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Three Takeaways From BYU’s Lackluster Loss At San Diego State

BYU coach Kalani Sitake and San Diego State Aztecs coach Rocky Long greet one another after the game at SDCCU Stadium in San Diego on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Of all the ways to end the regular season, the worst possible outcome played out on Saturday night for BYU in their 13-3 loss against San Diego State.

All the momentum that the Cougars had built up from their five-game winning streak that consisted of victories over rivals Boise State and Utah State felt erased after losing to the Aztecs.

Here are the three takeaways from BYU’s regular-season finale on the Montezuma Mesa.

#1 BYU looked like a team that had nothing to play for

The 2019 BYU football season summed up in one word, bizarre. BYU has won four games as an underdog this season (Tennessee, USC, Boise State, Utah State) and they’ve now lost three games as a favorite (Toledo, USF, San Diego State).

On Saturday night against the Aztecs, BYU looked uninspired throughout the night. What causes that? Your guess is as good as mine. Is it a lack of conference and national implications? Who knows? Sometimes in college football, teams just don’t have it. Which was inexcusable for a BYU team that had to learn hard lessons after squandering two games against Toledo and USF earlier in the season.

Kalani Sitake said earlier this season he likes when his team is in tight spots. Saturday looked like a team that had nothing on the line and that win, lose or draw, they knew they had a Christmas Eve date in the Hawaii Bowl lined up.

During the CBS Sports Network television broadcast, analyst Corey Chavous was confused by BYU’s lack of urgency while down 10 points late in the fourth quarter. It appeared as though BYU was conceding defeat and knew a comeback wasn’t likely.

Old habits die hard for this BYU team.

#2 Rocky Long gets the last laugh

Much was made about some of the comments San Diego State head coach Rocky Long said in the media the past few weeks regarding BYU. Long made comments that he wouldn’t schedule BYU, the Cougars players are 25-27 years, and so on. In a game that had nothing on the line, those comments could have been viewed as bulletin board material. They apparently weren’t as Long got the last laugh earning his first win over BYU in 15 years.

The last time Long defeated BYU was in 2004 while the head coach at New Mexico. It was Gary Crowton’s last home game as head coach at BYU. Long also ends San Diego State’s six-game skid against the Cougars that dated back to 2005.

Long’s 3-3-5 defense was as good as advertised. The Aztecs defense confused BYU all night and was the best defensive front the Cougars had faced since they lined up against Washington back in September.

#3 Giving up 13 points should be enough to win a ball game

BYU’s defensive performance drew some criticisms from social media on Saturday night. I too felt that defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki and Sitake needed to dial up some blitzes and pressures. Where has the defense against Boise State gone?

Despite the lack of blitzes, BYU’s defense limited the Aztecs to 269 yards of offense and only allowed 97 yards on the ground. A large improvement for a defense that was one of the worst in stopping the run earlier this season.

The Cougars also ended up with two sacks and six tackles for loss. You tell me all these defensive numbers prior to Saturday’s game, I would have told you BYU’s running away with this one.

BYU’s offense despite putting up over 400 yards was the side of the ball that lost this game. You can say the special teams due to the missed field goals, but in all reality, it should not have been placed on the leg of Southam. BYU’s offense had many opportunities to finish drives and they didn’t.

San Diego State’s defense made BYU a one-dimensional football team. Lopini Katoa and Tyler Allgeier were BYU’s primary two running backs with Jackson McChesney, coming off a record-setting performance against UMass, never playing a down in the loss.

With having a one-dimensional offense, quarterback Zach Wilson forced the issue making some poor decisions that led to BYU ending up minus-three in the turnover margin.

Just an all-around underwhelming performance from a BYU offense that had felt like it was starting to make progress. But this performance has them going back to the drawing board to try and find answers heading into the bowl season.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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