Notre Dame dominated No. 16 BYU in every statistical category.
You name it, the Irish were better.
From total yards, first downs and third down efficiency, to time of possession, tackles for loss, and made field goals.
However, somehow down just 25-20 with 11:42 to go in the game, BYU found itself with the ball and a chance to take the lead. After scoring on its two previous possessions, the Cougars had the momentum and the feeling in the air felt like the Cougars were going to pull off another second half comeback.
Facing 3rd-and-7 from its own 20-yard line, Jaren Hall threw a back shoulder pass to Puka Nacua that was right on the money. Unfortunately for the Cougar faithful, Nacua couldn’t complete the catch and with the refs not calling an obvious pass interference call on Notre Dame, the Cougars punted the ball away and so did their chances of beating the Irish in a game that was bizarre from start to finish for the Cougars.
Take for instance the first play of the game as Hall threw an interception that wasn’t anywhere close to the receiver. Add in the safety that BYU gave up, a missed PAT and not having enough players on the field a bunch of times, it was mind boggling to see, especially for such an experienced and veteran team and staff.
“That is on me and our coaching staff,” said Kalani Sitake said after the game. “So the fact that we didn’t have it organized and we had problems (isn’t good). It is Game 6, and we are struggling to put 11 guys out there in the game. A couple times we had 10. We gotta figure it out, and that is all on coaches.”
Yet, despite the ugliness and miscues, BYU still had another shot to tie the game. Down 28-20 and with six minutes left left in the contest, Hall threw a 27-yard pass to Kody Epps to get the ball into Notre Dame territory. Yet instead of continuing what was working in the second half (passing), the play calling froze as the team then attempted four straight running plays and were stopped on 4th-and-1.
Not to mention the coaching staff wasted a timeout that they badly needed if they didn’t get the first down. Former BYU linebacker and NFL star Kyle Van Noy was even disappointed in the play calling.
A timeout for that?!?!? Whyyyyyy?????????
— Kyle Van Noy (@KVN_03) October 9, 2022
Yet despite being outplayed, the team still had chances to get the win thanks to big stops and turnovers created by the defense — especially in the red zone. But an uninspiring performance on offense and questionable play calling killed BYU’s chances of making a big statement on the national stage.
The loss also killed BYU’s hopes of getting a NY6 bowl invite in its last year as an Independent as the Cougars will join the Big 12 Conference next year.
Kalani Sitake was clearly frustrated after the game and the loss certainly brings up plenty of questions about the play calling and game plan coming in. If Hall was healthy enough to play, why didn’t he get the opportunity to make plays down the stretch? He’s projected to be an NFL quarterback and the coaches took the ball out of his hands.
The loss was not only a wasted opportunity for the Cougars to make a statement on a national stage and to keep their NY6 hopes alive, but the loss and the way they lost brings up more questions than answers.
For the Cougar faithful, let’s hope Sitake can figure it out.