5 plays that changed the game for BYU against Wisconsin

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BYU quarterback Beau Hoge had his first career start against Wisconsin on Saturday, Sept. 16. The Cougars lost 40–6. (Photo by BYU Photo)

Things quickly turned sour for BYU against Wisconsin and it spoiled Beau Hoge’s debut as a starting quarterback. The Cougars could do little to slow the offensive machine operated by the Badgers over four quarters and suffered a 40–6 loss on Saturday.

How bad did it get for BYU? Wisconsin totaled 491 yards and 28 first downs while averaging 7.2 yards per play. The Cougars, on the other hand, churned out just 192 total yards and 11 first downs.

“I thought we were overwhelmed,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “We couldn’t get anything going. Defensively, we could have provided some plays, but that wasn’t happening today. That is the type of team that you aspire to be. They did a good job keeping us on our heels. They possessed the ball and played great defense.”

“I thought we were overwhelmed. We couldn’t get anything going. Defensively, we could have provided some plays, but that wasn’t happening today.” — Kalani Sitake, BYU head coach

Hoge finished with 111 yards and a pair of interceptions on 11-of-20 passing in his first start after filling in for Tanner Mangum, who is sidelined with an ankle injury. Ula Tolutau had some nice runs on BYU’s opening drive and finished with a career-high 58 yards on 13 carries on the ground.

Wisconsin’s domination of the Cougars started with the Badgers scoring on all four first half drives. The Badgers did not step off the gas pedal after halftime. They possessed the ball for 40 minutes, making it tough for BYU to mount any sort of comeback.

“It’s hard on days like today when we only have 20 minutes of possession,” receiver Micah Simon said. “It’s tough to try and really get things going. We had a few good, long drives, which were really good. I think we’re still just trying to work things out. We’ll learn from it and we’ll be fine.”

Here are the plays that defined how the game played out for both teams.

1. Danny Davis III hauls in a 50-yard pass

BYU hung tough with Wisconsin after the Badgers turned Hoge’s interception on his first pass attempt into a 23-yard field goal. The Cougars marched down the field on their next drive and answered with a 31-yard field goal from Rhett Almond.

Momentum shifted quickly on Wisconsin’s second drive. Danny Davis III hauled in a 50-yard pass from Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook on the opening play of the drive. Davis held onto the ball as he hit the ground, even as Micah Hannemann unsuccessfully tried to wrestle it from his grasp.

The Badgers suddenly had the ball on BYU’s 25-yard line. They cashed in with a 1-yard touchdown run from Jonathan Taylor on the final play of the first quarter to take a 10–3 lead.

“It flipped the field,” Hornibrook said. “Obviously, it took only one play to get 50 yards. Sometimes, it takes a good amount of plays and a good amount of time. Danny made a great play for us and that just kind of brought the energy with us for the rest of that drive.”

2. Beau Hoge sacked on BYU’s opening second-half drive

The Cougars forced Wisconsin to punt for the first time on the Badgers’ opening drive of the third quarter. BYU appeared to gain critical momentum to trim the deficit, but the Cougars sputtered on the ensuing drive and punted the ball back to Wisconsin.

Things started well. Hoge completed a pair of third down passes to Talon Shumway and Matt Bushman to move the chains. Then, on 3rd-and-8 from the BYU 39, Andrew Van Ginkel sacked him for an eight yard loss.

BYU punted and Wisconsin scored on its next drive when A.J. Taylor hauled in an 18-yard pass. The Badgers took a 31–6 lead into the fourth quarter and the Cougars never seriously threatened on offense again.

BYU starting quarterback Tanner Mangum didn’t play against Wisconsin because of an ankle injury. (Photo by BYU Photo)

3. Beau Hoge throws an interception on his first pass attempt

Hoge got off to a shaky start in the passing game. His first pass attempt on BYU’s opening drive sailed into the hands of T.J. Edwards at the BYU 37. Edwards returned it two yards and set up Wisconsin’s first field goal seven plays later.

The error proved costly for the Cougars. BYU moved the ball well on the ground in the first quarter, totaling 79 yards on 13 carries. If the Cougars had avoided the turnover, it may have proved helpful in delaying Wisconsin from gaining valuable offensive momentum as the quarter progressed.

4. Alex Hornibrook completes two 3rd-and-long passes on the same drive

Hornibrook torched BYU’s defense for four quarters. The sophomore finished with 256 yards and four touchdowns on 18-of-19 passing. He set a school record with a 94.7 completion percentage and also finished with a career-best 277.4 pass efficiency rating.

Perhaps the biggest plays from him came on Wisconsin’s final first half drive. Facing 3rd-and-9 from the Badgers’ 18-yard line, Hornibrook hit Davis for a 17 yard gain. Then, facing 3rd-and-7 at the BYU 42, the sophomore came through again. This time, he hit Qunitez Cephus for a 16-yard gain. It kept the drive alive and allowed Wisconsin to build a three-touchdown lead.

“We still don’t have an identity. We’ve allowed some good teams to score some points on us, but we feel like they shouldn’t have scored that many points. — Butch Pau’u, BYU linebacker

It also left BYU searching for answers on defense.

“We still don’t have an identity,” linebacker Butch Pau’u said. “We’ve allowed some good teams to score some points on us, but we feel like they shouldn’t have scored that many points. We allow too many rushing yards. We allow too many passing yards. We have to figure that out.”

5. Beau Hoge throws an interception on BYU’s initial fourth quarter drive

Comeback hopes looked unrealistic for BYU entering the fourth quarter. Then, the Cougars lost any chance to even make the score more respectable when Hoge committed his second turnover of the game.

Hoge completed a pair of passes to Micah Simon to get BYU out to its own 20. It all fell apart though when his next pass was intercepted by Dontye Carriere-Williams. Wisconsin had the ball at the Cougar 34-yard line and scored 10 plays later on a 19-yard catch by Troy Fumagalli to go up 38–6.

BYU’s final drive, after getting the ball back, also ended badly. Hoge got sacked in the end zone and he fumbled the ball out of the back of the end zone for a safety.

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John Coon is a Utah native and has reported on sports in the Beehive State for more than a decade. After stints as a reporter with the Salt Lake Tribune and then the Deseret News, John became a full-time freelance writer and editor in 2011. He currently covers major sports at BYU and the University of Utah for the Associated Press. You can follow John on Twitter at @johncoonsports

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