|BYU takes the field to start the game (All photo credits: Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo)|
The BYU Cougars (2-8) were huge underdogs going into their game against the Fresno State Bulldogs (6-3). The Cougar defense contained the high powered Bulldog offense, but BYU wasn't able to find enough offensive firepower of its own to pull out a win. Along the way, BYU lost starting quarterback Tanner Mangum for the season due to an achilles tendon injury.
The game started with the Cougars receiving the opening kickoff. Mangum completed an eight-yard pass to Jonah Trinnaman on first down. Picking up eight yards on first down would be a common theme on the night. Six times BYU found itself in a 2nd and 2 situation.
On the game opening drive, however, BYU wasn't able to pick up a first down, and the Cougars punted the ball away. Fresno State was able to move into scoring range without much opposition, but then the BYU defense stiffened. On 3rd and 3 from the BYU 25-yard line, Fresno State's quarterback ran for just a yard. The Bulldogs were forced to settle for a 42-yard field goal.
BYU responded with a sustained drive of its own. The Cougars quickly picked up two first downs. An eight-yard pass to Aleva Hifo moved the ball into Fresno State territory. On 4th and 1 at the Bulldog 43-yard line, BYU made the aggressive decision to go for the first down. Brayden El-Bakri could not convert.
Fresno State got backed up after a holding penalty on second down, but on 3rd and 10, Fresno State completed a 50-yard pass to set up first and goal at the seven-yard line. Two plays later, the Bulldogs were in the end zone. That extended the lead to 10-0 with 2:08 to play in the first quarter.
Squally Canada got his first carry of the game on the first play of the second quarter. He ran for 11 yards, which was six more yards than BYU had on the ground in the entire first quarter. Mangum completed a pass for nine yards, and ran for 13 to give BYU 1st and Goal at the nine-yard line.
That's when BYU shot itself in the foot. Repeatedly this season, BYU has committed dumb penalties inside the 10-yard line that have killed momentum. An illegal substitution penalty moved BYU back five yards. The Cougars ended up getting just a field goal on the drive to cut the lead to 10-3.
Refreshed by the rest, and motivated by the points scored by the offense, the Cougar defense forced Fresno State to punt without giving up a first down. The BYU offense came right back at it.
Offsetting penalties on first down got BYU off the hook for an interception that was returned for a touchdown. BYU continued to methodically move the ball, as it had on its previous possessions. Eight yards on first down followed by four or five on second down. BYU moved 25 yards in four plays. A clear pass interference on Fresno State was not called on the next play. That got BYU out of rhythm, and on 3rd and 10, Mangum was sacked for a seven-yard loss.
BYU started at its own seven-yard line with 3:20 to play before halftime following the punt. Slowly, but steadily, BYU was moving the ball upfield, but it didn't appear the Cougars had the capability of making big enough plays to get into scoring position before time ran out. On 1st and 10 from the BYU 31-yard line, Mangum threw an incomplete pass. What was even worse was Mangum had re-aggravated the left ankle injury that he sustained at the end of the Utah game in September.
With 1:19 to play and Beau Hoge filling in for Mangum, the BYU coaches were ready to concede to run out the clock and regroup at halftime. Canada had another idea. He ripped off a 17-yard run to move the ball near midfield. Two plays later, BYU called timeout with 52 seconds left in the half. Coming out of the timeout, Hoge found Trinnaman for 27 yards. Three plays later, Hoge was sacked for a five-yard loss. With three seconds left, Rhett Almond kicked a career-long, 46-yard field goal.
The halftime score was 10-6, but BYU had outplayed the Bulldogs. BYU held the edge in total offense (202 to 153), third down conversions (44% to 20%), and time of possession (17:21 to 12:39).
After being shutout in the second quarter, Fresno State started the second half the same way it started the first. The Bulldogs drove 46 yards in 10 plays and kicked its second 42-yard field goal of the night. That gave the Bulldogs a one touchdown lead, 13-6.
Mangum got taped up during halftime and came out to lead the Cougars offense. BYU started the second half the same way it started the second quarter: a hand off to Squally Canada. He got loose for 22 yards. BYU's play selection continued to balance run and pass, which successfully moved the ball to the Fresno State 15-yard line.
A replay review overturned a call on the field that Canada fumbled. That set up a 3rd and 1 for BYU. Just as they did in the first half when they drove deep into Fresno State territory, the Cougars committed a penalty. This time, BYU was able to overcome. Micah Simon caught a pass from Mangum and fought off tacklers to pick up the first down. It took Canada two more carries to pick up the remaining 11 yards. His 4-yard touchdown run tied the game at 13.
It was BYU's only possession of the third quarter. Fresno State ran off the final 4:28, as well as 2:20 of the fourth quarter, on its way to responding with a touchdown. A 35-yard pass highlighted the drive. It was only the second play Fresno State would have all game long over 15 yards.
As Fresno State took a 20-13 lead with 12:40 to play, for the first time this season, with the Cougars trailing in the fourth quarter, there wasn't any feeling that the game was out of reach for BYU. That didn't last very long. Four plays into the next drive, Mangum went down with injury. This time, it was unrelated to his previous ankle injury.
After the game, Head Coach Kalani Sitake revealed Mangum suffered a season-ending achilles injury.
Hoge came back in, but he got dinged up on that sack at the end of the first half. He was also rusty. This was his first game action since the injuries he sustained at Utah State. BYU punted two plays later.
That gave BYU the ball back with 7:58 to play. Field position was excellent. BYU took over at its own 48-yard line.
Fresno State helped BYU move the ball with a pass interference penalty on 3rd and 8. Three plays later, BYU was facing a 4th and 1. Hoge's pass was tipped and fell incomplete.
The BYU defense forced its second straight three and out to get the Cougar O the ball back with 3:21 to play. However, Fresno State got off a perfect punt. It went 64 yards and pinned BYU back at the five-yard line.
Hoge connected with Bushman for a pick up of 20 yards on first down. It was Bushman's ninth catch of the game and gave him 97 yards for the night (both career highs), but Fresno State popped the ball out before Bushman hit the ground. The ball floated right into a Bulldog defender's arm. Fresno State then ran out the clock.
BYU finished the game with more yards of total offense, but Fresno State outplayed BYU in the second half. The Bulldogs had the edge in total offense (153 to 134), in third down conversions (5 to 3), and in time of possession (18:43 to 11:17). That is what made the difference.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Beau Hoge, coming in cold off the bench, and throwing a 27-yard pass to Jonah Trinnaman at the end of the first half to get BYU into field goal range.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Squally Canada--12 carries, 84 yards (7.0 yards/carry), 1 TD
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