Instant Takeaways From BYU’s Mistake-Filled Loss Against No. 14 Oklahoma

Nov 18, 2023, 1:53 PM


BYU quarterback Jake Retzlaff vs. Oklahoma on November 18, 2023 (Courtesy of BYU Photo)

(Courtesy of BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah – The BYU Cougars missed their chance to take down the No. 14 Oklahoma Sooners after a turnover-filled performance on Senior Day.

Takeaways from BYU’s loss to Oklahoma

The Cougars hosted the Sooners at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah on Saturday, November 18.

BYU fell to Oklahoma, 31-24.

Here are my takeaways from the game:

Oklahoma’s Pick-Six was as devastating of a swing as you’ll find in BYU history

BYU and Oklahoma were tied at 17 and the Cougars ground game, which was dead last in the Big 12 entering the game, was gashing the Sooners. Big runs from Aidan Robbins put BYU in a situation where they took a snap from the OU 2-yard line.

On the next play, instead of running the ball, BYU gave an RPO to Jake Retzlaff, the young signal-call chose the pass option. Oklahoma defensive back Billy Bowman stepped in front to come up with the pick and returned it 100 yards to put the Sooners in front.

That was as wild of a swing as you’ll find in BYU football history. The mood in LaVell Edwards Stadium was electric before that pass, but then it became deafening silent.

It leaves a lot of second-guessing for BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick and his staff.

Aidan Robbins is healthy and thriving

BYU running back Aidan Robbins dealt with a rib injury that he suffered in fall camp. That injury prevented him from performing at a high level. But that injury is in the rearview mirror now as he shined against Oklahoma.

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said a couple of weeks ago that LJ Martin didn’t return to the starting lineup because Robbins was performing well in practice. That high-level of play carried over to Saturday as Robbins popped off big runs consistently throughout the game.

Robbins was one of 31 players honored on Senior Day, despite having another year of eligibility remaining. Now that the former Louisville and UNLV transfer is finding his groove, it wouldn’t be the worst option to run it back at BYU for one more year.

BYU showed fight

BYU’s previous three games were beatdowns when the Cougars weren’t competitive. On Saturday, against a nationally-ranked Oklahoma team, BYU battled and showed fight.

The outcome is not what BYU wanted–especially having a handful of opportunities to win the game. But they were true to Kalani Sitake’s messaging that nobody has quit. There’s a lot to respect about that fight and competitiveness.

Oklahoma’s personnel didn’t outclass BYU. Sooner running back Gavin Sawchuk began wearing down BYU’s defense in the second half, but it was a gritty performance.

Missed opportunity on the big punt return

It’s not to the level of the pick-six, but BYU’s fumble after a punt return was another notable miscue for BYU.

Parker Kingston had a 31-yard punt return near the end of the first quarter. LaVell Edwards Stadium was electric after that moment. It seemed that BYU had captured all the momentum in a game that saw the Cougars enter as a three-touchdown underdog.

But one play later, BYU fumbled a handoff exchange in shotgun from Jake Retzlaff to Aidan Robbins. It’s those little mistakes that continue to plague BYU throughout this entire season.

Is Oklahoma a byproduct of a weak schedule? 

Last season, in Oklahoma’s first year under Brent Venables, they finished 6-7. It was the first losing season in Norman since before Bob Stoops was coaching the Sooners in the late 1990s.

This season, everyone was ready to deem the Sooners back after upsetting Texas in the Red River Rivalry in October. Since that win, Oklahoma has looked underwhelming.

They have struggled on the road in losses at Kansas and Oklahoma State. Nearly were upset by UCF and BYU.

Oklahoma has talent. There’s no question about that when you look at the recruiting rankings. But they are about to go into the deep end of SEC waters next year.

Oklahoma was a powerhouse, as they’ve always been, in the Big 12. What do they become in the SEC? I’d lean more towards being another Tennessee instead of Alabama.

Seeing their struggles since the Red River rivalry, it makes me wonder if they have the record they do because the SEC forced them to cancel the Georgia game in non-conference. They added SMU, who is one of the best teams in the Group of Five this year. But what we saw from the Sooners on Saturday in Provo was underwhelming.

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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Instant Takeaways From BYU’s Mistake-Filled Loss Against No. 14 Oklahoma