If the BYU football team needs to beat Notre Dame in order to make a case for a rivalry between the two teams, it’ll have to wait. For the second year in a row, the Cougars traveled into South Bend and exited with a loss. This time, BYU lost 23-13 on a frigid senior day in Notre Dame Stadium.
“The program is at a point where we can win these types of games,” said BYU receiver Skyler Ridley. “We would have liked to come out with a victory.”
The Fighting Irish dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball for the first three quarters of the game. Notre Dame running backs broke through holes and quarterback Tommy Rees enjoyed ample protection in the pocket.
“They controlled the game,” said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall. “They ran tough and physical throughout the game.”
It appeared the Irish were prepared to blow the game open early in the fourth quarter, nursing a seven-point lead and knocking on the door of another touchdown, when BYU safety Craig Bills hauled in an interception with one hand in the end zone. After a three-and-out series for BYU, Notre Dame kicker Kyle Brindza nailed a wind-aided 52-yard field goal.
With a 23-13 deficit, the Cougars followed the feet of Paul Lasike deep into Notre Dame territory. Despite Lasike’s 46-yard run that brought BYU within the five-yard line, the offense couldn’t capitalize and the drive ended with a blocked field goal.
The Cougars forced a quick three-and-out and started again with less than two minutes on the clock. With just one more chance to score, the Irish defense got to BYU once again, sacking Taysom Hill and forcing a turnover on downs. The Irish were then able to take a knee and end the affair.
Continuing with a theme from 2013, the Cougars had trouble scoring in the red zone, scoring just one touchdown on four trips inside the Notre Dame 20-yard line.
“We had some drives that started really well,” Ridley said. “We just didn’t convert those opportunities into touchdowns.”
Hill’s play behind center was adequate. The sophomore quarterback ended with 168 yards passing and a touchdown strike to JD Falslev, and an additional 101 yards on the ground. Lasike ran the ball four times for 101 yards.
Mendenhall said Lasike’s play was one positive takeaway from the loss.
“I was really impressed with Paul Lasike,” Mendenhall said. “He gave us a physical presence that matched what Notre Dame was doing.”
The loss dropped the Cougars to 7-4 on the season, with one remaining regular season game at Nevada on Nov. 30. Following the matchup against Nevada, BYU will have a few weeks off before playing in the Fight Hunger Bowl on Dec. 27. The Cougars will face a PAC-12 opponent in that contest, and as of now it looks to be Oregon State, Arizona or USC.