BYU COUGARS

PK: No. 16 BYU Blows ‘Great Opportunity’ Against Notre Dame

Oct 8, 2022, 10:07 PM

BYU-Cougars...

Quarterback Drew Pyne #10 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish throws under pressure from linebacker Keenan Pili #41 of the Brigham Young Cougars in the Shamrock Series game at Allegiant Stadium on October 08, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Fighting Irish defeated the Cougars 28-20. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS – East Carolina and Utah State won’t do anything. Neither will Wyoming and Utah Tech.

For BYU football, especially without the fallback of conference games, the measuring stick are the big names that occasionally dot the schedule. There’s four of them this season, starting with Baylor and ending with Arkansas and in between it’s Oregon and Notre Dame.

The grandest of them all, without a doubt, resides in South Bend, Ind., and has something called the Shamrock Series, in which they schedule games at neutral sites. Let’s face it, when Notre Dame comes to town, the hype is bigger than if it was Santa Claus.

Wherever the football team goes, Notre Dame fans come flocking. Saturday at Allegiant Stadium was no exception, as the Irish outnumbered the blue-clad Cougar fans in what has become BYU’s home away from Provo.

 

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From the BYU perspective, the point is Cougars blew a great opportunity to garner a healthy dose of positive publicity on a national scale. Again.

In a familiar refrain, BYU struggled to find on both sides of the football in losing 28-20 before a raucous sellout crowd of 62,742 at the Las Vegas Raiders home turf. One year after beating hapless Arizona to open last season, the Cougars had no luck against the Irish.

“The opportunity was there for us,” said quarterback Jaren Hall. “We just let it slip through our fingers.”

Even though the Irish are only 3-2, kicked out of any playoff competition after losing at home to Marshall in the second week, each of their games draws eyeballs across the country. There’s a lot of Catholics out there.

This was BYU’s golden dome chance, the kind of game the program needs to win. Beating all the Group of 5 teams, which the Cougars do consistently, on the schedule won’t cut it anymore.

“I’m proud of the way the guys played, but we have to get better,” said coach Kalani Sitake.

Three weeks ago, coming off an impressive overtime win against then-No. 9 Baylor at LaVell Edwards Stadium, the Cougars ventured into the great Northwest to play Oregon. Two weeks removed from a 46-point shellacking against Georgia, the Ducks were ripe for the beating.

But BYU was barely competitive, putting up little resistance in a 21-point loss in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicates. BYU’s performance right from the start was downright embarrassing.

At least this time the Cougars showed some fight. A few key plays that went Notre Dame’s way was the difference.

On defense, BYU could not muster enough stops on the most important down of every possession. The Irish consistently moved the chains on third-down situations (10 of 15), allowing them to control the game and keep BYU’s offense off the field.

Conversely, the offense did not convert a third down until midway through the third quarter. After starting 0-for-4 on such situations, the Cougars got more than enough for a first down on Hall’s 53-yard touchdown pass to Kody Epps.

The highlight play was one of two touchdown plays in the second half that sliced Notre Dame’s lead to five points. But a dropped pass thwarted a potential go-ahead drive followed by the defense’s inability to keep the Irish from scoring sent BYU to another disappointing defeat in another high-profile game.

In total, BYU’s offense ran only 46 plays.

“Part of that was the defense get off the field and the offense get first downs,” said Sitake.

On its last possession, BYU could not convert a fourth-and-1, turning the ball over to the Irish. The defense than allowed another long gain on a third down, effectively sealing the defeat.

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PK: No. 16 BYU Blows ‘Great Opportunity’ Against Notre Dame