Embrace the nightmare: BYU humiliated 45-13 by Iowa State

Say what you want about this BYU football team, but you can’t deny that the Cougars are improving.. in their ability to find creative new ways to embarrass themselves on a weekly basis.

If on-field ineptitude is an art form, BYU painted its “Sistine Chapel” Saturday night in a hysterically hapless 45-13 blowout loss to Iowa State in Provo. The cringeworthy Cougars have shown — once again — that they aren’t anywhere near ready to be taken seriously at the Power 5 level.

“There aren’t a lot of things going right for us currently, so the one thing we can do is get back to work and find a way to get a better result next week,” head coach Kalani Sitake said. “We need to find some momentum since we’re coming off a three-game losing streak right now.”

It’s hard to determine what’s more shocking: the fact that BYU has been outscored 117-26 over the past three weeks, or that the Cougars were sitting at 5-2 before these past three catastrophes. Big 12 scheduling has paralyzed this program.

Sitake’s squad has become the team its opponents salivate over upon spotting on their upcoming slate. Iowa State now joins TCU, Texas and West Virginia in the not-so-exclusive “looked like the second coming of the 2001 Miami Hurricanes against BYU” club. Playing the Cougars is a flattering experience, as even the ugliest of opposing offenses can appear drop dead gorgeous. They’ve become the slump-buster of the Big 12.

Prior to Saturday’s smackdown, Iowa State boasted the second-worst offense among all Big 12 teams (only ranking ahead of BYU). The Cyclones were averaging 23.6 points and 117.5 rushing yards per game, 3.8 collective yards per carry, 5.4 yards per play and converting just 36.4% of their third down tries.

Against BYU? 45 points, 234 rushing yards at 6.3 yards a pop, 7.1 yards per play and 8-14 on third down, including six straight conversions to close out the first half.

Jay Hill’s defense has gone from punchless to punching bag to punchline. Losing Ben Bywater and Tanner Wall has been devastating for Hill’s unit. The talent is just nowhere to be found.

“We had a lot of missed tackles and mistakes with the fundamentals,” Sitake said. “Defensively, you have to figure out a way to stop the run, and we did not do that tonight. We allowed a lot of big plays by Iowa State, especially on third downs. I’m looking forward to working on defense so we can be ready by the next time we take the field.”

Sitake also claimed the defense’s issues could be stemming from “guys not believing in the system,” only for linebacker AJ Vongphachanh to quickly contradict his coach in saying that he and his teammates were bought in. The players are slipping away from their coaches the same way they kept slipping on the field repeatedly Saturday. Even BYU’s equipment department is failing to show up on game day. Seriously, can someone get these players proper footwear?

Speaking of off-the-field embarrassment, BYU Fan Experience’s “embrace the night” mantra for the game ended up whiffing harder than the Cougar defenders did on their 14 missed tackles. The school’s official bookstore promoted the matchup as a blackout for fans to go along with the team’s uninspiring black uniforms, only for BYU’s social media accounts to instruct the crowd to wear royal blue instead, thus confusing everyone involved.

Cosmo’s weekly stunt — typically involving pyrotechnics or some sort of daredevil behavior — resulted in the Cougar mascot crooning to “Singing in the Rain,” befuddling fans even worse than the game’s dress code. With an “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” singalong immediately preceding a Cyclone score to pull ahead 31-7 — along with trotting out the fourth quarter fire dancers while trailing 45-13 — it’s clear BYU’s sports marketing team read the room about as well as Retzlaff read the Cyclone defense.

Perhaps Iowa State’s most impressive feat was clapping the Cougars in a night game at LaVell Edwards Stadium, a setting where BYU has been almost unbeatable over the past five years. So much for the “vampire Cougars” conspiracy. Given how soft this team has been, it’s no surprise these players aren’t out for blood.

Upon the night’s beginning, the Cougars wasted no time in wasting everyone else’s, as backup quarterback Jake Retzlaff began his second career start by throwing an ugly interception on the game’s first play, leading to a Cyclone touchdown three snaps later.

Once Ray Paulo fumbled the ensuing kickoff to gift the Cyclones another early scoring opportunity, any hope for a happy ending disappeared even faster than the fans at LaVell’s house did at halftime. After more than 60,000 people had packed the stadium at kickoff, the final 30 minutes of regulation held a crowd comparable to 2020’s COVID year turnouts. Unfortunately for BYU, Iowa State is just a tad more dangerous than Texas State or Troy.

While the Cougars did manage to compile a decent night running the football, it came at the expense of any sort of passing adequacy, as Retzlaff finished 10-27 for 104 yards, a touchdown and two picks. The junior college transfer posted just six yards through the air before halftime — not great, Bob! — and was sacked on three occasions.

“Where have you gone, Kedon Slovis? Cougar nation turns its lonely eyes to you…”

Long story short: Slovis was not the problem, and making a change at quarterback was never going to be the solution. BYU’s offense is flat-out broken beyond repair, even when the entire unit is fully healthy as it was against the Cyclones.

The Cougars now have two remaining chances to sneak into bowl eligibility, beginning next week against No. 17 Oklahoma, but Iowa State definitely appears to have been their best shot at reaching that elusive sixth victory. If the ho-hum Cyclones were as potent as they were against BYU, just imagine what the Sooners and their nation’s fourth-best total offense will do to the Cougars. Young children should be denied entry in order to prevent them from witnessing such grotesque violence.

Do any of these players even want to extend their season? They’ve been playing as if another trip to Shreveport is on the line, which may very well be the reality of their postseason projection. Maybe a bowl-less December at BYU is the best option for everyone going forward.

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