If the first quarter proves to be a complete disaster for a college football team, the question is always how will that team respond?
BYU’s answer to that Saturday afternoon at LaVell Edwards Stadium against No. 22 Washington was a pretty good stretch — but in the end it wasn’t enough.
The Huskies blasted out to a 21-3 lead in the opening quarter and although the Cougars narrowed the gap, Washington secured the 45-19 win over BYU.
“It was a tough loss,” Cougar head coach Kalani Sitake said. “We were hoping we could come in here and show a different type of game but it seemed like we had way too many mistakes in all three phases of the game for us to really have a chance. Against a great team like that, it doesn’t turn out that well. As much as we tried to gain momentum, it seemed like Washington had an answer.”
While BYU’s special teams was pretty good in the opening 15 minutes of play (sophomore kicker Jake Oldroyd drilled a 42-yard field goal and sophomore returner Lopini Katoa had a 48-yard kickoff return), the Cougar offense and defense really struggled.
Washington took the opening kickoff and marched down the field for a touchdown, held BYU to a field goal, drove down to score again then finished things off with a 69-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown.
BYU couldn’t get out of its own way, as it had miscues like wide receiver Talon Shumway dropping a big pass play when he was wide open and cornerback Isaiah Herron getting flagged for a face mask penalty on third-and-9 to keep a Washington drive alive.
Talk about a rotten start for the home team.
“We had to stay positive,” BYU senior defensive back Dayan Ghanwoloku said. “If they get that many points up in the first half, we have to stop them when the second half comes up. There was still a lot of time left to play the game and we never got down on ourselves, but I just feel like we weren’t focused in.”
The Cougars slowly worked their way back into the game, getting a 1-yard TD run by senior running back Emmanuel Esukpa, a stop on a Husky fake field goal and a 54-yard field goal by Oldroyd to make it 24-12 at halftime.
BYU appeared to be in position to make it a one-score game as the Cougars drove into Washington territory on the opening possession of the third quarter — but then disaster struck once again.
A completed pass to wide receiver Dax Milne appeared to give BYU a first down, but a hit by Husky defensive back Trent McDuffie knocked the ball free and then McDuffie recovered the fumble.
“We emphasize ball security a lot and the guys have to learn,” Sitake said. “It’s the guys trying to do too much. Their job isn’t to do too much, to reach out with the ball for extra yardage. Their job is protecting the ball. That’s something we will keep emphasizing as a team.”
Washington needed just three plays to get back in the end zone, then got an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown by returner Aaron Fuller after the Cougars got stopped on offense.
That would be far too deep of a hole for BYU to overcome.
“In playing Washington these past two years, we’ve shot ourselves in the foot,” BYU tight end Matt Bushman said. “After halftime, we had all the confidence that we were in this game. We had momentum going but we turned the ball over. It was hard to get back after another turnover like that.”
The Cougar defense struggled to slow either the Husky run game or pass game, not forcing a single punt until the fourth quarter.
Washington junior quarterback Jacob Eason was 24-of-28 for 290 yards with three touchdowns and one interception through the air, while the Huskies were also able to wrack up 187 yards and one touchdown on 39 carries on the ground.
“I thought the effort was there but they were just pounding us in the run game and getting chunk plays,” Sitake said. “Their offense was able to do a lot of things. We couldn’t disrupt the timing with Eason. They did a lot of different formations. For the most part, we didn’t play assignment-sound at the beginning of the game and things just built from there. That’s a huge credit to Washington.”
BYU was able to move the ball at times on offense (356 total yards) but struggled to finish drives, only getting in the end zone once when the outcome was still in doubt.
The Cougars finish their opening stretch games against four Power-5 opponents (three of which were ranked) with a 2-2 record but still plenty of things to work on moving forward.
“As a team and as a competitor, I would love to be 4-0,” Bushman said. “I think any team should have that desire. That’s a little frustrating but I think not many people thought we could be 2-2 against some pretty good teams. We’re going to own up to our mistakes, figure it out and prepare as hard as we can for Toledo.”