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As BYU took to the field Thursday night against Boise State, there was no doubt this would be a tough game for the Cougars and they would have to fight to win.
Boise State was able to clinch a 7-6 victory in front of the largest crowd in Bronco Stadium history. This win and low-scoring game was mainly due to two strong defenses.
At halftime, the score was 0-0 and the gate was wide open for either team to win.
However, the turning point of this game occurred during the first drive of the third quarter.
With BYU third and six on its own 36-yard line, quarterback Riley Nelson threw an interception. Mike Atkinson caught the interception and rushed 36 yards for the touchdown and Boise State’s only points of the game.
This play had a major role in the Broncos' win against the Cougars, but there were several other factors that contributed to the outcome of this game.
One factor was the play of an injured Nelson. Nelson had two fumbles and threw three interceptions. He also completed 4-of-9 for only 19 yards and rushed for 13.
During BYU’s third drive of the third quarter, Nelson was replaced by second-string freshman quarterback Taysom Hill.
Hill rushed the ball four yards for BYU’s only points with 3:37 left in the game. Hill finished the night as BYU’s leading rusher with 72 yards and completed 4-of-10 for 42 yards.
Following Hill’s rushing touchdown, BYU had the chance to take the lead and potentially win the game with a two-point conversion. Sadly for BYU, the pass attempt was incomplete.
BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall was proud of how Hill played and how he gave them a chance to win.
“Taysom Hill came in and sparked us for the one drive that we had,” Mendenhall said. “He gave a great chance at the end with the two-point play.”
Hill was also happy he could contribute to helping his team but is disappointed he did not get the two points.
“That last drive I came in and I was able to go through my reads and make a couple throws,” Hill said. “It’s a tough environment; we had momentum there, so I don’t blame coach Mendenhall for doing it. It’s just a tough break."
Many fans are questioning Mendenhall’s gutsy call on the two-point conversion, but senior linebacker Brandon Ogletree agrees with his coach.
“I love the coach's decision to go for it,” Ogletree said. “We were right there, one catch away from winning the game, so I’m not going to question that. I like the call. I think we had the momentum at that point, and it was a gutsy call. That’s probably what I would have done if I was a coach.”
Although BYU’s offense did not play its best game, the defense gave BYU fans something to talk about.
A big accomplishment for the Cougars is even though they lost, they held the Broncos to zero offensive points and 261 yards.
“That’s why football is the ultimate team game,” Ogletree said. “You don’t win or loose as an offense or a defense, it’s as a team.”
Another milestone for BYU is that senior Ezekiel Ansah sacked Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick for the first time this season.
Ansah was a defensive leader with eight tackles and one sack. Ogletree and Daniel Sorensen also finished with eight tackles each.
The series that was the most impressive for the BYU defense came after BYU fumbled the ball during the third quarter on its own 1-yard line. Because of this, Boise State had perfect field position for another touchdown.
When Boise State took over the ball, it had four chances to get a touchdown, and BYU blocked the Broncos each time, holding the score to 7-0.
Ogletree was extremely pleased with the defense’s performance during these plays.
“That’s the best feeling in the world,” Ogletree said. “Anytime an offense has four times to score inside their own one and you don’t let them, that’s the best feeling in the world.”
Boise State head coach Chris Petersen was surprised at how well BYU’s defense played and the fact that his team scored no offensive points.
“We definitely expected them (BYU’s defense) to be good,” Petersen said. “But to shut us out, I didn’t expect that."
Although BYU had five turnovers, the defense stepped up and was able to make this a close loss for the Cougars.
"We have a really good defense," Ogletree said. "I think people are starting to acknowledge that."
Ashley Anderson is a senior at BYU majoring in public relations with the hope of one day having a career in sports public relations.