Three and a half minutes later, TCU was set up to score again just four yards from the goal line. A mishandled snap by punter Riley Stephenson resulted in a loss of 30 yards. Once again, TCU scored after two plays.
The game was less than five minutes old, and TCU had a 14-0 lead.
BYU fought back. A 42-yard pass from Riley Nelson to Ross Apo set up a 42-yard field goal to make it 14-3. The Cougar defense quickly got the ball back. The Cougar offense moved the ball 76 yards in 9 plays to make it a 14-10 game on a nice catch by Michael Alisa for a 22-yard touchdown.
The game became a defensive struggle, with both defenses recording multiple stops. That changed when Stephenson shanked a punt giving TCU a short field. A missed tackle sprang a TCU back on a 28-yard run to the 2-yard line. One play later TCU was up 21-10.
Cody Hoffman returned the ensuing kickoff 52 yards, and J.J. Di Luigi scampered 27 yards on the next play to position BYU at the TCU 13-yard line. Two plays later, Nelson was under pressure and tried to throw the ball out of the back of the end zone. Austin Holt was in the vicinity, and tried to make a play on the ball. He tipped it, which allowed a TCU defender to intercept the pass just before his momentum carried him out of bounds.
This play could have turned out harmless for BYU in two ways. First, if the 6’4” Holt doesn’t try to make a play on the ball, then it would have fallen incomplete. Second, if the officials called the obvious pass interference on the play. Holt might have come down with the ball, but a TCU defender hit him in the back before the ball got there. The officals didn’t make the call, and BYU had lost a golden scoring opportunity.
The BYU defense was able to hold, and forced TCU to punt the ball with 2:13 before halftime. BYU’s two-minute offense didn’t produce, and BYU had to give the ball back to TCU with 49 seconds before halftime. A short punt combined with a 19-yard return placed TCU at the BYU 45-yard line. A blown coverage by BYU resulted in TCU’s third two play scoring drive.
BYU had blown two chances to make it a 21-17 game at the break, and TCU capitalized to make it 28-10. There was, however, still 36 seconds left. Nelson broke free for 32 yards. BYU had another chance to put more points on the board before the half. Poor coaching resulted in a rushed 50-yard field goal attempt.
The 18-point halftime deficit came about from moments of incompetence in every phase of the game—offense, defense, special teams, coaching, and even officiating. The Cougars didn’t give up, and, at one point, it seemed a miraculous comeback was going to happen. In the end, a repeat of offense, defense, special teams, coaching, and officiating incompetence in the second half doomed BYU.
The BYU coaching staff committed the first act of incompetence in the second half. Down 18 points, BYU received the opening kickoff. The Cougars took the field without any sense of urgency. The offense moved 29 yards in 9 plays and ran 4:44 seconds off the clock. The amount of time was the major concern. A 4:44 drive is fine, if it ends in a touchdown. BYU came away without any points. In fact, that drive ended worse then that for BYU.
The punt team compounded the lack of tempo problem. Stephenson dropped the snap and was tackled for a 15 yard loss. BYU had an opportunity to pin TCU inside its own 10-yard line with the punt. TCU ended up starting inside the Cougars’ 40-yard line. TCU cashed in four plays later with a touchdown run.
The deficit was now 25 points, but the tempo still didn’t pick up on offense. BYU had another 9-play drive that took another 4:23 off the clock. At least BYU got three points on a 44-yard Justin Sorensen field goal.
After the Cougar D forced TCU to punt, JD Falslev gave BYU a fighting chance to win the game. He returned the punt 67 yards for a touchdown. It was now 35-20, a two score game, with 2:20 to play in the third quarter. Momentum was on BYU’s side.
The defense made another quick stop. Highlighted by a Jameson Frazier sack that pinned TCU back at the 5-yard line, TCU punted the ball back to BYU without making a single first down. BYU had the ball 57-yards away from the goal line.
Led by Nelson and Bryan Kariya, BYU covered 40 of those yards in six plays. Dreams of a monumental comeback were feeling more like reality with each play. Then the offense took its turn to be incompetent. Trying to set up a screen pass, Nelson rolled right. The Horned Frogs brought pressure, and Nelson’s ill-advised pass went backwards. Holt made a diving attempt to catch the ball, but came up short. TCU recovered the fumble.
As bad as this turnover was, not all hope was lost. There was still 12:20 to play, and the Cougar D had throttled TCU the last two drives. They forced TCU into a 3rd and 5 after two plays. The TCU quarterback made a bad throw on the third down that landed incomplete. Once again, TCU was going to punt the ball back to BYU. Except, the officials threw a late flag.
In a judgment call, the officials determined that Travis Uale committed an unnecessary roughness penalty by hitting the intended receiver. Replays showed that Uale was playing the ball and his momentum carried him into the receiver. It was incidental contact. Nevertheless, the damage was done. TCU retained possession, and ran several more minutes off the clock before kicking a field goal to take a 38-20 lead, and leaving only 5:32 to play.
BYU had another chance to stop TCU on that drive. On 4th and 1 at the BYU 29-yard line, Daniel Sorensen tried to tackle the ball carrier with an arm tackle. It wasn’t enough as the TCU back stumbled for four yards and a first down.
Aided by two TCU pass interference penalties, BYU added eight points to its final total with a Kariya 1-yard run and a Nelson run for two points.
A failed onsides kick attempt with 2:01 to play sealed the Cougars’ fate. TCU ran out the clock for a 38-28 win.
PLAY OF THE GAME: JD Falslev 67-yard punt return for a touchdown.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: JD Falslev, 2 punt returns, 69 yards, 1 touchdown; 5 receptions, 35 yards (2 first downs)
Things I watched for:
- Proving Ground. Michael Alisa was a non-factor in this game. He gained 11 yards on 6 carries. He was the Cougars’ fourth best option on the ground. Alisa is still a work in progress if he will be the feature back next season. Nelson proved he was difficult to stop on the ground, and he passed the ball reasonably well. He had the two interceptions and the crippling lateral, but overall he gave BYU production on offense that they have not had in years against TCU. The BYU secondary played well. TCU had only 147 yards passing, and 48 of those came when a linebacker fell and left his man wide open. The only major mistake by the secondary was allowing the 33-yard touchdown pass right before halftime that made the game 28-10.
- First half total offense. BYU out gained TCU 218 yards to 199 in the first half. BYU had 33% more first downs than TCU (12 to 9), and 41 more yards rushing. BYU and TCU were nearly equal on 3rd down conversions, yards per pass attempt, and yards per rush. Production wasn't a problem. The major difference came on Nelson’s two interceptions and the punting problems.
- Second Half Adjustments. BYU out gained and outscored TCU in the second half. However, I still can’t get over the lack of urgency on offense. Even on the final scoring drive, BYU didn’t appear to be trying to score as fast as possible. Credit the defense and special teams for BYU being more productive offensively and on the scoreboard in the second half. Some improvements are still needed on offense.
- Turnovers. BYU failed miserably in this category. BYU was -3 in the turnovers category. Yes, those three turnovers played a key role in the outcome of the game.
- 3 Punts. BYU only punted twice. To quote the game preview, if BYU ends up punting three times, “BYU should be in a good position to win (unless #4 is what is keeping the number of punts so low).” Unfortunately, turnovers and deep snapping issues was the reason. Needless to say, those kept BYU out of position to win.
DATE: November 12, 2011