The ugly truth about BYU's shutout loss to LSU

Growing up a fan of BYU football was fun. The foundation had already been laid with the 1984 National Championship, the long list of All-American quarterbacks, and the reputation of being an unstoppable offensive powerhouse. I witnessed Ty Detmer win the Heisman Trophy, Steve Young win Super Bowl MVP honors, and the legendary LaVell Edwards build a team that won the Cotton Bowl and could compete with any team in the country. 

It wasn't long ago that Max Hall delivered on his passionate halftime guarantee, "We're going to win," and beat the number 3 ranked Oklahoma Sooners. The Cougars did it without running back Harvey Unga, who would set the school's career rushing record later that year.

Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

At that time BYU was on the bubble of busting the BCS every year, and with the legacy that Cougar football has, fans were justified in believing their beloved Cougars were still among the top tier in college football.

The week after BYU's upset of Oklahoma in 2009, the Cougars traveled to the Superdome in New Orleans and dominated Tulane, 54-3. It was a far cry from what transpired last Saturday at that same venue.

It is hard to admit that times have changed. No fan wants to admit it. It is gut wrenching, but that is the ugly truth about BYU's shutout loss to LSU last Saturday. It isn't that BYU is no longer a top 25 team, it is just how far away the BYU program is from that benchmark for success, and from being an offensive juggernaut that could throw the ball against anyone.

Before going any further, this is not just a knee jerk reaction to one very disappointing game.

Over a generation ago, BYU broke the NCAA record for most consecutive games without being shutout, and extended that record by a mile. Just like throwing the football, scoring is in BYU football's DNA.

During that precedent setting 361 game scoring streak, BYU played the best of the best.
  • Twice BYU played Miami when the Hurricanes wreaked havoc on college football. From 1985 to 1992, Miami shutout 12 opponents, including Florida State, Notre Dame, and Nebraska--all three were elite programs at the time--but couldn't shutout BYU.
  • Twice BYU played Florida State during their historic string of 14 consecutive top 5 finishes. In the 10 year span of 1991 to 2000, the Seminoles shutout 11 opponents, but not BYU. 
  • Twice BYU played USC under Pete Carroll during their National Championship runs, and both times BYU put points on the board.  
Twice in the last 25 games BYU has been shutout, after being shutout just once in 503 games. These shutouts have been disturbingly ugly.

At Michigan in 2015, the Wolverines handed the Cougars a 31-0 shutout loss. BYU managed just 105 yards total offense (50 rushing, 55 passing), and never crossed the Michigan 40-yard line. Michigan was really good, but nothing like those Miami, Florida State, and USC teams.

That Michigan loss came on the heels of a thrilling win at Nebraska, and a one-point loss to UCLA in the Rose Bowl after leading late in the fourth quarter. Fans could point to those performances, as well as the difficulty of playing three out of the first four games on the road. There was also the excuse that Tanner Mangum was a true freshman less than three months removed from serving a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Well, Mangum is a junior now. The LSU secondary was full of freshman playing their first college football game. There is no excuse for Quarterback U to be shutout, let alone, not cross the 50-yard line. Slower BYU wide receivers have been getting open for decades against faster defensive backs.

Ironically, Detmer was a junior when he carved up the number one ranked Miami Hurricanes for 406 yards passing and 28 points in three quarters, despite five turnovers. BYU can't even point to turnovers as an excuse for last Saturday. LSU had only one takeaway.  Hall passed for over 300 yards against the Sooners defense that ended the season ranked in the top 10 nationally. A few weeks later, Texas QB Colt McCoy completed 21 passes for just 127 yards against that same Oklahoma defense. 

Maybe this year will be different, but LSU hasn't been world beaters lately. The Tigers have lost at least three games every year since 2012. The Tigers were playing without many starters due to injury and suspension. That makes the 102 passing yards and -5 rushing yards even more disturbing.

Cougar fans have been able to feel good about the program with two blowout wins over Texas in the last five seasons, and with finally getting the Boise State monkey off its back. However, fans can't pretend anymore that those wins mean anything significant. These two shutouts under two different coaching staffs makes it painfully clear, BYU football has fallen.

Perhaps current head coach Kalani Sitake noticed it when he took over after the 2015 season. He was on the Utah coaching staff in 2008 when Utah destroyed Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. He spent time at Oregon State, too. He has been other places and seen a team go toe-to-toe with college football elite. However, if he didn't see it 18 months ago, he should see it now.

Hopefully, Sitake can get BYU back to where all Cougar fans feel it belongs. Until then, following BYU football will be out of loyalty and love of the game.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at


  1. Utah DID NOT "destroy" Alabama, it was a closer game than that and they were not mentally in the game either

    1. The best thing we can do as BYU fans would be to stop lying to ourselves so much. So many of us constantly lie to ourselves to build up the Cougs and lie to ourselves to knock the Utes down a few notches so we feel better about getting passed up by our rival.

      Utah absolutely did destroy Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. You are being delusional because you are blinded by hate. No rational person can watch this and think it was anything other than a butt whipping -

    2. Aaron, I may have over stated it, but jumping out to a 21-0 lead and allowing just 1 offensive TD is an impressive win.

  2. Exactly what time span are you referencing when you said, byu was on the verge of a bcs bowl every year? This is completely false, byu might have been mentioned as a possibility ONE year but they eliminated their chances long before the end of the season.

    1. BYU wasn't on the verge in the sense that in late November they were still undefeated and ranked where they needed to be for a BCS berth. Rather, it was considered a realistic goal and they weren't that far off from getting there.

  3. It hurts hearing the truth, but it's unhealthy to continue to pretend that BYU is a top-tier football team anymore. It causes unrealistic expectations and unnecessary angst and anger when, surprise, surprise, BYU can't keep up with perennial top 15 teams like LSU. Anyone looking at that matchup through an objective lens could have foreseen an LSU win, and likely a big one. However, us fans and also the local media built BYU up to better than they are, again, and now too many of us are sitting here scratching our heads about how a result like Saturday's could have happened.

    Anyways, good article, I hope more fans start being more truthful with themselves and this facade of eliteness that exists around BYU football comes down and we can accept it for what it is: a good football program but certainly not a top tier one.


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