Puka Nacua is tackled by a Baylor defender in Waco. The BYU receiver had a career-high 168 yards in the loss. (BYU Photo)

Baylor sinks BYU football 38-24 in ‘Sailor Game’

In a prologue to upcoming Big 12 membership, No. 19 BYU football suffered its second consecutive loss in a 38-24 affair with future conference foe Baylor in Waco, Texas on Saturday.

In what was dubbed the “Sailor Game” — due to the Cougars and Bears each wearing helmet decals featuring sailor depictions of their mascots — there would be no smooth sailing for BYU. They were flat-out throttled in every aspect on the field, proving to be no match for a physically dominant Bears unit.

“We need to find ways to be more efficient in the terms of execution,” head coach Kalani Sitake said. “It’s a high level of frustration, but I believe many of our issues are fixable. We just didn’t do our part.”

The game was won for Baylor in the trenches, where former Cougar coaches Jeff Grimes and Eric Mateos were well-prepared in guiding the Bears to pound BYU where it hurt. Baylor’s offensive line didn’t allow a sack while paving the way for over 300 team rushing yards led by Abram Smith and Trestan Ebner. On the defensive front, the Bears sacked Jaren Hall five times and smothered Tyler Allgeier to the tune of 33 yards and a dismal 2.2 yards per carry.

The BYU and Baylor linemen face each other on Saturday in Waco. (BYU Photo)

Other than a second-quarter touchdown run, the typically crucial Allgeier was nowhere to be found. BYU’s offensive line was hampered by injuries while the pass rush couldn’t find any sort of penetration. Even specialists Jake Oldroyd and Ryan Rehkow surprisingly hiccuped in critical situations.

“I feel like we got physically handled,” Sitake said. “Now we have to see what our response is going to be.”

Despite the loss, Hall had one of his finest performances at quarterback, throwing for a career-best 342 yards with a touchdown pass and stellar 174.3 rating. The talented dual-threat even broke away for a 56-yard touchdown run on a dramatic fourth-and-inches situation, faking out the entire Baylor defense on a zone read and heading off to the races.

“We knew it would be a dog fight,” Hall said. “It’s great to see what we have to look forward to in the Big 12, and it’s a lot.”

Puka Nacua put on quite a show at receiver, racking up a career-high 168 receiving yards on five catches with a touchdown and consistently burning Baylor’s defensive backs. Gunner Romney pitched in with three catches and 81 yards of his own, while Isaac Rex and Neil Pau’u combined for 85 yards on nine grabs.

“Anybody we had out there we were ready to pass to, (but) Puka happened to be there every time,” Hall said.

Linebacker Ben Bywater led the Cougars with nine tackles and Payton Wilgar snagged an end-zone interception in the first quarter. Other than the early interception, Baylor quarterback Gerry Bohanon was near-perfect, throwing for 231 yards and leading six additional red zone drives that ended in points for the Bears.

The loss presents a crossroads moment for the Cougars, who are almost certain to drop out of the AP Top 25 at 5-2. BYU heads for another road battle at Washington State next week where it looks to salvage the remains of what once appeared to be a special season.

“There’s a high sense of urgency from myself, the coaches and players to get this thing back on track,” Sitake said.

Gunner Romney escapes a defender in Waco. (BYU Photo)
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