For the first time in Cougar football, BYU matched up with Northern Illinois University (NIU) on Oct. 27 at Lavell Edwards Stadium.
BYU lost 7-6 to NIU in their first rivalry game. The entire game was a brutal back and forth — both teams gaining 20 yards just to lose them.
The Huskies opened the first half with possession of the ball but quickly lost it. BYU then had a 13-drive-play that gained them 72 yards with hopes for a touchdown, but BYU quarterback Zach Wilson threw an incomplete pass ending the drive.
Skyler Southam, a freshman, nailed the field goal at the 35-yard line. Those three points from the field goal would be the only points in the entire first half.
Though BYU held NIU from scoring in the first half, according to Coach Kalani Sitake, it wasn’t good enough.
“I was disappointed,” Sitake said. “Technique-wise we weren’t in the right spots and had some miscommunications.”
Talon Shumway, a junior, ran a total of 52 yards and agreed with Sitake that the offense needed to make more plays and runs.
“We didn’t do what we came out to do,” Shumway said. “The coach knows the vision, (and) we have the execution part of it.”
Sitake was adamant about the team establishing an identity. Sitake said the offense needed to be more aggressive and that the identity they create will be what ultimately changes the game.
“I talked about establishing our identity and being physical, and we didn’t do enough of that,” Sitake said. “We need to get more production from our offense and be more aggressive — establish our identity. We’ve talked about using our identity and who we are, and it went away from that today.”
The defensive line had more success. Isaiah Kaufusi had seven tackles of his own and even took down Huskies quarterback Marcus Childers behind the line of scrimmage on a third down forcing the Huskies to punt. NIU punted 47 yards on the punt, and BYU only gained seven yards on the return.
Isaiah Kaufusi stuffs the QB behind the line of scrimmage on the keeper and forces the Huskies to punt!
— BYU FOOTBALL (@BYUfootball) October 27, 2018
“We felt like our defense could hold (the Huskies), and we could get the ball up a little more and have more time,” Sitake said.
NIU’s punter, Matt Ference, had an average of 46.8 yards that pinned BYU multiple times just outside of their end zone.
At the end of the second quarter, BYU received a five-yard penalty for delay of game and the score was left 3-0 entering halftime.
Coming into the second half, the Huskies gained 64 yards in a 10-drive-play. Childers had a one-yard carry into the end zone pulling the Huskies ahead 7-3.
Shumway broke a tackle and made a 42-yard run that gave BYU the energy they needed. Wilson ran the ball and hurdled an NIU defensive lineman bringing BYU to the five-yard line.
The Cougar’s chance to take the lead was diminished when they received two separate penalties for delay of game and false starts. Wilson, a freshman, said the team wasn’t focused.
“(We had a) lack of focus,” Wilson said. “I think the problem was the play clock was getting low on a couple of them and guys were getting a little antsy.”
Southam made another field goal from the 22-yard-line at the end of the third quarter, bringing the Cougars back into play at 7-6.
The game ended with an interception by the Huskies. According to Wilson, his perception was off and it was a misread play by him alone.
“Just a bad read,” Wilson said. “I thought safety was deeper than he was, I thought our (player) was going in front rather than behind.”
BYU is traveling to Boise, Idaho, to play against Boise State on Nov. 3. Wilson said the team is going to move past this loss and prepare for Boise State the best that it can.
“You learn and grow,” Wilson said. “That’s how football works. It’s how life works. We just move on to next week, and we approach next week just like normal in our preparation. I’ve got to do my job and trust that my guys will do theirs.”
It’s too bad BYU lost today because THE PLAY OF THE YEAR happened today.
— Jarom Jordan (@jaromjordan) October 28, 2018