LANDOVER, Md. – In another close battle, BYU football lost to 35-32, to West Virginia at FedEx Field on Saturday despite having another chance at late-game rally.
With less than five minutes left in the game, the BYU offense had two different chances to drive down the field to take the lead. However, turnovers proved to be costly for the Cougars. An interception with over four minutes to go looked to doom any chances but West Virginia coughed it up at the goal line on a fumble to give BYU one more shot.
After driving to the Mountaineer 28-yard line, BYU went for it all with just over a minute on the clock on a long pass for the end zone and the ball was tipped up just in front of the goal line and intercepted. West Virginia was able to run out the clock to hold on to the win.
BYU (1-3) out-gained West Virginia (3-0) 521 to 481 yards, but struggled with turnovers. The Cougars had three interceptions and one lost fumble. The Mountaineers capitalized on those, scoring 14 points off of turnovers. For BYU, every game this season has been decided by three points or less, with three losses coming by a combined seven points.
Both Jamaal Williams and Taysom Hill rushed for over 100 yards. Williams totaled 169 on 24 attempts with two touchdowns. Hill completed 23 of 35 passes for 241 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions to go with his 105 rushing yards. On the defense, Fred Warner totaled 14 tackles, nine solo. Butch Pau’u recorded his first career interception in addition to his five tackles.
West Virginia took control early in the game, scoring on its opening drive. Made up of big third and fourth down conversions, the Mountaineers put together 13 plays to reach the end zone. After their initial touchdown was called back due to an illegal formation penalty, they scored on a 6-yard rush with 9:22 on the clock, taking the early 7-0 lead.
For the first time this season, BYU scored a touchdown in the first quarter and on its first drive of the game. The Cougars had a couple of third down conversions to keep the drive alive. The first came from a 5-yard pass to Aleva Hifo. The second third down conversion came after facing first and 20, but the offense strung together a few plays, including a run from Williams to convert on third down. Facing a third down for the third time in this drive, Hill found Mitchell Juergens for a 25-yard reception and the touchdown. With 2:44 left in the first quarter, BYU tied the game 7-7.
In West Virginia’s ensuing drive, Pau’u intercepted a pass for the first time in his career. He then returned it 20 yards with 56 seconds to play in the first quarter, bringing back the offense onto the field.
Williams burst past the Mountaineers’ defense with a 56-yard run to set up the Cougars at first and goal. However, BYU was unable to find the end zone, settling for a 22-yard field goal. The Cougars took the 10-7 lead at the 14:17 mark in the second quarter.
The Mountaineers answered with a methodical drive, earning short gains to march down the field. After a 13-yard completion to reach first and goal, the BYU defense was unable to stop West Virginia. With 9:50 on the clock, the 2-yard rush into the end zone put the Cougars back down 14-10.
With less than three minutes to go in the first half, Hill was intercepted by West Virginia’s Rasul Douglas and returned the pick for a 55-yard touchdown to extend his team’s lead to 21-10.
After a season-long 50-yard kick return by Aleva Hifo, the offense was in good position to get to the end zone. A couple of big gains from Williams and Juergens got BYU close, but the Cougars ended up bringing out Rhett Almond to kick another field goal, this one a 25-yarder as the clock expired. BYU was down 21-13 heading into halftime.
BYU’s opening drive in the second half got things rolling for the offense. Hill hurdled over two defenders to cap off his 27-yard rush, putting the Cougars in the blue zone. For the second time this season, Williams reached the end zone on a 7-yard rush. Following a failed two-point conversion, BYU got within two points, 21-19, with 10:44 left in the third quarter.
The BYU defense faced fourth and short against the West Virginia offense with less than seven minutes to play in the third quarter. Quarterback Skyler Howard kept the ball to try to get the inches needed, but Harvey Langi and Logan Taele were able to stop him from even crossing the line of scrimmage, bringing out the BYU offense.
With 4:02 on the clock, the offense turned the ball back over to West Virginia. For the first time in his career, Williams lost a fumble. The Mountaineers took advantage of the turnover. After a 51-yard reception set up West Virginia in the blue zone, quarterback Howard rushed 5 yards for the touchdown, pushing the lead up to 28-19 with 2:32 on the clock.
Despite a punt pinned at the 1-yard line from Jonny Linehan, the Mountaineers marched 99 yards to score another touchdown. A 32-yard pass set up West Virginia in the blue zone, which allowed the wide-open 9-yard touchdown reception. BYU was down 35-19 with 11:27 to play in the game.
A14-yard reception by Colby Pearson set BYU up the blue zone and Williams scored his second touchdown of the day on a 3-yard rush with 9:19 left. However, the offense went for the two-point conversion again, which failed, making the score 35-25 in favor of West Virginia.
The Cougar defense had a huge three and out, forcing the Mountaineers to punt. Another big reception from Pearson put BYU in position to score. Hill found Moroni Laulu-Pututau for a 19-yard reception in the end zone, closing in on West Virginia’s lead, 35-32, with 5:55 to play.
With the Mountaineers facing another third down, a receiver dropped the pass, bringing out the punt team. On the first play of the drive, Hill overthrew Juergens, allowing Jeremy Tyler to intercept the pass and get the ball back to the Mountaineers offense with 4:15 left in the game.
At the BYU, West Virginia fumbled the ball on the snap. Francis Bernard recovered the fumble with 2:36 on the clock, giving the offense one last chance to win the game.
A pair of receptions over 20 yards by Nick Kurtz kept the Cougars’ hopes alive. However, Hill threw his third interception with one minute to play to seal the 35-32 win for the Mountaineers.
BYU returns home next week to face Toledo in LaVell Edwards Stadium on Friday at 8:15 p.m. MDT. The game will be televised live on ESPN2 along with the radio broadcast on KSL 1160 AM, 102.7 FM, BYU Radio – Sirius XM 143 and on the Cougar IMG Sports Network.
BYU travels to FedEx Field to face West Virginia
PROVO, Utah – After a tough home opener on Saturday, BYU football heads to Maryland to face off against West Virginia in a neutral site game at FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins, on Saturday. The game will be televised live on ESPN2 at 3:30 p.m. EDT.
Live coverage will be on the Cougar IMG Sports Network with Greg Wrubell, which can also be found on Sirius XM 143, 1160 AM, 102.7 FM and BYUcougars.com. IMG’s radio coverage will begin at 1:30 p.m. EDT.
BYU (1-2) vs. West Virginia (2-0)
Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. EDT
FedEx Field (79,000)
Greater Landover, Maryland
SERIES HISTORY. BYU and West Virginia are meeting for the first time in the history of the two programs.
NFL STADIUMS. The Cougars are playing in an NFL stadium (FedEx Field – home of the Washington Redskins) for the second time this season after an opening game against Arizona at University of Phoenix Stadium – home of the Arizona Cardinals. BYU could have another opportunity in the postseason to play in another NFL venue at the Poinsettia Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium – home of the San Diego Chargers.
BIG 12. BYU is facing its lone opponent from the Big 12 this season. The Cougars are 3-2 against the Big 12 in their last five games, including a pair of wins over Texas and another against No. 3 Oklahoma in 2009.
POWER 5 WINS. BYU has defeated a team from the Power 5 conferences in 11 consecutive seasons after a win over Arizona to start the 2016 season. Since 2003, BYU has 21 wins over Power 5 schools, No. 2 among schools not in the Power 5 (Navy No. 1 w/22).
OPPONENT BYE WEEKS. West Virginia is coming off a bye week in preparation for BYU. This will be the first of three teams the Cougars will face that are coming off of a bye. West Virginia, Toledo and UMass all have a week off prior to facing BYU.
Head coach Kalani Sitake
Lessons from the UCLA game film
It confirmed some things that we thought about on each phase. There are a lot of plays we left out there and we’re looking forward to putting together a complete game on all three phases. We’ll have a better result if we do that.
Physicality of the offensive line
We can always be physical. I don’t know if there’s a limit to being physical. Talking to Coach Mora and the UCLA guys, they thought we were a physical team. I don’t think it’s a matter of physicality. They’re a good team. We went against a quality defense. You can place the blame on a lot of different places, but overall, we have to do a better job, coaches and players. Our goal is to put forth our best effort and make sure that we’re all clicking. We haven’t played our best football yet and we lost two games by a total of four points. This deep in the season, we should be playing a lot better, a lot more sound in every phase, and that’s a goal this week. We’ve got to play our best football and it’s got to happen this week.
There are a lot of different variables. I know everybody looks at one position and likes to blame it on one person, but there are so many different things that go into it with the quarterback and talking about Taysom (Hill). The worst thing you can do is panic and make a change on stuff that you’re seeing on the field when it’s not just that one spot. There are a lot of different variables that go into it: protection, routes and the timing. Looking at it again, it’s what we thought—it would have been a premature decision to make that decision then. I’m glad we didn’t. We have a great coaching staff and they evaluate everything. In order for us to be able to evaluate everyone, everyone’s got to do his part first. When you have some mental breakdowns along the way, it’s tough to blame it all on one person.
Taysom will be the starting quarterback. It would be foolish right now to make him a scapegoat when it wasn’t entirely his fault. It’s a wrong assessment from a lot of people. We’re looking to get better so we can evaluate every position.
Lack of production in the running game
I think UCLA loaded the box and challenged us in the throw game. When that happens, we need to make them pay for it. Obviously we weren’t able to do that. Sometimes you’re going to have to run the ball into that situation. Not every call is going to be a perfect call, but Ty (Detmer) did a great job calling the game.
We can always improve. I would like it to be a cleaner game on the offensive side. We’ve shown flashes. We’ve been able to score points when we need to in a two-minute situation and we need to see more consistency from every position. When we’re clicking, it works well.
Balance offensively and defensively of doing what’s expected and surprising them
There aren’t a lot of surprises in college football and football altogether. It’s tough to surprise your opponent. I think everyone is pretty much prepared for it. We have to find our identity in every phase and have something to hang your hat on. We don’t have that offensively right now. When we need to get a play, you usually go to your go-to play and we’re still trying to find that. It’s way too late going into game four so we need to establish that soon.
Senior WR Garrett Juergens
On the offense’s attitude
We’re eager to learn and eager to work. We had a good practice today and we understand we have a lot of improvement to make. But no one is pointing fingers; we’re all ready to do it together.
On the offense’s struggles
It’s frustrating only because we know we can do it, and it just hasn’t quite come together yet. I think that’s what drives motivation, so we’ll come out ready for next game. Things will go the way we hope they do and expect them to.
On Taysom’s attitude
He’s positive. He’s still the leader and he still takes things into his own hands. He’s confident; he trusts us as receivers and he trusts his own abilities. He’s got his head up, he’s the right guy for the job, and we’re all backing him up.
On fourth quarter drives
Honestly, I wish I knew what was different in those drives. We’re all competitors and so I think we need to have that fire we have at the end of the game throughout the whole game. It’s a mindset. We need to focus better at the beginning of the game so we don’t have to rely on those last drives. Under pressure we can do it. We can do it at the beginning too; we just need to show that.
On receiving hard passes
That’s on us. We need to give our quarterback a better opportunity to get it to us more easily. We need to create separation.
Junior DB Micah Hannemann
On the defensive effort against UCLA
It was a good game. In our meetings we talked about how we could have beat them if we would have held one more touchdown, which we easily could have done. So obviously there were mistakes on our side of the ball and we need to take care of things too.
On 1-2 record
We are four points away from being 3-0 and it could have gone either way. We were a couple points away from being 0-3. It was the same thing as last year against Nebraska. We were one play away from losing that game. That’s the funny thing with football: the little things. That’s why I feel that as a team, every single little thing matters.
On Kai Nacua in the second half
Kai is a veteran who has played in a lot of games. It’s hard coming in after a half, and you can tell he wanted to go in, but we had the other safety who had a feel for the game and we were doing fine. He told Coach to put him in if he wanted. It’s always fun playing next to Kai and to see his energy and feel for the game.
On playing with Butch Pau’u
He’s short, but every ounce of his body is muscle. He’s just laying the hammer on people and it’s so much fun to watch. Butch is one of the all-around best guys on our team, on and off the field. He’s definitely a contagious person to be around.
On West Virginia
They look good. Their offense looks smooth and they run super quick. They have run over 90 plays in their past two games. I’m super excited to play them and it’s going to be fun.
On the health of the team
Overall, I feel like our health is solid. The coaches have been emphasizing that a lot. We’ve been spending a lot of time in the weight room, more so than any other season I’ve been here. That’s helped our team tremendously. I don’t think there is anyone that’s going to be sitting out, other than the people who already have been.
Sophomore DL Corbin Kaufusi
Performance of defensive line
We had a lot of good things, a lot of things to work on. Compared to the week before, I think we did a little bit better and were a little bit more stout in some areas. But of course you can always be more stout against the run or maybe get a little bit better pass rush.
Pass rush against UCLA QB Josh Rosen
Sometimes you can get a little frustrated, especially when (Josh Rosen) was doing a little three-step drop and there wasn’t a lot of time to get to him. You’re basically rushing as hard as you can to maybe tip the ball—you’re not going to get the tackle every time. But I think he did a great job at finding some quick passes and avoiding some sacks, but at the same time, we have to keep going.
Established role on this team yet after basketball?
There is a role that I have, but at the same time, you never want to limit yourself. You always keep progressing. There are a lot of things for me to learn, but I’m loving it. I’m taking it one day at a time, trying to learn one thing at a time.
Impressions of WVU
I think everyone is excited to go after their quarterback, especially the idea of coming up against a high-power offense. Let’s see what we can do. It’s not that the teams we’ve gone up against have had low-powered offenses, but you like the challenge that’s presented.