BYU Defense ‘Played Hard Until The End’ In Texas Setback

Oct 28, 2023, 7:41 PM | Updated: Oct 31, 2023, 10:52 am

AUSTIN, Texas – The BYU football defense was in tough spots during the 35-6 loss to No. 7 Texas.

Entering the fourth quarter, Texas led 21-6. BYU’s defense was battling to do everything possible to give the offense a chance at a short field.

They put together two goal-line stands when Texas was greedy on 4th & goals from the two-yard line.

It wasn’t enough as the BYU offense continued to struggle, leaving BYU’s defense to need answers again. They ultimately cracked late in the fourth quarter to a Texas offense that freshman QB Maalik Murphy led in his first career start.

Kalani Sitake saw missed opportunities from BYU defense

“I think we had some missed opportunities. But those guys just kept playing hard to the end,” BYU head coach Kalani Sitake on the defense. “I think that long run at the end just kind of left a little sour taste in the whole thing.”

That run at the end was a 34-yard touchdown from Texas running back Jaydon Blue. Texas standout ball carrier Jonathon Brooks finished with 98 yards on 16 carries.

BYU held the Texas offense well under its season average of 468 yards per game. They limited the Longhorns to 354 on the day.

During one point early in the fourth quarter, BYU had more yards than Texas. But when you’re facing a top-ten team, it needs to be a complete game.

“Against really good teams, you can’t shoot yourself in the foot with some of the missed assignments that we had. Like I said, that’s my job to get them better. But the guys fought hard. Again, you have to give credit to Texas; they’re a difficult opponent.”

BYU interception called back against Texas

One of those shooting-yourself-in-the-foot moments was after a Crew Wakley interception in the first quarter. Wakley, a player working in the business world a season ago, came up with a pick on Murphy and returned it down to the Texas 10-yard-line. The only problem was a block in the back on the return by linebacker Max Tooley that negated the yards after the pick.

Instead of starting a drive on the Texas 10, BYU was in its own territory near midfield.

“We were able to create some turnovers, but there’s still a lot of mistakes,” said Sitake.

Areas to build on moving forward

BYU can’t get both sides of the ball to be clicking simultaneously. Last year, it was the defense that couldn’t line up with an offense led by Jaren Hall at quarterback.

First-year defensive coordinator Jay Hill has done wonders for BYU’s defense to create more plays, but the offense is struggling.

One positive for BYU on defense was the defensive line. Blake Mangelson started at the defensive end and had a career-high seven tackles.

Isaiah Bagnah had his best game as a BYU Cougar, forcing a fumble on Murphy and coming up with the recovery.

Freshman linebacker Siale Esera finished with eight tackles. AJ Vongphachanh contributed another seven.

BYU’s defense has to find a way to get off the field on third down. The Longhorns were 6-of-11, another outing where BYU’s opponent was above 50%. But BYU on defense has shown an ability to make plays and create takeaways. That’s a step in the right direction despite coming out of what appeared on the scoreboard as a runaway loss to the Longhorns.

And they showed a willingness to battle for a full 60 minutes.

Suddenly, BYU’s strength heading into the final month of the regular season resides on the defensive side of the ball.

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.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

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BYU Defense ‘Played Hard Until The End’ In Texas Setback