Final score: BYU 28, Boise State 25
Records: Boise State is 6-1 overall, 3-0 Mountain West; BYU is 3-4
Why the Broncos lost: BYU’s third-string quarterback, Baylor Romney, outshined Boise State’s backup quarterback, Chase Cord. And the Broncos’ defense, so good all year, couldn’t get off the field on third/fourth down, force a takeaway or handle the trick plays the Cougars threw at them in the second half.
Romney was 15-for-26 for 221 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers. Cord was 18-for-31 for 185 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions — and he did much of his damage after the Broncos fell behind 28-10.
BYU was 4-for-13 on third down and 2-for-2 on fourth down, which means they converted 6-of-13 times that they reached third down. The Cougars converted three third downs to score a touchdown on the opening drive, scored a touchdown on fourth-and-1 and sealed the win on another fourth-and-1. They also didn’t commit a turnover.
And the last two BYU touchdowns came on a fake fumbled snap and a reverse flea flicker.
Main takeaway: The Broncos obviously missed true freshman starting quarterback Hank Bachmeier, who sat out after sustaining a hip pointer in the previous game against Hawaii. But that was far from the only problem. This team had flirted with a loss all season — trailing Florida State by 18 points, scoring only 14 points against Marshall and trailing Air Force in the second half.
The Broncos’ ability to survive — and even thrive — in those situations was a sign of a good team. But the fact that they were in some of those positions also hinted at danger ahead, and the Broncos found just that against a better-prepared, highly motivated rival in BYU.
The Broncos were outcoached, outplayed, outsmarted and just outclassed in every way in this loss. They talked of breaking the hex BYU’s defense seems to have over the Boise State offense, but that didn’t happen. Coach Bryan Harsin has brought his team to Provo three times in his six seasons and scored 24 points (loss), 24 (win) and 25 (loss).
The Broncos will return to Mountain West play in two weeks still with a strong chance of reaching the conference championship game. But they likely will fall out of the Top 25, lacking a win against a high-level opponent, and will have a hard time getting back in front of the American conference’s top teams and Appalachian State in the New Year’s Six race.
Player of the game: Romney, a redshirt freshman who walked on after his mission, was clutch on third down, did a nice job evading the rush and expertly executed the two trick plays for touchdown passes. He delivered BYU’s third win in 10 tries against Boise State, all in Provo.
Play of the game: On fourth-and-1 at the Boise State 27-yard line in the third quarter, BYU went for the big play. Romney took the snap and held the ball down toward the ground to fake a fumbled snap, then threw to tight end Matt Bushman for the touchdown and a 21-10 lead. Bushman ran right past safety Tyreque Jones, who was sucked in by the fake.
What’s next: Boise State has a bye before traveling to San Jose State (8:30 p.m., Nov. 2, CBS Sports Network).