In a prologue to the upcoming Big 12 membership, No.19 BYU football suffered its second straight loss in a 38-24 affair with future conference nemesis Baylor in Waco, TX on Saturday.
In what has come to be dubbed the âSailor Gameâ – due to the Cougars and Bears each wearing helmet decals depicting sailor portrayals of their mascots – there wouldn’t be smooth navigation for BYU. They were completely strangled in every aspect of the pitch, proving to be no match for a physically dominant Bears unit.
“We have to find ways to be more efficient in terms of execution,” said head coach Kalani Sitake. âIt’s a high level of frustration, but I think a lot of our problems can be solved. We just haven’t done our part.
The game was won for Baylor in the trenches, where former Cougar coaches Jeff Grimes and Eric Mateos were well prepared to guide the Bears to hammer BYU where it hurt. Baylor’s offensive line didn’t allow a sack while also paving the way for more than 300 rushing yards by the team led by Abram Smith and Trestan Ebner. On the defensive front, the Bears sacked Jaren Hall five times and smothered Tyler Allgeier at 33 yards and a dismal 2.2 yards per carry.
Other than a touchdown run in the second quarter, the typically crucial Allgeier was nowhere to be found. BYU’s offensive line was hampered by injuries as the pass rush couldn’t find any sort of penetration. Even specialists Jake Oldroyd and Ryan Rehkow surprisingly hiccuped in critical situations.
âI feel like we’ve been physically manipulated,â Sitake said. âNow we have to see what our response will be. “
Despite the loss, Hall had one of his best performances as a quarterback, throwing a career-high 342 yards with a touchdown pass and a stellar 174.3 rating. The talented double-threat even escaped for a 56-yard touchdown in a dramatic quarter-and-inch situation, faking Baylor’s entire defense on a read zone and heading for runs.
âWe knew it would be a dog fight,â Hall said. “It’s great to see what we have to look forward to in the Big 12, and that’s a lot.”
Puka Nacua put on quite a show for the receiver, racking up a career-high 168 yards on five receptions with a touchdown and constantly burning Baylor’s defensive backs. Gunner Romney pitched with three catches and 81 yards, while Isaac Rex and Neil Pau’u combined 85 yards on nine catches.
âEveryone we had there was ready to pass, (but) Puka was there every time,â Hall said.
Linebacker Ben Bywater led the Cougars with nine tackles and Payton Wilgar had an interception in the end zone in the first quarter. Aside from the early interception, Baylor quarterback Gerry Bohanon was nearly perfect, throwing for 231 yards and leading six more red zone practices that resulted in points for the Bears.
The loss represents a pivotal moment for the Cougars, who are almost certain to leave the Top 25 AP at 5-2. BYU is heading for another road battle in Washington state next week where it seeks to salvage the remnants of what once felt like a special season.
âThere is a great sense of urgency on my part, the coaches and the players to get this thing back on track,â Sitake said.