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Takeaways From BYU’s Last-Second Loss To ECU

Oct 28, 2022, 10:49 PM
BYU Football, ECU, Kalani Sitake...
East Carolina's Pirates head coach Mike Houston shakes BYU’s head coach Kalani Sitake after a NCAA college football game on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022, in Provo, Utah. The Pirates won 27-24. (Ben B. Braun, Deseret News)
(Ben B. Braun, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – BYU football falls to 4-5 overall on the season after a 27-24 loss to ECU.

East Carolina defeated BYU on a last-second field goal as time expired to hand the Cougars their fourth consecutive loss.

Here are some instant takeaways from the game.

Fourth down sunk BYU football on offense

Since the Oregon game in week three, BYU is 2-of-16 on fourth down attempts. Two critical fourth downs cost BYU dearly on Friday night against ECU.

BYU’s drive that began with 7:03 remaining in the third quarter and ended in the red zone with 14:12 was the first backbreaker fourth down. On 4th & 2, BYU handed the ball off to Miles Davis and it was not picked up.

At that point, the game was a back-and-forth shootout, but credit to the BYU defense, they made the necessary stop to get off the field and give the ball back to BYU’s offense.

On the following possession, BYU’s offense came up short again on fourth down. This time near midfield, a tempo-based QB sneak with Hall was stuffed at the line of scrimmage.

What’s impressive is that BYU had a third opportunity, but those two drives that resulted in turnover on downs cost the Cougars dearly.

When the game is on the line, get the ball in Puka Nacua’s hands

On the fourth down calls, you have to find a way to get the ball in Puka Nacua’s hands. Earlier in the week, BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said Nacua was the top playmaker on this year’s team. They have to find a way in those must-convert situations to find Nacua.

Was it a case of overthinking the situation? Hard to tell. But when the chips are down, get it to Nacua, who at any moment is ready to pop off for a big play.

Credit the defense for rising up in the fourth quarter

Kalani Sitake said he would simplify the defense, and he’s done that. The BYU defense played a lot better despite giving up 227 rushing yards. But they made the necessary stops to get off the field and allow the offense to operate. That was all BYU needed against Notre Dame and Arkansas. They couldn’t do it.

Credit to them for doing it tonight. It was also noticeable the hockey substitutions appear to be a thing of the past since Kalani Sitake took over the defense.

BYU football is heading toward a losing season

It’s a shocking thought, but BYU might be staring down a 5-7 season. The only guaranteed game left on the schedule is a home date with Utah Tech; the other two games are road trips to Boise State and Stanford. Two games where BYU will likely be an underdog.

It would be a disastrous finish for BYU, who was once the No. 12 ranked team in the nation, to finish with a 5-7 record. But that harsh reality is suddenly on their doorstep.

Jaren Hall had a revival on the ground

Fifth-year quarterback Jaren Hall looked like his old self running the football on Friday night. Hall had eight carries for 60 yards, an average of 7.5 yards per carry.

On one of his carries, he had a 23-yard run that, at initial glance, looked to be a QB draw, which, if that was the case, is not typical for BYU this season. They have been protective of Hall to keep him available for this season. So Hall on the ground hasn’t been dialed up much.

With the lack of a bowl game now a realistic possibility, does BYU need to turn to Hall running the ball more? It might need to be considered.

The effort was respectable

After losing to Liberty 41 to 14, it could have been easy for BYU’s roster to mail in the season. To the players credit, they didn’t. They brought a solid effort on Friday. It just wasn’t good enough, and some of that is chalked up to coaching decisions.

BYU football now turns its attention to the Boise State Broncos on Saturday, November 5. The kickoff time for that game is still to be determined.

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

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