Rocky Mountain Collegian
PROVO, Utah – Thus far this season, the Rams have been the team to jump out to the big lead in the first quarter. That wasn’t the case Saturday night in Provo, Utah against BYU.
The Rams (3-1, 0-1) fell behind the eight ball Saturday, giving up 21 first-quarter points to the Cougars.
BYU (3-1, 1-0) worked with a short field in its first three possessions after two Grant Stucker interceptions.
Receiver Rashaun Greer was the intended receiver on each throw and on both passes the ball slipped through his hands into the Cougar defense.
BYU took no time capitalizing, scoring three touchdowns in only six plays. Quarterback Max Hall scored on a one-yard bootleg scamper sandwiched between two Harvey Unga touchdown runs.
“You get behind a good team like that, it’s really tough, but I figured if we could start slowing them down, which we did for a while, our offense is good enough, so it was just a matter of getting the ball back,” defensive coordinator Larry Kerr said.
The offense responded behind Stucker’s best performance of his short career. The senior passed for 372 yards and two touchdowns, while completing 60 percent of his passes.
“Grant Stucker when you really look at his body of work through the first four games is certainly not error free, but I’m very very pleased with him,” head coach Steve Fairchild said.
The Rams got on the board in the second quarter on a three-yard touchdown pass to Dion Morton in the corner of the end-zone. Stucker’s second touchdown pass went to receiver Tyson Ligget for 13 yards with 1:57 remaining in the game.
Ligget, a junior walk-on, replaced Greer, and caught 11 passes for 156 yards.
Greer was benched after his two first quarter drops.
“I wanted to get back in, but I mean Coach Fairchild, he’s a hard coach and he’s going to hold us to higher standards. I wasn’t living up to them and we’ve got to somebody in there that will,” Greer said.
After being shut out in the second quarter, the Cougar offense came alive in the second half.
Tight-end Dennis Pitta scored an 18-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to put the Cougars up 28-7.
CSU responded with a Leonard Mason touchdown run and a Ben Deline field goal to cut the lead to 28-17.
BYU then wore down the CSU defense with a 15-play, 68 yard drive, running nearly six minutes off the clock. Unga finished the drive off with his third rushing touchdown of the game.
“We just started missing tackles,” Kerr said. “Our third down defense; it was nightmarish and kind of reminded me of last year. First and second down, we were pretty good against those guys.”
After Liggett’s touchdown reception, cutting the BYU lead to 35-23, the Rams attempted an on-side kick but it failed, rolling out of bounds.
The Cougars added a late touchdown pass to receiver Spencer Hafoka to seal the BYU win 42-23.
A tough loss, Fairchild puts the blame on himself.
“I didn’t have our football team ready to compete in a game like this. I did a job I’m embarrassed of tonight. You just can’t do the things we did on offense and special team in that first quarter and expect to be in this game,” Fairchild said.
Stucker: 30-50-2 372 yards 2-TD’s
Mason: 12-69 1 TD
Liggett: 11-156 1 TD
Football beat reporter Stephen Meyers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org