BYU's bizarre season rolled on Thursday night on the blue turf of Boise State. The Cougars lost 7-6 to the Broncos in a struggle.
After finally scoring a touchdown with 3:37 left and Taysom Hill running the show, BYU decided to go for two. Brock Stringham was blown up by Mike Atkinson, forcing Hill to run immediately after the snap. Because Hill had to take off, he missed seeing a wide-open Kaneakua Friel open in the endzone. After rolling right, Hill's pass was batted down, and Boise ran out the clock for the win.
The story of the night, in my mind, is the decision to leave Riley Nelson in the game after halftime.
He had committed two turnovers in the first half, including an interception in the redzone that was thrown nowhere near BYU receivers, and directly to two Boise defenders. It was clear he didn't have it -- after an entire game of not having it last week -- and should have been pulled.
Staying in the game, Nelson would throw two more interceptions in the third quarter before finally getting pulled. But the damage was done: the first interception of the third quarter was thrown to Atkinson, who returned it 36 yards for a touchdown. Amazingly, Nelson remained in the game to throw another.
Nelson's final line was 4-9 for 19 yards and 3 INTs. He had a negative quarterback rating.
Taysom Hill was inserted into the game on the next drive, which BYU took over at its own one-yard line after a questionable non-touchback on a punt. On the first play, Michael Alisa fumbled and gave Boise State a one-yard field. At that time, BYU had as many turnovers as first downs: 5.
Reminiscent of the goal line stand to start the 4th quarter against Oklahoma in 2009, but this time with only one yard to give, BYU's defense made a stand that could have gained legendary status if the game's outcome was different (I'll still treat it as such in my mind.)
The D-line was stout, and Van Noy, Ogletree, Kaveinga, and Hadley simply made plays. After consecutive D.J. Harper one-yard losses, he rushed the ball back to the one on 3rd down. On fourth down, BYU stuffed a quarterback sneak and kept Boise State out of the endzone. That's what BYU's defense did all night -- kept Boise State out of the endzone.
With eight minutes left in the game, the BYU offense finally made a breakthrough. With a 95-yard field, Hill connected on first down with a diving Richard Wilson for 21 yards. A 15-yard targeting penalty on the play moved BYU out to the 41. Taking 4:26 to finish the drive, Hill finished his 72-yard rushing night with a four yard touchdown run.
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Some possibly less-coherent points:
I simply cannot believe BYU has such a phenomenal defense and isn't winning with it. Goodness gracious. The idea has been tossed around by a few different people, but this really is Bizarro BYU.
The defense is staunch, wraps up, pursues the ball, breaks up passes, and creates turnovers (though not tonight.) The special teams makes plays, tackles on kickoffs, and flips field position. These things are things BYU has usually struggled with.
The offense can't pass and turns the ball over like it's worth points, and the field-goal-kicking game is scary enough that fans wouldn't mind if place kickers never took the field again this season. These are things that BYU is usually pretty good at.
Riley Nelson is clearly not healthy. That, or he still struggles to make good decisions. Apparently, Bronco Mendenhall says Nelson will start against Hawaii if healthy. I take that to mean coaches think he stunk tonight only because he was hurt. If his back is as hurt as it seems, though, I doubt 8 days is enough to make a big enough difference.
Either way, I'm not sure I want to see Nelson on the field. At this point, 6-6 gets you to the same bowl 10-2 does -- though I highly question anyone who thinks Riley Nelson can lead BYU to 10-straight wins, including Utah State, and on the road at Notre Dame and Georgia Tech. I'm not sure how solid I am on this position, but Taysom Hill looked good enough to me. His arm is better than Nelson's, and he was at least the more accurate passer tonight. He was better at Riley's strength -- running -- than Riley was, too. I guess we've hitched our wagon. We'll see where it takes us. But I don't understand why he was allowed to continue -- at least for tonight -- when his inability to be effective was clear.
This was Boise State's first home game since becoming an FBS team without scoring an offensive touchdown. It was also the first time Boise was shutout in the first half with Chris Petersen as coach.
Also, I need to say something about Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah. Dude had a coming out party today. He recorded BYU's only sack, the first Boise has given up this year. He blew up the fake punt early in the game. He kept a sure big gain to a no-gainer on a run -- Boise sealed the edge around the left side, and Ansah chased down D.J. Harper from behind. Ziggy had a big night and deserves recognition for it.
Alright, that's all I've got, BYU fans. I'm tired, I have work tomorrow, and continuing to think about the offense betraying the defense will take years off my life.
Sound off below on the 2-point play, on the decision to keep Riley Nelson in, or anything else. What's got you going right now?