Costly Mistakes Sink BYU Football’s Undefeated Season Against Coastal Carolina

Dec 5, 2020, 10:55 PM | Updated: 10:55 pm
BYU Football - Kalani Sitake - Coastal Carolina...
BYU football coach Kalani Sitake on the sideline during the Cougars 22-17 loss against Coastal Carolina. (BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)
(BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)

PROVO, Utah – The dream season for BYU Football was beached at Myrtle Beach against Coastal Carolina. The Cougars fall by a score of 22-17, ending an undefeated campaign.

It was a high-risk, high-reward opportunity that BYU had to make to impress a College Football Playoff committee who maintained skepticism of the undefeated Cougars. The risk ended up outweighing the reward.

It’s a bitter end to a perfect campaign for a team that had been dominating all of its opponents up until this first Saturday in December. Was it the right move to take on the risk in the first place?

There shouldn’t be regrets for taking on the game. The regret should come from not playing and executing how this explosive team has played throughout the 2020 season.

Out of character mistakes haunt BYU in Myrtle.

The opening offensive play of the game for BYU was a tone-setter and a sign of things to come throughout the night. From their own nine-yard line, quarterback Zach Wilson made a quick strike to Neil Pau’u that he proceeded to take to the house for what appeared to be a 91-yard touchdown. The touchdown was then called back for a holding.

BYU, who entered the game as one of the 15 fewest penalized teams in college football, was stepping outside of its dominant character from this season.

The Cougar defense, which had given up only 88 yards per game, could not contain the Chanticleers’ spread option. Coastal’s unique offense racked up 285 rushing yards, and the undersized offensive line of the Chanticleers physically wore down the bigger BYU defensive front.

“It was difficult. It’s just like the option but in the shotgun,” said Kalani Sitake. “We were able to get some stops here and there, but for the most part, we couldn’t get them behind the chains. They were getting a lot of yards on first down, and we didn’t do enough to stop the run. There are things I need to do better as a coach to get the team ready. I don’t want to take away anything from Coastal Carolina; they made plays. They had a system, and it worked. We didn’t do enough to stop them.”

Do you blame the quick turnaround as the reason BYU struggled against the Coastal offense? You could easily do that, but you won’t hear from that Kalani Sitake’s guys. A team that knew they squandered an opportunity to continue their undefeated season with uncharacteristic mistakes that they haven’t shown the entire year.

“The game happened and we were excited to play,” Sitake said. “It was a little bit more unique than other weeks, but it was okay. We were ready to play and were looking forward to the matchup. We had the same amount of time that Coastal Carolina had.”

Credit goes to Coastal Carolina

A lot of the credit for BYU’s mistakes and mental errors have to be a byproduct of Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers played keep away on offense, and their defense forced two turnovers and had one sack and five tackles for loss.

“When it comes down to it, they’re a good team. They’re undefeated for a reason. I don’t want to sit here and take away from them because they executed and did well and put themselves in a position to win it. We had to come from behind and come up with a long drive, and we were backed up with not a lot of time left, but they made the plays. I want everyone to understand that Coastal Carolina is a really good team and they showed it tonight. They outplayed us and got the win.”

Dreams of New Year’s Six and College Football Playoff are now dashed for BYU. The Cougars came up two yards short from pulling off a miracle and extending their season as Dax Milne lunged Kevin Dyson-style towards the endzone for the game-winner. Too many mistakes leading up to that moment cost BYU their perfect season.

There’s nothing they can do now to change the outcome. BYU had their opportunities and couldn’t capitalize. The challenge now for BYU is not to let one loss turn into two with San Diego State, a team that beat BYU last year, coming to Provo for Senior Day next Saturday.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m., KSL Newsradio). Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper and the KSL Sports app.

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