Against good teams, the margin for error is thin

BYU’s turnovers sink Cougars 45-20 against USU.

It’s fitting they wore highlighter yellow hats. Utah State’s offensive playcallers were the most notable figures on the field at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Jordan Love looked to the sideline for their signals. Darwin Thompson took advantage of Love’s decision making in the RPO-game. And the Aggies confidently claimed the Old Wagon Wheel for the second year in a row 45-20, a feat last completed 44 years ago.

BYU spotted Utah State 21 points in the first half and nearly climbed back into the game before halftime. If not for a Skyler Southam missed 43-yard field goal it could have been 21-10 heading into the break.

Utah State outgained BYU 388-361, but the Cougars turned the ball over three times – all leading to USU touchdowns.

When Jordan Nathan couldn’t corral a Love bomb to start off the second half, the USU offense didn’t stall; offensive coordinator David Yost knew he’d have more opportunities. The Aggies methodically rode Darwin Thompson down the field. Thompson contributed five rushes for 53 yards on the USU scoring drive to make it 28-7.

The Cougars nearly crawled back into the game down 35-13. Tanner Mangum lofted a pass to the back corner of the end zone for Talon Shumway. The defender attempted to field the pass, and Shumway played defense on a potential interception. Unfortunately, Mangum’s toss was true and had Shumway continued to the corner, he may have caught it. On the next play, Mangum coughed up the ball on a sack.

The wide receiver admitted to his mistake postgame.

Ultimately, the mistakes piled too heavy. Head coach Kalani Sitake pointed to missed tackles dooming the defense. Tight end Matt Bushman keyed in on the team’s ineffective offense.

“I think all of us need to step back and take accountability for the mistakes that we did. The defense is working hard, and we’re putting them in tough spots as an offense,” Bushman lamented.

Gone are the days when USU is a scheduled win. This era of BYU can’t take anything for granted. The mistakes will cost them. Be it two interceptions against Cal or a fumble at midfield. After the upset at Camp Randall, optimism for a return to bowl eligibility seemed a guarantee. The offense had an identity and the jet sweep was in vogue. After two straight losses, everything is in doubt.

“We just have not played well as a team,” Sitake said postgame. “We had three really good games where I felt like we had an identity and knew what we were about. We need to find a way to rally that back.”

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