This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Provo • New BYU football coach Kalani Sitake's home debut was eerily similar to former coach Bronco Mendenhall's acceptable defense, for the most part, and abysmal offense.
Punchless offensively until late in the third quarter, the Cougars fell 17-14 to UCLA on Saturday night in front of 62,904 fans at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
"To hold them to 17 points, that should be good enough to win," Sitake said.
BYU lost 20-3 to Boston College in Mendenhall's first home game in 2005.
Highly touted UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen outplayed BYU senior Taysom Hill, completing 26 of 40 passes for 307 yards and two touchdowns.
Rosen was especially effective on third down in the second half; after going 0-for-7 on third down in the first half, the Bruins were 6-of 10-on third down in the second, keeping the ball away from Hill and company for long stretches.
Hill threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Nick Kurtz with 37 seconds remaining to cut the deficit to three, but BYU's onside kick failed. It was the third straight game in which the Cougars scored on their final possession. Hill was 26 for 48 for 250 yards, and one touchdown, with one interception.
"I felt like they had answers for the stuff we were trying offensively," Hill said, and added that BYU's receivers need to do a better job getting off man-press coverage.
The Cougars had just 273 total yards, 91 of them coming on the final drive.
Sitake said he discussed switching quarterbacks at halftime with offensive coordinator Ty Detmer, and switching to sophomore Tanner Mangum. But they stuck with Hill, deciding to "give him more chances" and worried about disrupting the offense's rhythm.
Rosen was held in check in the first half, but the sophomore got it going on his second possession of the third quarter, converting on third down three times. His 33-yard touchdown pass to Darren Andrews gave UCLA a 17-0 lead with 7:24 left in the quarter, and that was all the points the visitors needed.
Rosen "is a phenomenal player, a guy that is going to be a high draft pick," said BYU cornerback Troy Warner.
UCLA's three-score advantage seemed to wake the Cougars, because they drove 75 yards for their first points of the game. The drive was aided by three UCLA penalties.
Having looked lethargic on offense the first two and a half quarters, the Cougars returned to that form after the touchdown drive, however, and fell to 1-2 in Sitake's first season. UCLA improved to 2-1.
"I thought our defense played well," Sitake said. "We just need the offense to step up."
Traiiing by 10 and showing signs of life, BYU got the ball back after JJ Molson missed a 37-yard field goal attempt. But its seventh three-and-out possession of the game ensued.
The next drive reached the UCLA 48, but a holding penalty derailed that surge, and BYU had to punt for the ninth time. UCLA then took more than five minutes off the clock to put it out of reach. The Cougars have gone three straight games scoring fewer than 20 points for the first time since 2010 Jake Heaps' freshman season.
"You have to give them credit," Sitake said. "They did some good things up front."
The loss marred a strong defensive effort by BYU linebacker Butch Pau'u, who was in on a game-high 19 tackles, 11 solo. UCLA had 357 yards, but just 50 on the ground.
"It is gut-check time, right?" Sitake said. "Nobody is satisfied with losing."
It was also a first half to forget for the Cougars, who were dominated on both sides of the line of scrimmage and mustered just 79 yards of offense 39 of it on one play, a short throw from Hill that Williams turned into a long gain. It was BYU's first passing play of more than 20 yards this season, but it was the lone offensive highlight of the half for the Cougars.
The Cougars picked up one first down on their next possession, then did not get their third first down until less than four minutes remained in the first half. By that time UCLA led 10-0, having gotten a 6-yard touchdown pass from Rosen to Cameron Griffin and a 24-yard field goal by JJ Molson.
The field goal came after Adarius Pickett intercepted a pass that bounced off Colby Pearson's hands.
"Nothing is going to divide this team," Sitake said. "We will come back stronger."
Just like last week against Utah, BYU couldn't capitalize on its big turnover in the first half. Fred Warner picked off Rosen with five minutes remaining in the first quarter to set the Cougars up at the UCLA 33, but Hill was sacked on second down and BYU had to punt. Hill was sacked four times in the first half, none in the second.
The Cougars' Jake Oldroyd had a 55-yard field goal attempt blocked as time ran out in the first half. It was the fifth time since it went independent in 2011 that BYU was held scoreless in a first half. Oldroyd suffered an undisclosed injury on the play; Rhett Almond kicked the PATs after the second-half touchdowns.
UCLA 17, BYU 14
• Kalani Sitake loses 17-14 in his home debut, the second-straight BYU coach to lose his home opener
• The Cougars are held to 273 yards, including 79 in the first half
• Josh Rosen throws for 307 yards and two touchdowns for UCLA