One of the stupidest sports chants is “overrated, overrated,” which actually undermines the efforts of the team being beaten by the higher-rated opponent.
However, in the instance of the No. 12 BYU Cougars’ disaster on Saturday afternoon, the Oregon students’ jeers were totally justified as they jumped out to a 31-point lead in the third quarter.
The No. 25 Ducks thoroughly embarrassed BYU to the tune of 41-20 in front of a sellout crowd of 54,463 at Autzen Stadium and a national television audience eager to see if these Western teams are frauds or legitimate. The Ducks themselves may have been overrated when they started the season with a No. 11 ranking before getting trounced at Georgia.
“Obviously not the result that we were working for, but you gotta give a lot of credit to Oregon. They showed up to play more ready than we did, especially at the beginning. And I didn’t have this team ready, so that is on me. We gotta figure out a way to start better, start faster.” — BYU football coach Kalani Sitake
The Cougars (2-1) were exposed as frauds, wilting on a partly overcast, chilly day when they had a chance to back up their victory over No. 9 Baylor from the previous week by playing a Pac-12 juggernaut.
Last year, BYU was quite proud of its 5-0 record against the Pac-12, and it should feel just as ashamed of its performance on Saturday.
It was very similar to the 38-24 defeat against Baylor from the previous year. On both sides of the ball, the Cougars were outmatched in the trenches. What we saw in Week 3 was the result of Oregon’s supremacy on the periphery in terms of talent, speed, and quickness.
Head coach Kalani Sitake frequently emphasizes the importance of fundamentals, including as blocking, tackling, playing with poise and discipline, and executing the small things that make a difference. At Rich Brooks Field, BYU failed to do any of those things well, squandering a chance that won’t come up again for a time.
“Obviously not the result that we were working for, but you gotta give a lot of credit to Oregon,” Sitake said. “They showed up to play more ready than we did, especially at the beginning, and I didn’t have this team ready, so that is on me. We gotta figure out a way to start better, start faster.”
The final stats aren’t that bad; BYU had 366 yards and Oregon had 439. But that’s not even close to telling the whole story.
Five touchdowns and a field goal were scored by the Ducks on their first six possessions. Sitake pushed his starters, including quarterback Jaren Hall, all the way to the end.
Sitake correctly acknowledged Oregon, as he should have done. The 3-1 Wyoming Cowboys will visit LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday, and BYU will have a lot of work to do before then. The Bo Nix-led Ducks were clearly the superior team in all three phases.
“It was uncharacteristic of our team. We made a lot of mistakes, but I don’t want to take anything away from Oregon. I thought they played a great game, and they played exactly like we thought they could,” Sitake said.
“They have tons of athleticism and speed on their team. They are a great team. They are ranked for a reason, and they definitely should climb up the rankings.”
BYU will undoubtedly drop in the rankings, possibly all the way down.
Why did the Cougars fail despite the enormous stakes?
Sitake was unable to pinpoint the cause, other than to remark that a few early missed tackles and errors gave Oregon the opportunity to capture the initiative, gain some confidence, and rally their supporters, who outnumbered BYU supporters by a margin of nearly three to one.
He was aware.
“Yeah, a lot of excitement, great stadium, good home field advantage to play at if you are Oregon,” Hall said. “But yeah, we just didn’t play as good as we should have, starting off.
“We had a good first play, had some momentum, just didn’t finish the drive and things got out of hand offensively the next couple of drives.”
After taking over near midfield on its second drive, Oregon went 64 yards for a touchdown, got a short field goal, and then responded to a Hall to Isaac Rex touchdown throw that briefly gave the Cougars hope that they could hold out for roughly three minutes.
The Ducks immediately covered 75 yards in eight plays to return order to Autzen with transfer from Auburn Nix’s 50-yard bomb to Troy Franklin on the following possession.
After the Cougars overcame two holding penalties called by the Pac-12 officials, their drive stalled at the 23-yard line, and Jake Oldroyd was brought in as Cougar Nation held its collective breath in anticipation of what had happened last week in Provo. A shootout then appeared to be in order.
Indeed, Oldroyd failed once more, this time from 38 yards away. The Cougars lost all of their air.
Even though they started out moving so quickly, this one appeared worse. Oregon broke tackle after tackle on its way to a 79-yard touchdown drive in just 13 plays and more than five minutes. Terrance Ferguson was the recipient of a 15-yard dime pass from Nix.
Sitake said “everything has to be evaluated for us,” when asked about Oldroyd’s kicking woes. “I mean, we have to find out what the issues and deficiencies were in every aspect of our game. Whether it is coaching, or players, or personnel, whatever it is.”
Hall performed admirably despite having a weak running game and two of his top receivers, Puka Nacua and Gunner Romney, being sidelined once more.
Although he provided strong coverage, young receivers like Chase Roberts, Kody Epps, and Keanu Hill had trouble finding openings for the majority of the day.
With a passing rating of 149.5, Hall completed 29 of 41 passes for 305 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions.
Overall, the Cougars missed their chance, and Hall was aware of this.
“We had a lot of momentum going (from the Baylor win) … and we were able to get a gritty win last week,” he said.
“It would have meant a lot for us to come in and get a win in this environment,” Hall said, “but it doesn’t change anything to do with our confidence. We are still the same team that we were a couple weeks ago. We gotta learn from today and get better.”
Due to the offense’s inability to run the ball behind what is supposedly the strongest offensive line of the Sitake era, special teams once again disappointed.
On 24 attempts, the Cougars managed just 64 yards on the ground. Chris Brooks, a transfer from Cal, was held in check for the second game in a row and managed just 28 yards on just 10 carries.
He did once score, but only after Hall made a mistake while attempting to pass the ball off to him from the 2-yard line.
“Well, that is a concern for me. I don’t know what the issue is. We will have to keep watching the film,” Sitake said regarding the running game.
“I thought that the defensive front of Baylor did a good job (last week). We thought we could find some spots against Oregon. Obviously they did a good job shutting down the run.”
With Romney watching from home while still awaiting doctor’s approval to play, and Nacua watching from the sidelines in a walking boot, the Cougars became one-dimensional, which was not ideal.
Sitake claimed that they brought Nacua because they “hoped” he would be able to go. The training crew decided against placing him in more danger, thus it didn’t happen.
“Hopefully next week will be time for (Nacua) to return, and time for Gunner (to return),” Sitake said. “We need some guys back.”
Additionally, they didn’t have starting defensive ends Tyler Batty and Earl Tuioti-Mariner on the field, while cornerback Kaleb Hayes left the game early in the first half due to concussion-like symptoms and did not come back.
Sitake claimed that the effort never flagged, which is why, much to the chagrin of the Oregon supporters, he called a timeout late in an effort to score a fourth touchdown.
“At the end of the game, we were trying to get the train back on the tracks, trying to do whatever we can to get some positivity from this to show that we are capable of doing things differently,” Sitake said.
“But we will have to look at this entire game and we have to get better from it. There is no running from it.”
Starting by establishing a running game and halting the opponent’s running will be an excellent idea.