PROVO, Utah — Chris Petersen’s 100th game at Boise State turned out to be one of his worst losses.
Brigham Young compiled 568 yards of offense and forced four Boise State turnovers in the Cougars’ 37-20 victory Friday at LaVell Edwards Stadium in front of 62,954 fans and a national ESPN audience.
“You can start and stop right there,” Petersen said of the team’s season high in turnovers, three fumbles and an interception.
It’s the first time Boise State (5-3 overall, 3-1 Mountain West) has lost three regular-season games since Petersen took over in 2006. The 17-point loss is the second largest setback of the Petersen era, following the 38-6 loss in the Broncos’ season opener at Washington eight weeks ago.
“I know how hard it is to win games,” said Petersen, the winningest active coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision (89-11). “I think if you can stay relatively healthy, which we haven’t, you might have a chance to do some things on the special side. I’ve said it from the start: This is probably the best schedule we’ve had since I’ve been here. But the guys are battling and we’ll battle hard throughout the rest of the season.”
Boise State’s record on the road this season fell to 1-3 after its first loss to a school from Utah since Nov. 1, 1997, ending a streak of 21 wins against the Beehive State. It was the Cougars’ first-ever gridiron win over the Broncos.
After the game, the now-bowl-eligible BYU Cougars (6-2) officially accepted an invitation to the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco at the end of this season.
Highland High (Pocatello) graduate Taysom Hill had 408 yards of total offense for the Cougars — 58 yards more than his average, which ranked him eighth in the nation going into the game. The sophomore quarterback passed for 339 yards and three touchdowns, complemented by 69 yards rushing on 18 carries.
“He’s everything that we thought he was,” Boise State safety Darian Thompson said. “He’s big, physical and he likes to run. He’ll find guys open downfield, so we knew it was a tough match going into.”
Junior quarterback Grant Hedrick made his first career start in place of Joe Southwick, who broke his ankle in the first offensive play of the game vs. Nevada last week. The offense started slow, but operated well in the final three quarters, finishing with 499 yards.
The four turnovers, plus an 8-of-18 conversion rate on third downs (and 2-of-5 on fourth downs) killed drives.
“We can’t turn the ball over, and fourth-and-1; I’ve got to get that QB sneak,” Hedrick said. “Offensively we have a lot of work to do. We had a lot of chances. We could have swung the game in a totally different direction if we capitalize on some of those things. If we don’t, that’s what happens, we get beat by a good team.”
Just seven days ago, Hedrick was a relatively unknown student-athlete, a two-year backup to Southwick and occasional wildcat or mop-up duty QB. Friday night he had ESPN cameras in his face during pre-game warm-ups before facing a top-tier defense.
“I think Grant was OK,” Petersen said. “I think we need to do some things to help him in terms of throwing the ball downfield. I think we need to create some opportunities to take some shots downfield.”
The Cougar offense gained yardage in chunks on each of their first three drives. The first stalled on the BSU 12-yard line due to a pair of penalties. The second culminated in Hill running 20 yards untouched to the end zone. The third ended with a 28-yard field goal as BYU led 10-0 early in the second quarter.
BYU ran 33 plays for 203 yards at a lighting pace of 33 plays in 10:31 of possession time in the first quarter. Hill accounted for 148 of those yards — 116 in the air and 32 on the ground.
While BYU’s offense roared, Boise State’s offense sputtered. The Broncos gained only 37 yards in the first quarter, and 22 of those came on one pass play to Shane Williams-Rhodes, who finished the night with 10 catches for 95 yards.
“I felt like (Hedrick) was pretty poised, he did what he could,” Williams-Rhodes said. “I feel like as an offense we left a lot on the field. I think the receivers could have helped him more.”
Early on, Hedrick misfired on a handful of throws, plus had two batted down by BYU defensive linemen. In his limited playing time going into the game, Hedrick had been completing 81.1 percent of his passes. He misfired on four of his first seven passes and finished the night 25 of 42 (59.5 percent) for 232 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
BSU’s first three drives ended in a turnover on downs and a pair of three-and-outs. The Broncos had entered the night ranked 13th nationally in fewest three-and-outs.
BSU cornerbacks were toasted by bigger and faster BYU wide receivers Ross Apo and Cody Hoffman for touchdown receptions in the final four minutes of the second quarter. The second of those — a 4-yard fade route to Hoffman in which the senior receiver broke BYU’s career TD record (31), surpassing current New England Patriots receiver Austin Collie — came after Williams-Rhodes fumbled the ball away while fighting for extra yardage.
“I don’t know if there’s a good time for a turnover, but they were back-breaking,” Petersen said. “Really, really frustrating.”
Boise State's 24-3 halftime deficit was the largest since it trailed 24-0 to Boston College in the 2005 MPC Computers Bowl.
A second-half comeback seemed possible — albeit improbable — when BYU punted on its opening possession, and then Jay Ajayi busted a 61-yard run. But the Broncos could only produce a 34-yard Dan Goodale field goal to pull within 24-6.
Hill countered with a 40-yard touchdown pass to Mitch Mathews and the Cougars looked comfortable with a 31-6 edge.
A 44-yard punt return by Williams-Rhodes set up BSU’s first touchdown, a 5-yard draw by Hedrick with 3:44 remaining in the third quarter. The Broncos then forced a punt and had a pulse.
But wide receiver Geraldo Boldewijn fumbled the ball away, which BYU turned into a 34-yard field goal to take a 34-13 lead into the fourth quarter.
“We go back to work tomorrow, go in and analyze this thing,” Hedrick said. “That Mountain West is still up for grabs and that’s our main goal. This was a great experience, great game, but we’ve got to go back to work tomorrow and get ready for Colorado State.”
NOTES: BSU’s last loss to school from Utah was Nov. 1, 1997 against Utah State in Logan, 24-20. … The loss snapped BSU’s 50 consecutive wins in games played during the month of October, dating back to a 45-14 loss to Rice, Oct. 6, 2001. … The Broncos take their 1-3 road record to Fort Collins, Colo., next week to play the Rams of Colorado State. … With one sack against BYU, Demarcus Lawrence moved to 10th place on BSU's career sack list with 17.0. ... Redshirt sophomore Dillon Lukehart started in place of safety Jeremy Ioane, who has been dinged up since at least the Fresno State game. However, Lukehart was ejected late in the third quarter for a targeting penalty on his hit on BYU receiver Cody Hoffman. Per NCAA rules, Lukehart will be suspended the first half of next week’s game at Colorado State, since the penalty occurred in the second half. … Senior wide receiver Kirby Moore missed his fourth straight game with injury. … BSU wore a first-ever uniform combination: black helmet, white jersey, black pants and blue socks.