a little off, but we still need to execute.”
Hill finished the night 4-10 for 42 yards, and led the Cougars in rushing with 72 yards on 12 carries and one touchdown.
It was another heart-wrenching loss for the Cougars, as the defense played stellar to keep the Cougars in the game, but the offense struggled to move the ball.
Boise State’s only points on the night came when 306 lb senior defensive lineman Mike Atkinson intercepted Nelson and rumbled the remaining 36 yards for the touchdown with 13:24 left in the third quarter.
The BYU defense held Boise State’s offense scoreless at home for the first time ever since they became a Football Bowl Subdivision team in 1996. Boise State is the highest scoring team in college football since 2000, averaging 41.75 points per game.
“We definitely expected (BYU’s defense) to be good,” Boise State head coach Chris Petersen said after the game. “But to shut us out, I didn’t expect that.”
BYU’s defense battled throughout the night and held Boise State to a total of 261 yards. The Cougar defense is steadily, and somewhat quietly, reaching elite status as they extended their streak to 10 consecutive games of holding opposing offenses to under 300 total yards.
They also held the Broncos to 0-5 on fourth down attempts.
“We have a really good defense, and I think people are starting to acknowledge that now,” BYU senior linebacker Brandon Ogletree said.
The standout moment for the defense came in the third quarter, one that Mendenhall described “they will remember forever.”
BYU junior running back Michael Alisa fumbled the ball to Boise State at the BSU one yard line with 8:19 left in the third quarter, giving Boise State 1st-and-goal from the one.
The defense stuffed Boise State four consecutive plays and left Boise State in shock.
Petersen addressed that BYU goal-line-stand after the game by holding up both of his hands inches apart from each other.
“I don’t know what to say,” Petersen said. “I mean, that’s all I can say. I show you [emphasizing the distance between his hands], are you kidding me? We can’t get that? We’ll just have to figure it out next time.”
At the start of the game, BYU’s offense sputtered out the gates being forced three-and-out on their first three possessions.
BYU had only 68 yards of total offense at the half, but when Nelson came out and threw two interceptions on the first two BYU possessions, he was benched in favor of Hill.
“It just didn’t appear like he was quite as sharp and feeling quite as good as we were hoping,” Mendenhall said about switching quarterbacks.
Nelson was 4-9 for 19 yards and three interceptions for a passer rating of minus-4.5.
The defense was led by Ogletree, junior safety Daniel Sorenson and senior defensive end Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah.
Ogletree equaled his career high of eight tackles, 2.5 of those going for a loss.
Sorenson was active all night with eight tackles and one pass break-up from his secondary position.
Ansah had a critical sack at the end of the first half to push Boise State out of field goal range. Boise State was one of four teams in the nation coming into the game without having given up a sack this season. Ansah finished the night with eight tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss as well.
“It’s a shame that either one had to lose, but credit to Boise State and making the play they had to to win the game,” Mendenhall said.
The defense played strong tonight, but it was not enough to overcome the key stat of the night: turnover differential.
BYU’s offense turned the ball over five times, compared to the zero turnovers of Boise State’s offense.
“That’s why football is the ultimate team game,” Ogletree said. “You don’t win or lose as an offense or defense. You win or lose as a team.”