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Kansas City, Mo. • BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said it repeatedly after the Cougars ventured into SEC territory and came up short against the emotionally charged Missouri Tigers, fired up after coach Gary Pinkel announced Friday he was retiring at the end of the season for health reasons.
Third down. Third down. Third down.
The Cougars could never get a stop when they needed one against team that was 5-for-30 on third down in its two previous games, and Missouri eked out a 20-16 win on Saturday night in front of a disappointing crowd of 42,824 at Arrowhead Stadium.
Missouri was 13-for-20 on third down, including a crucial pickup on third-and-3 from the BYU 20-yard line with less than two minutes left and the Cougars out of timeouts, and improved to 5-5 on the season. The Cougars fell to 7-3 and had their five-game winning streak snapped.
"Missouri's ability to make great calls on third down and put their players in great situations allowed them to hold onto the ball and continue to kind of hold on to it at critical times, also," Mendenhall said.
Two of those conversions in the fourth quarter came via penalties on BYU and allowed UM to keep the drive alive that led to the go-ahead touchdown and a 13-10 lead.
Just before the third quarter ended, Kai Nacua apparently picked off Drew Lock's desperation heave to the end zone. But Michael Davis was flagged for defensive pass interference. On the first play of the fourth quarter, the Cougars stopped UM on third-and 12, but linebacker Sae Tautu hit Lock late, and was flagged for targeting, and ejected.
The Tigers capped that 13-play, 79-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown pass to J'Mon Moore.
"No question, in a game like this, [penalties] hurt, especially a low-scoring game," Mendenhall said.
Missouri sacked BYU freshman QB Tanner Mangum once, but it was critical. Mangum fumbled on the play, Michael Scheerer recovered at the BYU 16, and UM was back in business.
Again, the Cougars thought they had the designated home team stopped, but on 3rd-and-23, Lock scrambled 23 yards for a first down, and the Tigers found the end zone three plays later, after a review of a short Tyler Hunt run that was ruled short on the field.
"It stings," said Mangum, who was 23-for-41 for 244 yards and a touchdown pass, his 16th, that moved him past Jake Heaps on BYU's all-time list for touchdown passes for a freshman. "It is never fun to come out on the losing end."
After Mizzou went up 20-10 midway through the fourth quarter, Mangum drove the Cougars 72 yards in 10 plays for a score, a 6-yard touchdown pass to freshman Francis Bernard. But kicker Trevor Samson missed the PAT, hooking it left.
"Oh, they are hurt," Mendenhall said of the players' attitudes as they walked off the field. "We really believed we would come here and win, and our team believed all the way to the end that we would win this game. So yeah, it stings."
Missouri, which averaged 64 plays in its first nine games, had 83 for 434 yards while holding the Cougars to 56 plays, including just 23 in the first half.
"Missouri is third in the nation in defense," Mendenhall said when asked why BYU struggled in the first half, netting three points. "So, they are pretty good. So it was a combination of both [BYU's sluggishness and UM's defense]."
Offensive coordinator Robert Anae was less forgiving about the offense's effort, blaming himself for the ineffectiveness for a second-straight week.
"The whole group was soft and the whole group was hesitant," Anae said.
He refused to blame the defense's third-down problems for getting the offense out of rhythm, especially in the first half.
"I do believe we have good enough players to get on a stage like this and win," he said.
As Mizzou was running out the clock in victory formation, the crowd saluted Pinkel with chants of "Gary Pinkel, Gary Pinkel," and Mendenhall also had praise for the 15-year coach whom he talked to before the game.
"He's looking forward to enjoying his life," Mendenhall said. "I wished him well. He's a class act and a really good coach."