Cougars must focus on offense during bye week

Ari Davis
Taysom Hill threw for 187 yards and rushed for a touchdown against Boise State. (Ari Davis)

It’s not often a team forces five turnovers in a single football game.

It usually takes a unique mix of play calling, play-making ability and a certain level of ineptness (or carelessness) on behalf of the offense.

Since 2000, just 23 teams forced five takeaways in a game. All 23 teams won.

BYU became No. 24, but added the first digit to the loss column.

Cornerback Dayan Lake recorded a 50-yard pick six. Linebacker Fred Warner tip-toed down the sideline for a 59-yard pick six. Sae Tautu and Kai Nacua forced fumbles. Zayne Anderson recovered a muffed punt.

The five turnovers gave the Cougars 21 on the season, the most in the FBS.

And yet, BYU football now sits at 4-4 after the 28-27 loss. It didn’t help that the defense scored more points (14) than the offense did (13).

Head coach Kalani Sitake said the team never found a rhythm.

“Offensively, I think it didn’t feel like we could get things going. Some of the issues we had, we’d get a penalty or disrupt our drive,” Sitake said. “I don’t know if we ever got comfortable on offense. That’s the game. We’ll just keep working on it.”

Fortunately for the Cougars, they’re on a bye this week. So they’ll have plenty of time to work on it.

It appeared BYU had turned a corner offensively after a slow start to the season in Ty Detmer’s new offense. The Cougars scored 114 points in their three games previous and it appeared Taysom Hill and Co. had settled into the pro-style offense.

It didn’t look that way in Boise. Hill completed 21-of-42 passes for just 187 yards. It marked the fourth time in Hill’s career he’s thrown 35+ passes for less than 200 yards. To put that in perspective, John Beck, Max Hall, Jake Heaps, Riley Nelson and Tanner Mangum combined to accomplish that feat just two times.

Now Hill and the Cougars are facing more questions. But they may have time to figure things out.

After the bye week, the Cougars get three of their final four games at LaVell Edwards Stadium and will likely be favored in all four.

The Cougars have now lost four games by a combined total of eight points. Sitake is hopeful the close games will be a benefit to the team.

“We’ve played some really good teams and some great talent,” Sitake said after the loss to the Broncos. “Tonight was a hard one, but there were a lot of great things we can work off of.”

Warner didn’t mince words after his team’s three-game winning streak was snapped.

“This one hurts the most,” Warner said. “Just knowing we could have won it by a small margin hurts. I’m hurt right now just knowing things I could’ve fixed. But it’s always a team effort.”

It certainly was a team effort. While the defense did settle down, the Broncos picked the Cougar secondary apart in the first quarter, scoring two touchdowns in the first six minutes.

BSU averaged 17.7 yards per reception (the Cougars averaged just 8.9) and running back Jeremy McNichols tallied 249 total yards with two touchdowns.

“We needed to be in the right position at the right time,” Warner said. “Unfortunately in those situations (BSU) competed harder and they got those balls. Those are things we look back on and say ‘what if?'”

It’s not the first time the Cougars are asking ‘what if?’ The failed two-point conversion attempt against Utah still hangs over their heads. An interception on an unnecessary throw to the end zone against West Virginia still hangs over their heads. Now they can add a blocked field goal — and a number of other plays — to that list.

Hopefully the team has a short memory.

Sophomore running back Squally Canada started the game for an injured Jamaal Williams, running for 88 yards on 21 carries. Canada said the team isn’t concerned, describing the atmosphere after the loss.

“It was just a whole bunch of guys loving each other and saying ‘we got this, don’t worry about it, just move forward.’ You don’t want to think about it too much,” Canada said. “You just want to push forward and worry about the future. You can’t dwell on the past, the past is the past. We have a bye week coming up, so we’re going to rest up and prepare for Cincinnati.”

The Bearcats have struggled this season and own a 4-3 record. They defeated ECU last week 31-19 and play Temple on Oct. 29.

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